Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Kindness of Others

      In a time when even the accomplishments of the American Iris Society's prominent leaders and hybridizers from the past are dissolving into the mist and are being lost since they have not been written down or recorded in oral histories, the role of Sir Andrew Aguecheek's lesser folks--the people who were so important on a local level to irises--in shaping the future has been totally overlooked. As I look back on 50 years of AIS membership, I am impressed with the role of the kindness of others, but few of those people are even remembered by their local societies.
      A major hybridizer in his own right, David Hall helped so many other people through the kindness of providing seedlings for others to use.  In the 1930s many thought that really pink irises were impossible, but not David F. Hall of Wilmette, Illinois. Over the years, he did create pinks and became known for his famous flamingo pink lines. Not only did he expand the iris color pallet, but he also was kind enough to allow others to use his seedlings along with his named varieties. From his early work and from his kindness of sharing his breeding work with others, another generation would build—in Illinois both Orville Fay and Nate Rudolph would, justifiably, become famous for their pinks; in Utah Tell Muhlestein had access to Hall's seedling 42-10 and created his wonderful pinks June Meredith, Pink Enchantment, and Pink Fulfillment.
      Today we tend to think of Maynard Knofp's role in hybridizing, but his wife Mary Ellen started the Knopf lines that were later to blossom under Maynard and one of the youngsters of the day that visited the garden was from Santa Cruz—Joe Ghio. When Paul Cook's Whole Cloth was new, rare, and expensive, Mary Ellen gifted Joe with an anther of pollen—note that due to the scarcity it was one anther. He took that home and used it, later introducing Mount Eden--one of the foundation parents of his bicolor lines--and was started down the path that would later result in his Dykes winner Mystique. It was due to the kindness of others.
'Mystique' (Ghio) Williamson image
      In my own case as a young teenager interested in irises, I did not have the money to buy new introductions—mainly offered at that time at the princely sums of $20.00 and $25.00 each. At one of the first Clara B. Rees Iris Society shows that I attended, Dr. Maurice Peel, a former local president and dentist, gave me the stalk of the new and expensive Rippling Waters to take home. I did take it home and when new flowers opened used the pollen on Dawn Crest—undoubtedly an iris that Bernice Roe had given me—and that was the start of my Words of Love line.
'Rippling Waters' (Fay) Williamson image
'Words of Love' (Williamson) Williamson image
      Although events and my memory have misted the past, I strongly suspect that Bess Harbour, one of Hazel and Auda Steward's sisters, gave me Mary McClellen and when I used that first with Whole Cloth and then the resulting seedling to the premier blue plicata of the day, Rococo, I was started down the road to neglecta and bicolor plicatas. My last introduction, Shades of Meaning, traces back to Bess's kindness. Bess was always willing to have me come and visit and talk irises, though that meant my parents had to have errands in that part of town (when San Jose still had a viable downtown) and I was always welcome except when she and her husband, Roy, were listening to baseball games on the radio.
'Rococo' (Schreiner's) Williamson image
'Shades of Meaning' (Williamson) Williamson image

      The little acts of kindness turn out to be like stones dropped into water—they ripple out and have effects over decades.


  1. Simply adore this issue... the pictures are spectacular... and the irises, phenomenal. Thank you very much for sharing.

  2. Glad you liked it. I am still solving the problem of converting slides to digital images, but will have more pictures in future posts. BMW

  3. whoah this blog is excellent i really like studying your posts. Stay up the good paintings! You know, lots of people are looking around for this info, you can help them greatly.
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  4. I was happy to find your site. David Hall was my great grandfather. I lived in his home at 809 Central Ave. in Wilmette until 1976. The backyard was an iris paradise. I have many of his photos, scrapbooks, etc. if you are interested in seeing anything. Please let me know. Best regards, Rebecca (Hall) Potter

  5. Rebecca: I would be delighted to learn what you have. In writing these pieces, I have discovered that it is really hard to find old photos. Bryce Williamson


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