Sunday, April 29, 2012

Double Crossed

During the winter the hybridizer does not hibernate.  He plans.  (So does she.)  Reviewing his goals, assessing their degree of achievement, noting successes, targets missed, failed crosses to be attempted again, he begins to identify the new candidates, scrutinizing their pedigrees, looking for relationships and desired traits and, finally, lists the crosses to be made in some order of priority.  This last is most important, because, when he steps into the garden, he will be surrounded by beauties saying, "Cross me, cross me!"  And any number of likely suitors may be at hand.  It is at this point, if the hybridizer lacks sterling resolve, that the winter's work may go down the drain.

But our hybridizer resists the siren song and marches steadily toward the location of The Plan's cross No. 1, which is . . . where?  There's no bloom.  There's no bloomstalk! The damned thing isn't going to bloom!  Aaargh!  Cross No.1 and several others that were to be made with the same cultivar go off the list.  But our hybridizer has a backup  --  Plan B.  Elsewhere in the garden is a parent of the slacker, also an Award of Merit winner and possessing essentially the same qualities as its progeny.  Though not the ideal, it will do as a substitute.

"Cross me, cross me!", the flowers sing seductively as he passes among them, but he ignores their plaints and forges resolutely ahead to the location of the parent.

I need not inflict on the reader the hybridizer's reaction on finding that the parent isn't blooming either.

Two Award of Merit winners, parent and offspring, long established in the garden, fed and cared for as all the others,yet not blooming, while the rest of the garden blossoms merrily along.  It bolsters my suspicion that there is a genetic code in irises, of which we are ignorant, that governs bloom, germination and maybe other aspects of their growth regardless of weather and general growing conditions.

Despite the failure of Plans A and B, the rest of the list goes well, providing opportunity to appreciate the maturing of various seedlings and even start some new lines.  In fact, just as the hybridizer was singing the blues about the missing prime crosses, which were in the red spectrum, his attention was drawn not to just one, but to several newly maturing blues and blue/blacks.

This is 05B11, (Titan's Glory, Holy Night, Sweeter Than Wine) X Ranks of Blue.  It has taken a while to mature, but is ready to go.

Next is 072022 (Stealth Fighter X Ranks of Blue), also ready,

And a passel of their relatives slated for further breeding, including sibling 072O21,

072O19, also a sibling,

and several of their sisters and their cousins and their aunts, including 962N1,

which would be a bit of "back to the future" engineering, but wouldn't it be nice to have a reblooming "black" amoena?

To further relieve his frustration at the demise of Plan A, the visiting president of another AIS chapter points out a seedling to which the hybridizer hasn't paid enough attention.  It's 064C10 ((Margarita x Momauguin) x Best Bet) X Ranks of Blue, on the purple side of blue and smelling like a chocolate factory!

Now for the hard part  --  finding a name!

And even though he thinks a genetic code is responsible for prime targets A and B not blooming, our hybridizer is going to move them, just in case.

--  Griff Crump

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Borers, Bees and Insecticides

Yesterday was our annual “spray for borers day”. This is an event known mainly to irisarians in the USA who live east of the Rocky Mountains. Quite why the iris borer has never crossed the continental divide to torment iris growers in the West still puzzles me and seems entirely unfair. As we Easterners know so well, the iris borer is a moth that lays its eggs in and around iris patches The little larvae (caterpillars) hatch out in the first warm days of spring and start eating the iris foliage. If that was all, it could be bearable, but very soon after they start feeding, they chew their way inside the leaf and head down into the rhizome, there to cause their destruction hidden well away from sight.

A young iris borer is revealed as it starts it's journey of destruction. 

Despite some “common knowledge” to the contrary, iris borers quite happily feed on many beardless irises (including Siberians) as well as the bearded ones. They grow to be large (2” long) and ugly, and they have enough appetite to destroy whole rhizomes, particularly the smaller ones of irises like Siberians. Their feeding damage also opens up the rhizomes to bacterial rot diseases. Not only that, they bred freely, are adept at locating irises, and unless kept under good control can play havoc with iris plantings. They are not an adversary to underestimate.

So how to keep on top of these insects? The usual advice is to maintain a clean iris patch, removing old leaves and other materials where eggs may be laid. Probably this helps but it is not sufficient alone. For one reason, the small larvae spin silk threads and can travel quite long distances blown on the wind – they are not just arising in your back yard..

Three months later - a fat worm and a rotten rhizome (U. Minnesota photograph)    
Now I have to make an admission here. I have spent my professional career working with insecticides – trying to find out how they kill insects, how insects become resistant to them, and generally studying their toxic effects in both insects and mammals. I regard them as useful tools rather than the devil’s work, but tools that demand respect – as you might be careful working with axes, chain saws and tall ladders. With any reasonable care they are quite safe to use (protect hands and eyes, and if any significant amount of the concentrate gets on your skin, wash it off within a few minutes). So I have no problem with using chemical controls for the borer. Others do have these concerns for various reasons, but unfortunately, there are few, if any, effective alternatives for anyone growing a significant number of irises.

I still use the old reliable Cygon (common name dimethoate), a plant systemic insecticide from the older organophosphate class. “Systemic” means that the insecticide is absorbed into the plant and kills the insect as it feeds on the plant tissues. The borer caterpillar’s habit of rapidly heading inside the iris leaves makes the use of non-systemic insecticides inefficient – the larvae are only exposed on the surface for a short time and thereafter surface insecticide residues don’t affect them. You can see this in the first photo where the larva was already feeding on the leaf margin inside the sheath before these were separated to reveal it at work. Their sneaky cryptic behavior probably helps to protect them from natural controls like parasites and predators too. Cygon remains very effective for us, but in 2002, in the overall drive by the US Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the use of organophosphates, it was restricted to use by commercial producers and it is not now available for homeowners. It does have moderate toxicity to humans and it did have a record of causing poisoning symptoms (no fatalities) in homeowners, primarily through contact with the concentrated compound (and failure to remove it expeditiously), so that limitation was justified, although I would rather have an accident with Cygon than with a chainsaw where the average number of stitches required afterwards is about 110 (that's not made up, it's Consumer Product Safety Commission data).

Mostly Cygon has been replaced for borer control by a newer and safer compound, Merit (the common name is imidacloprid – these names are shown in the list of active ingredients on the label). This is essentially a synthetic analog of the old (and now defunct) natural insecticide, nicotine. Imidacloprid is a very widely used insecticide worldwide. Its big advantage is that whereas nicotine was a dangerous compound to use (I know two colleagues who spilled liquid nicotine on themselves during class demonstrations and in both cases ended up with a trip to hospital. That's why I use a video and not a real life demo of its effects). It is very active in affecting the human nervous system and, as a liquid,  is rapidly absorbed through the skin. Imidacloprid is very poor at affecting vertebrate nerves but much better at affecting those of many insects which makes it safe to the user and is just what you want in an insecticide, and it has excellent plant systemic activity. Unfortunately my experience after a couple of trials with imidacloprid is that it isn’t all that great at controlling borers. This really isn’t too surprising since its best activity is against sucking insects such as aphids, whiteflies and thrips. It is generally less impressive in controlling caterpillars such as our borers. Others seem to find it OK though, and use it regularly. There is not a lot of choice.

However, the main problem with imidacloprid (and there are several other insecticides in the same class) is that it may be implicated in the ongoing decline of honey bee populations (colony collapse disorder). This is a problem at several levels, but at the top of the list is that the loss of bees as pollinators threatens the production of many crops in US.. This is not the place to get into this complicated and contentious topic. Certainly imidacloprid and like compounds are highly toxic to bees, but if they are centrally involved in this problem, it is probably not through direct toxicity, but more likely by altering bee behavior and navigation, or their sensitivity to pathogens. Most experts feel that they are only a part of the problem and may not even be the major one. For example, episodes of what looks like honey bee colony collapse were being reported in the US and UK in the 19th century, long before imidacloprid was ever used, and it appears to be occurring in other parts of the world where these compounds have never been used. And in some countries where these compounds are used, no reliable reports of colony collapse seem to have been established. Viruses, other pathogens, mites that feed on bees, and stress from the frequent movement of bee colonies around the US as pollinators, as well as these insecticides, have all been invoked without establishing a clear smoking gun – and so if there is a single reason for the decline it has yet to be established. Perhaps there is a combination of stresses here with some insecticides as one possible component of yet unknown significance. Some current thought suggests that imidacloprid can make bees more sensitive to pathogens, but this doesn’t explain all the observations. The mystery remains, as do suspicions about these insecticides, and for that reason, their future use is under a cloud.

So, the possible involvement of imidacloprid and its relatives in the honey bee decline phenomenon raises some concerns about its use for borer control – are these insects safe as we enjoy watching them collect iris pollen or nectar? Currently there are no really effective alternatives available to the iris grower, but there may be cause for hope around the corner. A new class of insecticides that paralyze insect muscles (and not mammalian ones) has recently been developed and they are just now coming into use. These have excellent activity against caterpillars and seem quite safe to honey bees. The first, with the un-pronounceable common name of chlorantraniliprole, is now showing up at garden centers in some grub control products. In this use it replaces imidacloprid. Although I’m not aware of any specific test that have been published, the more systemically-active members of this group are likely to be excellent for borer control. Now we need someone to run these studies to find out, and if they are effective, let's hope that they are introduced for use in gardens in the near future to replace Cygon and imidacloprid. Although I have no real problems with Cygon, safer is surely better, you can hopefully worry less about bees if you are now using Merit -- and Cygon really does smell bad!

Iris Classics: 'Sunset Blaze'

The tetraploid revolution in iris breeding that started to really expand in the early 1920's resulted in an explosion of new colors during the 1940's. One of the most celebrated of the era was Dr. Kleinsorge's 1948 introduction 'Sunset Blaze'. A blazing red-orange heavily infused with bright gold, it perfected a color class that only been hinted at before. It was bright, flashy, and very tall so it really made a strong statement in the garden - and it still does. It is an extremely hardy iris that increases well and seems to grow everywhere with little care. An early bloomer in my garden, it starts the Tall Bearded season off with a bang. Click on the photos for larger views.
Cooley's Gardens catalog for 1948 described it as: "A tall and huge golden flame-salmon blend, almost a red, but with so much of the gold influence in it that it is not really a red Iris. You have seen the sun look much like this just before it sinks over the horizon. Both standards and falls are extra large and the haft and beard are bright golden yellow. A most impressive flower, blooming early on widely branched stalks reaching 42 inches." It won an Honorable Mention and then the Presidents Cup at the AIS convention in 1949, and went on to win an Award of Merit in 1951.
'Sunset Blaze' was one of the first of Dr, Kleinsorge's irises that I had in my early days of growing irises, and it fueled a passion for finding all his others. If you enjoy hot colors in the garden that give an instant fiesta effect you will want to add this fantastic historic iris. It looks fantastic with reds, browns, golds and deep purples and blues, bringing a rainbow of sunset hues to enjoy throughout the day. This timeless classic has so many good qualities, it is easy to find and will be around for many decades to come for iris lovers to enjoy. Consider adding it to your collection. You won't regret it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

My Favorite Irises: Jim Hedgecock Tries To Choose

In his recent article included in the April issue of IRISES, The Bulletin of The American Iris Society, Hybridizer Jim Hedgecock from Gower, Missouri, explains his trouble picking his favorite spuria irises from the many available in his own garden, and we can see why. Take a look at some of the ones included just for the Spring Issue of IRISES, and why he likes them:

Jim says about these, "‘Blueberry Sundae’ (2000). This is one of Dave Niswonger’s best ever spurias in my book. I love this subtle, pale blue blend. It is one of those unique spurias that you won’t mix up with others in the garden.

‘Piper May’ is a 2009 Charlie Jenkins introduction that has exploded in popularity. The standards are reddish purple with falls that are bright yellow with stitches and striations of reddish purple over the lower two-thirds of the petals. 

‘Mythical Nights’ (Hedgecock, 2009) is one of my first introductions, and I am partial to it because it has such clean, dark navy and blue purple blended flowers. There aren’t very many in this color range in spurias. 

‘Elfin Sunshine’ (Jenkins, 1998) is one of my favorites because it blooms almost two weeks ahead of the main spuria crowd. This little showoff just captures everyone’s heart. The small flowers on short stalks are pale yellow blending to dark yellow." 

The full article contains more information about Jim Hedgecock's hybridizing work and more of his favorite spurias.

For more information about spuria irises, tips on how to grow them, and a directory of commercial sources, check the Spuria Iris Society website.

IRISES is a quarterly publication available in print or digital formats to members of The American Iris Society. For AIS membership information please see our website here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Iris Classics: 'Picador'

This week I'd like to introduce you to one of my favorite irises - 'Picador'. It is a beautiful variegata created by the amazing B.Y. Morrison and introduced in 1930 by Treholme Gardens. 'Picador' was raved about by growers of the day. It was one of the first tall variegatas, which was a major break for the pattern that had for so long been confined to varieties with a short stature. It was described in National Iris Gardens catalog for 1936 as
"The FINEST yellow variegata. This is the brightest contrast of colors, having honey yellow S. and mineral red F. It cannot be recommended too highly, and we assure you that you will like this variety when it blooms in your garden. Hardy everywhere. One of the five best irises grown."

A clump in full bloom is a sight to behold, and the fragrance has a delicious, heavy, sweet scent reminiscent of cream soda.

Benjamin Yoe Morrison was a founding member of the American Iris Society, along with his good friends Robert Sturtevant and the great hybridizer Grace Sturtevant. It was in response to a letter he wrote to a garden magazine that prompted John Wister and Frank Presby to launch the AIS. He was also a leader in the American Horticultural Society and later edited it's bulletin, The American Garden. He was an all around well accomplished man starting right off at a young age. He not only introduced some fine irises that greatly advanced the Tall Bearded class, he was a talented artist and musician, bred hundreds of azaleas, and he spent many years employed at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture wherer he did much to organize the national herbarium collections, among so many other things over a long career. Truly a man of many gifts.

Tho he did not have a long career in iris hybridizing and did not produce a large number of new varieties, the ones he has left us with are marvelous plants that bring much beauty to our gardens. 'Picador' is a fine iris with so many good features you wonder why it is not more widely seen today. Very hardy and easy to grow, it is floriferous and blooms for a long period. This fragrant wonder is truly a classic.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Anticipation! Spring In Zone 6

There is stability and calm in anticipation of the expected.  Fall planted bulbs unfurl their beauty to triumphantly announce “Spring is here!” The crocus blooms are gone, the daffodils have almost finished their bright and cheery parade, and the smaller classes of irises have unfurled their petals.  Garden cleanup and bed preparation have been in full swing on any dry day or bits and pieces of dry days!   Fertilize this, clean that, but don’t forget to enjoy it all! 

The key word for this time of the year is anticipation!  Mother Nature is such a busy little bee with her paint brusha dash of red here and there to focus the eye.  She’s thrown in lots of white and yellow to lend cheer and hope to the lush green background of life. 

There are so many exciting things happening.  The eye darts from place to place.  Hurry!  Hurry!  Hurry!  Look here, look there.  Enjoy it all before it’s gone. 

Well, that is the way it’s supposed to be in my Zone 6 garden.  My season is not going as expected!  Bloom season is three weeks early.  I’ve been catapulted straight into the “hybridize and enjoy” phase. 

Among the most anticipated events of spring, for me, is the germination of last year’s seed crop.  After 2010’s disappointing germination rate, I was happy to see the good crop that sprouted from the 2011 season.  Anticipation and potential are two of my favorite words.  That is what all of these sprouts mean to me.

Seedling germinated in 2012

For this hybridizer, rebloom season begins with the start of spring bloom.  Most rebloomers bloom early, often the first week.  Some feel this early bloom season is due to the plant’s need to get a head start on fall bloom.  It could be that rebloomers are simply strong robust plants that bloom at every opportunity.  I believe that hybridizer’s selection of breeding material may be a primary factor.  We can hear the tweezers clicking before the first bloom opens!  Either way, information is accumulated all year, but the breeding takes place in the spring. 

'Again and Again' (Innerst 1999)

'Lunar Whitewash' (Innerst 2003)
'Earl of Essex' (Zurbrigg 1980)
My breeding program has been in progress since 1986.  This year and 2007 are the only years I’ve seen bloom in late March.  Many of us remember the total destruction of 2007!   Among the first to bloom this year were ‘Again & Again,’ ‘Lunar Whitewash’ and ‘Earl of Essex.’  ‘Earl of Essex’ is in the linage of my own ‘Echo Location’and 'All Revved Up'.  It was introduced in 1980 by Lloyd Zurbrigg,

'Echo Location' (Wilkerson 2007)

'All Revved Up' (Wilkerson 2006)
Spring weather has been strange the last couple of years, so it’s hard to know what is normal in the iris beds.  Many irises have been blooming out of sequence.  Some of my older seedlings are blooming early.  Among the early ones is 1510-06red.  I love the colors and it will always have a spot in my garden.  It is a sibling to ‘All Revved Up” listed above, but it doesn’t rebloom.  

After nearly a month without a freeze and the same amount of time with highs in the upper 70’s and 80’s, bloom season is in full swing.  Now, we are having a couple of days in a row with near freezing lows.  The frosts are enough to do damage, but we shouldn’t have a total annihilation as in 2007.  Not quite what I’d anticipated!  It looks like a good time to check out the AIS website and the Reblooming Iris website


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Iris Classics: 'Butter And Sugar'

Over the past century or more Siberian irises have not had the color range that the bearded irises do and hence have not had as much attention from hybridizers. A myriad of shades of purple, blue-purple, red-purple and white had many fans but left us wanting more. Thanks to a handful of dedicated fanciers we are finally in the 21st century seeing an explosion of new colors and patterns. However let us not forget the groundwork that was laid to get us here. One of the top breeders of the 20th century was Dr. Currier McEwen and one of his very best irises was a major color break in its day and is this weeks Iris Classic - the unforgettable 'Butter And Sugar'.

Introduced in 1977, it was an instant sensation, being the very first yellow Siberian iris that could hold its color thru the life of the bloom. The awards poured in: an HM in 1978; the Morgan Award in 1981; culminating in the Morgan-Wood Medal in 1986. It is still a beloved variety today for its excellent garden habits and its beautiful blooms. It is registered as:
S. white with greenish yellow veins (RHS 154B); white styles with yellow midribs; F. yellow (5C), with greenish yellow veins.

It is a child of the cross 'Floating Island' X 'Dreaming Yellow'. 'Dreaming Yellow' was also a fine advance for its time but was not color fast as 'Butter And Sugar' is.

Dr. McEwen had a very long and productive life, having passed away at the estimable age of 102, with an illustrious career breeding both Siberian and Japanese irises to his credit. The world is much richer for his horticultural efforts, as well as his groundbreaking work in rheumatology. He brought a scientific approach to breeding in order to achieve his goals of bettering the irises of these two families, and was also a pioneer in creating tetraploid Siberians using colchicine. Beloved by all who knew him, he had a reputation for kindness, a gentle disposition, and was always ready to help a new iris lover get started on their own growing or breeding program. He was the author of the definitive books on the culture of Siberian and Japanese irises in the U.S.

There are just not enough adjectives to describe this wonderful variety of iris. It does well most anywhere and never fails to put on a beautiful show in my garden. The blooms are on the short side here so it makes an excellent addition to the front of the border. Its grassy foliage looking beautiful all summer long even after the flowers have gone. As we marvel at the dazzling new colors coming out of our contemporary breeders gardens we should take a moment to remember where those original color breaks came from and the man who contributed so much and inspired so many. Grow 'Butter And Sugar'. You will never regret it.

Update: I found this lovely video of Currier's garden posted by the Maine Iris Society. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

LA Irises in Northwest Louisiana

Louisiana (LA) irises are blooming two weeks early in Northwest LA.  I headed out with my camera this morning and took a few pictures to share with you.

'Cedar Bayou' by K. Strawn (1993)
'Cedar Bayou' has a good LA name and is a very pretty violet-blue LA iris.  Interestingly it came from a cross of 'Acadian Miss' (C. Arny, 1980) and 'Easter Tide' (C. Arny, 1979).  'Acadian Miss' is a nice white iris and 'Easter Tide' is a bi-color, yellow and lavender, so you never know what you will get when you cross two irises.

'Bayou Tiger' by K. Strawn (1993)
'Bayou Tiger' also has a great LA name and is a favorite among the LSU fan.  The LSU tigers use the colors purple and gold and this iris is very close to those colors. 'Bayou Tiger' won an honorable mention in 2001.

'Wine and Dine' by J. C. Taylor (1989)
J. C. Taylor grows LA irises in Australia.  He has hybridized (crossed) many LA irises and has given iris lovers some real beauties.

'Gertie Butler' by Charles Arny (1989)

'Gertie Butler' has a beautiful spray pattern on the falls.  Another great LA iris with this spray pattern but in a darker color is 'C'est Si Bon' by JC Taylor (1983).  I'll post a picture of 'C'est Si Bon' when it blooms.

'Enviable' by M.D. Faith (2002)
M. D. Faith lives in Searcy, AR, near Little Rock, and grows many tall bearded and LA irises.  He has hybridized many irises and the iris he named for his good friend, who got M.D. interested in hybridizing, 'My Friend Dick' won the Mary Swords DeBaillon Medal (highest award given to LA irises) (although I guess they could win the Dykes Medal).

'Seminole Sunrise' by Harry Wolford (2004)
Harry Wolford is the president of the Society for Louisiana Irises and lives in Palm Bay, FL.  Harry used to grow and hybridize tall bearded irises when he lived in Ohio.  He retired and moved to FL and his tall bearded irises did not like the heat, so he started growing and hybridizing LA irises.  He likes to name his irises "Seminole" for some reason!

'Creole Can Can' by Marvin Grainger (1956)
Marvin Grainger from south LA found a natural hybrid double growing in the marshes of south LA.  He used this double to produce several other LA iris doubles.  'Starlite Starbrite' is one of my favorite doubles and is white. It always wins an award when entered in a show.

I'll post some more LA iris pictures as they bloom. Unless I get too busy!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Illumination - By Keith Keppel

In a first combined effort of IRISES (the Bulletin) and World of Irises (the Blog), we are bringing you the amazing pictures and descriptions of Keith Keppel's iris seedlings featured in the April 2012 issue of IRISES, the Bulletin of The American Iris Society.

You will find the several-pages long "Illumination" article in the printed issue of IRISES, or online available to our worldwide audience, if you are an e-member of The American Iris Society. (To find out how to obtain a copy of IRISES, or for membership information scroll to the bottom of this post.)

Keith Keppel says:
"In 1940, when the first ones appeared in the Sass seedling beds in Nebraska, they were recorded in the selection books as "odds." In the fifties, when show schedules in northern California had a class for them (remember, this was in the day of color/pattern classes, not cultivar shows), you would find plicata, fancy plicata, and "true fancy." In the southern half of the state, you might hear them referred to as "weirdies." It wasn't until 1972 that they had an official name, when the Median Iris Society's Genetics Study Panel, chaired by Bee Waburton, proposed the name "luminata" for this strange pattern."

06-199A—A nearly solid color, with unobvious veining.  ('Teenybopper' sib X 'High Master' sdlg.)
06-193A—Also has an obvious heart, no obvious veining, with edge present and giving bicolor effect.  (((('Fancy Dress' x 'New Leaf') x 'Moonlit Water') x Blyth sdlg.) X 'Montmartre')
05-81A—Big, bold white heart, dark almost uniformly colored fall without obvious veining.  (High Master sdlg. X (('Fancy Dress' x 'New Leaf') x 'Moonlit Water')
05-79B—Unusual that the unmarked edge is yellow on standards, but white on falls.  ('High Master' sdlg. X (('Fancy Dress' x 'New Leaf)' x 'Moonlit Water')
05-78J—An example of a very wide, large area unmarked with anthocyanin:  white heart plus yellow shoulders.  ('Montmartre' X 'Lip Service')
05-75C—Also showing all three aspects of the luminatas.  More bicolored, and also shows a variation in fall color application, with pigment deeper toward center and paling to unmarked edge.  (('Fancy Dress' x 'Vapor') X 'High Master' sdlg.)
05-69—Included for the very obvious edge, both standards and falls.  ((('Fancy Dress' x 'New Leaf') x 'Moonlit Water') X 'High Master' sdlg.)
04-101C—('Moonlit Water' sdlg. X 'High Master' sdlg.)
05-74A—A good example of a “typical” luminata: obvious pale edge, obvious pale fall veining, obvious unmarked heart. ('Moonlit Water' sdlg. X 'High Master' sdlg.)
05-75G—A very pale application of anthocyanin pigments.  (('Fancy Dress' x 'Vapor') X 'High Master' sdlg.)
05-79J—One of the bluest.  ('High Master' sdlg. X (('Fancy Dress' x 'New Leaf') x 'Moonlit Water')

06-198A—A good example of fall veining.  ('Teenybopper' sib X 'Teenybopper')

06-201D—Wide standard edge, inconspicuous fall edge.  ('Teenybopper' sib X ('Moonlit Water' sdlg. X 'High Master' sdlg.))
07-211A—Another near-solid, with inconspicuous edge; note the pale, contrasting style arms.  ('Fancy Woman' X ('Moonlit Water' sdlg. x 'High Master' sdlg.))
IRISES Editor Notes: Keith Keppel is one of the most respected iris hybridizers in the world, with three Dykes Medals to his credit. Known to many as the plicata man, Keith has a special fondness for plicatas,  luminatas, and their relatives. 

To obtain a printed copy of IRISES, the Bulletin of The American Iris Society, or to read it online please read AIS membership information here.

Swing Into Spring With Iris Garden Visits

     With the arrival of spring flowers, it is time to think about seeing irises in bloom. Since you are reading this blog, I am assuming that you have an interest in irises. In the pageant of color of the garden each year, irises herald the arrival of spring and the riot of color that will come in the upcoming months. To see irises in their splendor is to understand why they are so essential to the garden and why gardens can put up with the need to divide their iris clumps every 3-4 years.
Superstition Iris Gardens 2011--Williamson image
'Subtle Beauty' (Tasco)--Tasco image
     If you are lucky, you may have a local iris society in your area. For a list of local iris societies, you can check The American Iris Society and under the link “Resources and Iris Links” you will find a list of local societies by Regions listed as “AIS Local Club Websites”— each region is made up of a part of state or more than one state.
Paul Black image
     Going to an iris show is a good place to start to see all types of irises, though usually shows are designed for best Tall Bearded bloom. At the show you will meet local members and the local society often will have a garden tour that you can join and see irises in the garden. Take along a notepad to write down the names of varieties that you like and do well in your area.

Napa County Iris Garden
     You may also have a local garden selling irises and a visit there is always productive.
     If this whets your interest, then the next step may be to join the local society. They are a good source of social interaction with other gardeners, plants, and good information.
     If you are really interested, considering joining the American Iris Society. The society has a new, young, energetic editor, Kelly Norris, who is working hard to produce a diverse product. If you interest is in Tall Bearded, TheTall Bearded Iris Society is a good bet—a 10.00 a year membership, with two magazine sized, full color publications a year, is a great deal for the money.
'Big Bang Theory'-- Jedick image

You will find many catalog and online sources for irises. I have had good luck buying from the following sources (note that I have restrict this list to sources of lower to mid priced varieties not wanting to scare you off with the boutique gardens that specialize in new hybrids that may be as much as $65.00 per plant).  I cannot guarantee that you will have success with these gardens, but they are a good place to start looking at irises.
'Endless Ocean' -- Beaumont Ridge image
Beaumont Ridge Iris.  An interesting mix of newer and older tall bearded irises that grow and bloom well in eastern Oregon.  Prices are very good and the owner is generous with extra plants based on the size of the order.  The website is simple to use with most of the varieties list with a color picture. This is a good nursery for someone starting an iris collection.

Blue Jay Iris Gardens -- Jedick image
Blue Jay Iris Garden. They have a huge list with many older, tried and proven varieties. The website is a bit hard to navigate and if you have specific varieties that you are trying to buy, use the search function of the site to locate them. They are hybridizing Space Age irises and have some very interesting recent introductions in that area:

'Center Line' (T. Johnson '11) -- Paul Black image
Mid America Iris Gardens. Full color catalog or look at the PDF catalog at the website; there is also a PDF of the order form so that you can order if you want. They have a good selection of median irises (bearded irises under 27” tall) too:

'Teasing Tiger' -- Napa County Iris photo
Napa Country Iris Garden. Lovely stock and the easiest to use website that I have found for any iris garden. The list is a nice combination of newer varieties and older, tried and proven irises:

'Harmonous Flow' (Nicodemus '12)--Nicodemus image
'Pinkablue' (Richardson '12)--Richardson image
Rockytop Gardens. Black and white catalog with some color. The owner looks for good, hardy varieties that go well in his “freeze and thaw” climate in Tennessee and he is especially adept at finding varieties that have been overlooked, but are very good. Stock is very nice:
Schreiner's Iris Garden. Full color catalog or order online. They also have a good selection of slightly older medians and a small selection of beardless irises too:

'Sand Dancer' -- Tasco image
Superstition Iris Garden. No website and the catalog is $1.50. Listing over 1000 varieties, they have everything from the newest varieties to historically important iris from the past. One of the few commercial sources for arilbreds. Their stock is always very good and don't miss the $3.00 section towards the back of the catalog with some really wonderful bargain iris. They just started a Facebook Page: