Saturday, April 7, 2012

Iris Classics: 'Cahokia'

Eva Faught grew and hybridized irises in her southern Illinois garden. In the 1940's she started working with many of the California blues, and from a complicated parentage involving 'Purissima', 'Santa Barbara', & 'Santa Clara' she created one of irisdom's best blues: 'Cahokia'. Receiving instant acclaim, it went on to be used extensively as a breeding iris and it has left a long and delightful legacy of descendants. It is in the background of such luminaries as 'Rippling Waters' (DM 1966), 'Whole CLoth' (DM 1962), 'Babbling Brook' (DM 1972), and 'Mystique' (DM 1980), along with countless numbers of Award of Merit winners. Schreiner's used it heavily in the development of their blue lines.

'Cahokia' is a very tall iris, with lightly waved flowers of lightest blue sporting a pale lemon beard. A most attractive combination. They were raved about for their very blue tone without a trace of lavender, and my photos do not do them justice. Cooley's Gardens catalog for 1951 described it thus:
"Large exquisitely formed flowers of light butterfly-blue delicately veined deeper. There is no hint of lavender in the color and the haft is smooth and clean. Bright golden yellow beard. 42 inches tall, with widely spaced branches."

Schreiner's Iris Lover's catalog for 1958 added:
"One of the finest blues. A hint of turquoise in the blue gives a positively enchanting shade of blue. Enhanced by a pale lemon-colored beard. Cahokia is exquisite."

It won an Honorable Mention from AIS in 1949, and an Award of Merit in 1951.

I'm not able to locate any biographical information on Miss Faught. I believe she was born in Iowa, but lived much of her life in Carbondale, Illinois where she worked as a bacteriologist. Her hybridizing career seems to have been short, introducing in the 1940's and a few into the mid-fifties. Other than 'Cahokia' her most acclaimed variety is probably its sister seedling 'Pierre Menard', which was also widely used in breeding blues.

'Cahokia' is still a wonderful garden iris, being hardy, free flowering, and making a light and lovely impact in the perennial border. It blends well with so many colors but is particularly pleasing with light yellows, whites and tans. A clump in full bloom is spectacular. If you enjoy mid-century historic irises you will certainly love this classic iris variety. Give it a try. you won't be disappointed.

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