Monday, May 21, 2012

Whoa...Back Up...Where Did Median Iris Come From?

After I posted my last blog about Median Iris titled "Medians-Who Hybridized The Little Beauties" I received a comment from a wonderful irisarian that reminded me I did not start at the beginning of the life of Medians. I fully intended to introduce everyone to the Median hybridizers who were honored with the Bennet C. Jones Award for Median Hybridzing Excellence, beginning with the first recipient and namesake of the award. But first I am going to backtrack and start with the pioneering hybridizers of the Median Iris. Then, I will introduce the award for the best intermediate iris and the men it is named for. Finally, I will show you photos of some of the award winners.

Much of the earliest hybridizing work was done by Foster and Dykes (UK) in the latter part of the 19th century, with crosses being made between tall and dwarf species. In 1898, William John Caparne from Guernsey, off the coast of Normandy, started selling what he called a "New Race of Irises (Intermediates)". Due to his good natured sharing, other nurserymen both in America and the UK further developed his introductions as their own. Caparne’s achievements were eclipsed to the point where even his original creation of the Intermediate hybrids became obscured. Caparne continued to develop his 'Intermediate' irises well into the mid 1930s. Then in the U.S. the Sass brothers, Grace Sturtevan, and others produced intermediates, and the Sass brothers crossed I. pumila with tetraploid tall bearded irises. With continued work came what we now call standard dwarf bearded irises that were fertile. Thus the early development of Median Iris was well on its way.

Jacob Sass
Hans (1868-1949) and Jacob (1872-1945) Sass were born in Alt Duvenstedt, Germany and immigrated to the United States with their parents in 1884. They settled on a farm in Nebraska, and were interested in breeding garden flowers at an early age. They bred irises, peonies, daylilies, lilacs, gladiolus, lilies and other garden plants. When they became charter members of The American Iris Society, they had bred irises for more than a decade. The two brothers were very close and shared ideas on hybridizing as well as seedling pollen. Their irises won many awards and are to be found throughout the pedigrees of nearly all the modern tall bearded irises in our gardens. But their early fame as hybridizers came for their work producing intermediate bearded irises. They were among the first to cross iris pumila with tall bearded iris, producing the true intermediates.  Crossing dwarf irises with tall bearded irises, they were the first American breeders to develop many new colors and forms in the intermediate class. They saw the great advantage of intermediate bearded irises on the windy prairie, and the value of a type of iris that filled out the bloom season between the early dwarf irises and the later tall bearded irises. Hans was the first to introduce a reblooming intermediate iris 'Autumn Queen', in 1926.

Hans P Sass 1950
In 1966 The American Iris Society awarded the first Hans and Jacob Sass Medal. This medal is restricted to intermediate bearded (IB) irises. The IBs are 16-27” tall with flowers that are 3½"-5" wide. The IBs fit both in size and bloom time between the SDBs and the TBs. The Hans and Jacob Sass Medals are provided by the Median Iris Society and named in honor of Hans Sass (1868-1949) and Jacob Sass (1872-1945). Below are several photos of Sass Medal winners, the year they won the award, their hybridizer and hometown.

1962 'Blue Asterisk' Wilma Greenlee Chrisman IL

1995 'Blue Eyed Blond' Allan Ensminger Lincoln NE

1965 'Cutie' Schreiner Salem OR
2004 'Gnu Rayz' Brad Kasperek Elwood UT
1997 'Hot Spice' Terry Aitken Vancouver WA

1970 'Drummer Boy' Schreiner Salem OR

2010 'Ruby Slippers' Keith Keppel Salem OR
1982 'Pink Kitten' Vernon Wood Pinole CA
2006 'Midsummer Night’s Dream' Lowell Baumunk Littleton CO
1961 Award 1968 Medal 'Moonchild' Tom Craig Escondido CA
1988 'Oklahoma Bandit' Hooker Nichols Dallas TX
2005 'Starwoman' Marky Smith Yakima WA (Won the Dykes in 2008)
1996 'Lemon Pop' Larry Lauer Wilton CA

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