Monday, July 16, 2012

Every Tom, Dick and Harry of Louisiana Irises

By Ron Kiingsworth

When I first became active in Society for Louisiana Irises (SLI), I became friends with three long-time members: Harry Wolford, Tom Dillard, and Dick Sloan.  I decided I would hybridize three LA irises and name them for Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Hybridizing irises is a time-consuming process, and it helps to set out with a specific goal in mind. In 2007 I decided to cross two dark Louisiana (LA) irises with the goal of putting a larger signal on the pod parent.  (The signal is the flash of gold you see below.)  I chose the Mary Swords DeBaillon winning LA iris 'Night Thunder' (Morgan, R 2000) as the "pollen parent" and 'Jeri' (Bertinot, N 1984) as the "pod parent."  In other words, I took the pollen from 'Night Thunder' and put the pollen on 'Jeri.'  I made several crosses on different days to insure that some of the crosses would set seed.
'Night Thunder' - the "daddy"

'Jeri' - the pod parent or "mom"
'Jeri' has only a tiny gold line signal while 'Night Thunder' has a large "steeple" gold signal.  I was really hoping to get a 'Jeri' with 'Night Thunder's' signal.  (Let me point out that both of these irises are darker than these pictures reflect.  I have trouble with digital pictures of really dark irises, they always seem to shift in color to appear lighter than they are in reality.) 

These crosses produced several nice seed pods and from the pods I harvested about 80 seeds.  I planted the seeds from each pod in separate large plastic pots and marked them as "Jeri X Night Thunder."  I was successful in germinating about 30 seeds and wound up with over 25 seedlings.  I planted these seedlings out in rows in one of my flower beds and the seedlings grew through the fall of 2007, the whole year of 2008, and finally in the spring of 2009 my seedlings bloomed! 

What do you get when you cross a dark, almost black, iris with another dark iris?  Well, when my seedlings finally bloomed I was truly amazed.  I did in fact have quite a few dark irises.  Some looked just like 'Jeri' while others looked more like 'Night Thunder.'  Quite a few looked like 'Jeri' with 'Night Thunder's' signal.  But what amazed me was the other colors this cross produced.  Oh, those sneaky genes!

'Our Friend Harry' (Killingsworth, R 2011)
 One of the seedlings was almost red.  It has the nice large signals from 'Night Thunder'.  I moved this seedling to another bed and used every method I knew to increase the number of plants.  It bloomed again in 2010 and was still red!  It was red again in 2011 and the bloom count and positions were sufficient so I registered it as 'Our Friend Harry.'

Another seedling from the 'Jeri' X 'Night Thunder' cross turned out to be a lighter red and it too proved to be a good garden iris with lots of blooms and bud positions.  I registered it in 2011 as 'Our Friend Tom.'

'Our Friend Tom' (Killingsworth, R 2011)

I continue to grow many of the other seedlings from this cross and will eventually chose a few to register.  One of them is very dark with a velvety look and with 'Night Thunder's' signals, which I set out to create.

Seedling S-07-09-920
I really like this seedling because the stands "stand up" and the falls stay straight out.  Another seedling from this cross has stands that stand up and falls that droop down.

So, that takes care of Tom and Harry, but what about Dick?  Earlier, in 2009, I registered an iris as 'Our Friend Dick' (Killingsworth, R 2009).  It was a cross between 'Dural Bluebird' (Taylor, JC 1993) and 'Hush Money' (Dunn, M 1998).  'Dural Bluebird' is, as its name suggests, a nice blue, while 'Hush Money' is a creamy colored iris with a blue cast.  This cross also produced irises of many colors and I chose a seedling from this 2004 cross to name 'Our Friend Dick.'

'Dural Bluebird' - the daddy
'Hush Money' - the mom

'Our Friend Dick' - the child

So, there you have it -- every Tom, Dick and Harry of LA irises!

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