Saturday, June 22, 2013


By Susanne Holland Spicker

A recent drive to ZEBRA IRIS GARDENS, a commercial iris garden in Elwood, Utah, gave me a "GNU," (as the Kaspereks would say) appreciation for BROKEN COLOR IRISES and a newfound love for SPURIA IRISES. Brad and Kathie Kasperek are the owners/operators of this beautiful iris garden.  It is the world's leading source for broken color (BC) bearded irises, and I was impressed with their large variety of award winning spuria irises as well.
Brad has been hybridizing irises for several years. He has a wealth of knowledge and is recognized as the pioneer of broken color irises, which are flowers with random streaking and/or splashing of 2 or more colors. They come in Tall Bearded (TB), Border Bearded (BB), and Intermediate Bearded (IB) varieties. Visiting with Brad was interesting and very educational. He stated that it takes roughly 100 years to "perfect" a flower, and since broken  color irises have only been around for about 25 years, the hybridizing is still in its infancy. Improvements in bud count, branching, and form continue to be perfected.  I was impressed with his irrigation system, and the neat, well organized way his garden is laid out--especially the identifying markers on every plant.
Brad's first introduction was award-winning "TIGER HONEY", (TB 38" EM AM 1994). Since then, he has introduced roughly 100 irises--many, award winners. The names of his irises are as unique as they are. Most are whimsical names based on African or wildlife themes.

After viewing rows and rows of blooms, some of my favorite Kasperek irises that were in bloom include:
Bi-color plicata "LLAMA MAMA" TB  37"  EM  2005  HM.  Large and vigorous!
"OKAPI POPPY"  TB 37"  M  2004 AM  Vigorous and graceful.  
A favorite:  "DRUNK SKUNK" TB 32" EM  2012.  Stunning!
"MAGDALENA LOUISA" TB 36" M  2003  HM.  A clean, BC pink--beautiful!
2013 Introduction, "MINK PINK."  Simple and elegant. TB 35" M.   I Love the beards!
2008 Wister Medalist, "MILLENNIUM FALCON"  TB 38" M.  Stunning--A real knockout!
 "MEERKAT MANOR"  BB  25" M  2008  AM.  A personal favorite!
"KINKAJOU SHREW" TB 38" EM  2000  AM.  This large bloomer is an excellent grower.
"PEEKABOO ZEBU" TB 35" ML  2005 AM.  Ruffled, bright and cheery.
This seedling is sure to be a winner--I loved the new, exceptional color!
Exciting seedling!
 "GNU BLUES"  TB 36" M 1994 AM.  Lovely!
"BEWILDERBEAST" TB 30" EM  1995 HM. A favorite--goes with many color combinations. 
"GRIZZLY GOSLING" TB  36" M 2006--Exceptional color and form on this ruffled BC iris.
"IWAN'A IGUANA" TB  36"  M  2004 HM--Lights up the garden--a favorite of garden visitors.
"SPICED TIGER" TB  31" EM  1996  AM.  Dramatic!
"KILIMANJARO SUNRISE" TB  37" M HM  The first BC yellow/violet bicolor.
"QUAIL ALE" TB  37" EM  1996 HM.  Understated elegance on this light yellow beauty.
This radiant charmer stood out in the garden
"FLAMINGO GRINGO" TB  30" EM 2008.  Exciting in the garden!
"OCTOPI PI" TB  36"  ML  2012.  This plicata has  clean, bright orange standards.
A favorite--2013 introduction, "YETI AGAIN" TB 36" ML.  A sure winner!
"CHOCOLATE MOOSE" TB  37"  M  2003 HM.  Dramatic--a lovely clump.
"HOT DOGS AND MUSTARD" (Kathie Kasperek) TB  36"  M 1995  AM.  Kathie's creation works great in designs.
"BRADLEY BADGER" TB 34"  M  2013.  A favorite--Lights up the whole garden!

Brad's introductions have received many awards from the AIS judges, and last year he received The Founders of SIGNA Medal for "Z Z ZANZIBAR" and both "MEERKAT MANOR" (BB) and "PLUM DUCK" (Spec x) received Awards of Merit.  Also, "ORANGUTAN ORANGE" (TB) picked up an Honorable Mention. This year's introductions are exceptional as you can see by the pictures of 3 of my favorites:  "BRADLEY BADGER," YETI AGAIN," and "MINK PINK".

Whether you're a lover of broken color irises like me or not, you'll have to agree that the Kasperek  irises must be recognized as something relatively new and different in the iris world. I am grateful to Brad Kasperek for his passion, and for the countless hours and patience involved in hybridizing these unique flowers. I find them beautiful, and have a long wish list after visiting his iris garden. Whether in a clump or a single stem, they are very striking, making exciting attention-getters in the garden. I see many possibilities for companion plants and other irises that compliment their wonderful patterns and colors.

What do you like most about Broken Color irises?  Which is your favorite?

NOTE:  Look for part II of my visit to Zebra Iris Gardens, where I talk about Brad's hybridizing priority shift to spuria irises, and pictures of some award-winning spurias, as well as some of Brad's stunning seedlings!


  1. I'm going to have to put in a whole new flower bed!

  2. Any info on the genetics? In other plants these broken colors would be discarded as virused, so I'm curious as to what's going on here.

  3. I'm blessed to live only 20 miles away from Brad's gardens. He's always more than willing to teach and educate me whenever I ask.

  4. Mary Ann CampbellMarch 23, 2021 at 6:22 AM

    Suzanne, thanks for sharing this account of your visit, complete with great photos. I now have a BC wish list. My favorite: Millennium Falcon!

  5. If you're looking for the newest development in broken color iris, see David Toth's Indian Creek Iris, specializing in Space Age horned and spooned broken color iris.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...