Monday, September 9, 2013

Breeding Reblooming Irises: An Eye to the Future-2

by Betty Wilkerson
Zone 6, KY

An Eye to the Future-2.

People love to talk about their favorite finds in the seedling patch.  Dr. Lloyd Zurbrigg talked about ‘Renown’ because it was a seedling that rebloomed well for him.  Then he introduced it in 1992.  There were many reports of it reblooming throughout the country.  After a false start (growing an iris as ‘Renown’ that was incorrect) I finally got the real ‘Renown’ the summer after I moved to Allen County in 2003.  The first bloom was ugly and I questioned the authenticity.  In 2005 I grew ‘Renown’ it an upper bed and it blossomed very well!  I’ve used tons of pollen from this bed, since my final success.  ‘Renown’ reblooms in garden zones north of mine, yet only one stalk has developed here in the off season.  

'Renown'  (Zurbrigg 1992)
I decided to do some serious breeding with ‘Renown.’  It was a bit of a research project for me and there are several seedlings that I like. At this point, my favorite ‘Renown’ seedling, 2155-01, is from (Treasured x Renown.)  This seedling was a sole survivor from about 50 seed.  It has given some lovely seedlings.  I was going to name it ‘Wormhole,’ but I was told the name would offend Dr. Zurbrigg!  Hope springs eternal in my reblooming heart, so it’s been introduced this year as ‘About Tomorrow.’  It’s my belief this is a very good iris.  It’s not missed a spring since maiden bloom, it has always given a good stalk to fan ration, and it’s very pretty, for a white!    

'About Tomorrow' (Wilkerson 2013)

'About Tomorrow' (Wilkerson 2013) 
After a winter of gnashing of teeth, and wringing of hands, I decided to spend my 2013 spring working toward strong chances of rebloom.  Only a handful of irises rebloom well here, so I decided they would be a good match with ‘About Tomorrow.’  I was also looking for tangerine beards so I searched the blooming irises for something that rebloomed for me and had the right beards.  Seed are now waiting to be planted from ‘About Tomorrow’ by ‘Cameo Blush’ and ‘Summer Radiance.’
'Cameo Blush' (Weiler 1998) 
Photo by Loic Tasquer

'Summer Radiance' (Wilkerson 1996)

One day I had a couple of blooms in my hand and didn’t know what to do with them, so, now, I have seed waiting from ‘About Tomorrow’ X ‘Star Gate.’ Although  'About Tomorrow' is white, I expect this cross will breed to the blue/purple side since the two share ‘Violet Miracle’ genes.  

'Star Gate' (Wilkerson 2005)

'Violet Miracle' (Zurbrigg  79)

At the end of August, I’m enjoying bloom on 1907-10Re.  It is a sibling of ‘Cool Character.’  1907-10Re bloomed all summer in 2011 without missing a day. It looks like I need to line this one out and consider introducing it.  It's still purple but it has many good qualities. Maybe the next generation will have other colors!  
1907-10Re (Wilkerson seedling) 
There are more seeds resting in the envelope rack.  They will all be planted in pots this fall.  Once again, I’ve enjoyed sharing the workings of my mind and the reasoning that went into making the latest crosses.  Will any of them produce good rebloomers of introduction quality?  I really think the potential is here.    


  1. Very interesting blog on reblooming iris. I would like to hybridize them also and have similar problems with the climate. I currently have an older variety named "Immortality". I planted it last fall, It started blooming August 30th, with nice branching and 8 buds. I really like the slight, sweet scent. It is all white, really sparkles in the sun and is already producing a second stalk.

  2. I enjoyed your article. As a person who has never hybridized, it's very interesting to see the workings of your mind as you choose your parent plants for crosses. Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Susanne. Since I'm working for strong rebloomers that will bloom in my zone 6 garden, my mind may work a bit different than most. I'd like to go with pretty x pretty, but that just doesn't work here. Can't wait to see this year's seedlings in the garden.

  3. I feel great to see such kind of outstanding blog.
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