Monday, December 30, 2013

Strong Reblooming Irises Hybridized by Sterling Innerst

Again and Again

by Betty Wilkerson

When you breed for rebloomers, or any specific type of iris, there is a constant search for irises that can contribute to your program.  Several of Sterling Innerst's earlier introductions rebloom in the warmer climates seven through ten.  Most do not give good rebloom in zones 6 or lower. When compared to the total volume of his tall bearded introductions, his contribution to colder climate rebloomers has been limited, but very important.

In the last ten years, or so, of his active hybridizing career, Sterling worked very hard to develop reliable rebloomers.  It takes a while for the good and bad points of rebloomers to become known.  By the time we get the full picture they have been grown in several parts of the country.  Several years ago, I purchased a few of Sterling Innerst irises reported to rebloom in colder zones, below zone 6b. 

'Again and Again' (Innerst 1999) 

Another angle of the same bloom.  
My introduction to ‘Again and Again’ (Innerst 1999) came with a July visit to the Iris Display Garden in Bowling Green KY.  I believe the year was 2005.  It was love at first sight!  The stalk was a bit short and the bloom nestled down near the foliage, but it was awesome, reminding me of white, pale yellow, and light brown tulle that I’d sewn in earlier days.  Simply divine!  I drove home and immediately put in an order for 'Again and Again' from Schreiners.  

Same clump in 2012
Sterling crossed ‘Renown,’ (Lloyd Zurbrigg 1992) reported to be a good cold climate rebloomers, with pollen from Ben Hager’s ‘Anxious.’ This produced ‘Again and Again’ (Innerst 1999) which was the first of a trio of very good rebloomers Sterling introduced.  It is now 15 years old and has been grown throughout the country.  I can only speak for how it has grown in my garden.  The pictures shown here are pictures taken in my garden in the spring of 2010 and 2012. 

When crossed with some of my own, 'Again and Again' produced a couple of rebloomers.  If everything goes well, I will use it more. It's not a perfect rebloomer in my garden, nor has it been a perfect rebloom parent, but it is definitely a good tool.  Do you grow any of Sterling Innerst's irises in your garden?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Classic Hybridizers: Eva Faught

By Mike Unser

Eva Faught was born in Shelbyville, Illinois, in 1888 to John and Eliza Fought (it is unknown why she spelled her last name differently from her parents). She spent her early professional years as a bacteriologist in Springfield, and relocated to Carbondale, IL, when the new offices of the State Department of Health were located there. It was here that she created a garden and started hybridizing with irises. She concentrated mainly on blue and white irises. She introduced irises thru the 1940s and 1950s. In 1955 she traveled abroad to England and then to South Africa, where she visited with her sister. A few years later she retired and moved to Cuernevaca, Mexico, where she built a small home in the style of the Midwest. She passed away in 1978 at the age of 90, having been cared for by an order of Mexican nuns in her final years.

Eva Faught was a very harsh critic of her own creations, and is said to have carried a machete with her during bloom season, ruthlessly slashing varieties to the ground that did not meet her exacting standards. Tho she was a prolific hybridizer and planted out thousands of seedlings each year, she only registered nine varieties from her garden: 'Cahokia' (1948), 'Carbondale' (1954), 'Eva Sloan' (1953), 'Illinois Sunshine' (1949), 'Lavone' (1954), 'Pierre Menard' (1948), 'Roxy' (1954), 'White Chalice' (1957), and 'White Peacock' (1944). It is unknown if the three from 1954 were ever introduced. Illinois Sunshine was a very popular yellow, but it was two of her blues, sister seedlings 'Cahokia' and 'Pierre Menard', that really brought her renown and a well-deserved place in Iris history.

'Cahokia' [above] is simply a perfect flower. It has a complex parentage involving three other classic irises: 'Santa Clara', 'Santa Barbara' and 'Purissima'. Cooley's Gardens catalog described it as: "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." It really is an exceptional shade of blue, and the branching and growth habits are as good as the flowers are beautiful. The blooms are large on tall sturdy stems and often have three open at once. A high bud count keeps it blooming for a good while as well.

Pierre Menard is the name of a fictional author created in a short story by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. It is also the name of one of the most important irises in the history of the development of our favorite garden flower [above, from Cooley's Gardens catalog for 1959]. 'Pierre Menard' can be found in the background of most of our modern blues because, like 'Cahokia', breeders loved its unique shade of blue and used it extensively in the creation of new varieties. Syllmar Gardens catalog for 1956 described it as: "Very large blooms of medium blue with horizontal falls. Excellent form and outstanding substance. There is a lot of blue to its coloring and the entire flower posses a lovely enamel finish. Good branching and vigorous growth. A really fine iris."

Miss Faught had a shorter career than most in the iris world, but made a very big impact. The development of modern blues would not have been the same without her contributions.

Update: it has been brought to my attention that Pierre Menard was a French fur trapper who became the state of Illinois' first lieutenant governor. Thanks to Keith Keppel for the info!

Thanks to Pam Thompson for genealogical information. Info also from AISB #110 July 1948 and AISB #227 Fall 1978.

Monday, December 16, 2013

SIGNA Seed Exchange Siberians

by Jim Murrain

Kansas City, Missouri gardener Rick Davis had grown Bearded Irises almost exclusively for decades. Shortly after he joined the Greater Kansas City Iris Society he moved to a larger lot in Independence, Missouri. If you live in the Kansas City area and grow Iris you will eventually be asked to help with the Species Iris Group of North America Seed Exchange. 

Rick was asked to help count and package seeds a few years ago. This was his first serious exposure to beardless irises. The second year he helped he joined SIGNA and purchased a variety of seeds. At the end of the shipping season we had a sale on left overs and he purchased a few more.

Rick planted the seeds in tin cans and old flower pots and left them outdoors to let mother nature care for them. As Spring arrived he watered as needed and got good germination on most kinds of irises. Some didn't come up until the following year though.

He had especially good germination on siberian Iris cultivars. They looked like tufts of grass in the pots. When weather permitted he lined them out in a new garden area.

Unlike myself Rick is a keen gardener and kept the weeds at bay and watered the seedlings during dry spells. The photos here are three years old plants grown from those seeds.

While Rick had good flowering on many types of iris I was there at peak siberian season so can share these with you. You can see modern forms and species type like the one below.

I would call this a pink bi-tone.

A near double or six fall seedling.

I especially loved this row where the stalks were over four feet tall.

A soft yellow.

A good 'red' siberian.

A very cute species type flower in palest lavender with darker veins.

Many shades of Iris.

Soft pink with butter yellow styles and golden signals.

Almost a watercolor effect on this seedling.

Dick Davis discussing the garden with a member of the Greater Kansas City Iris Society

Unfortunately last spring was the last full year for Rick's garden. He dug and donated all of his bearded irises to a sale last summer. If he is able to keep the property into spring 2014 we will be selecting and digging beardless irises to move to member gardens. This is rental property and is listed for sale.

It was fun to see the amazing diversity that growing irises from a wide range of sources gave his garden in only a few years and at a minimal cost in plants.

The SIGNA Seed Exchange is arriving in early January and is a great way to add color and variety to your garden with the excitement of being first person to see a new seedling in flower.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Louisiana Irises: Two of my all time favorites!

by Ron Killingsworth

'Hush Money' (Mary Dunn, 1998)
'Hush Money' is one of my "top five" Louisiana irises.  The name -- what state knows more about "hush money" than the State of Louisiana?  The flower -- where could you find a prettier face?

Registered as "stands cream with blue cast; falls cream, raised gold line signal" but displaying so much beyond such a simple description.

Mary Dunn, from California, hybridized some really fantastic Louisiana irises.  She may have resided in CA, but her heart was obviously in "the land of cotton" based on the names she gave her Louisiana iris introductions. Mary registered Louisiana irises with names such as 'Cotton Plantation', 'Land of Cotton', 'Scarlett', 'French Quarter' and many more.

'Hush Money' is one of 128 Louisiana irises named and introduced by Mary,  "one of the most productive and decorated US hybridizers in the last part of the 20th century."

'Hush Money' in the background and 'Queen Jeanne' (Heather Pryor, 2002) in front
To learn more about Mary Dunn and her wonderful Louisiana irises, contact The Society for Louisiana Irises for more information about her and about the many other beautiful "wildflowers" of the State of Louisiana.

'Hush Money'

Another one of my favorite Louisiana irises is 'Heather Pryor' (J. C. Taylor 1993).  Heather is a well know hybridizer from Australia and the iris was named for her by J.C. Taylor.

'Heather Pryor' (J.C. Taylor 1993)
She is registered as "stands cream, veined and flushed pink, rimmed paler, green-yellow signal; falls cream ground, veined and heavily flushed pink toward paler rim, green line signal surrounded by yellow center area; heavily ruffled."  Some parts of a flower just seem to be impossible to properly describe.  As the old saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words."

'Heather Pryor'

The real Heather has named and introduced over 152 Louisiana irises while J. C. Taylor named and introduced over 190 Louisiana irises.

'Heather Pryor'
I hope you enjoyed two of my favorite Louisiana irises.  With so many pretty faces to chose from, it is difficult to narrow the field, but these two are certainly in my top five.

To learn more about many kinds of irises visit The American Iris Society.

May the force be with you.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Susanne Holland Spicker

Here's Part II of some of my favorite companion plants with my tall bearded irises. I love experimenting with different color combinations in the beds. By combining a variety of companion plants, as well as complimentary, or harmonious combinations of tall bearded irises, the beds provide a nice palette of color, as well as a long bloom season by using early, mid and late bloomers that flower at the same time as other perennials in the gardens. The beds are always a work in progress--I evaluate my beds each year at this time and make changes where I want to replace older varieties with newer iris hybrids or add any favorites from my long "wish list."
I love the colors in this yellow, pink and blue bed:  
Tall bearded irises "Skywalker," "Tulip Festival," "Edith
Wolford," "Aegean Wind,"
and "Out of the Blues" with
companion plants Singing in the Rain Itoh peony, assorted
lupine, hybrid tea rose New Day, clematis Josephine,
assorted pansies and petunias, and herbaceous peony
Mons. Jules Eli. 

The striking colors of tall bearded irises "Salzburg Echo," 
"Spiced Custard," "Supreme Sultan," "Dazzling Gold,"
 "Taco Supreme," "Throb," "Flamenco," "Mulled Wine," 
and "Tiger Honey" with companion plants early gladiola, 
lupine, Bela Lugosi and various daylilies and poppy Harlem

Bold and Beautiful!  Tall bearded irises "Bold Expression," 
"Dreamcake," "Close Up," and "Ringo," with 
companion plants rosy purple pulsatilla, Caribbean 
Crush verbascum, Fascination Hybrid tea rose, 
 poppy, America climbing rose, and lilac
A favorite bed of subtle yellows and blues:  
Tall bearded irises "Good Hope," "Absolute Treasure,"
 "Grecian Skies," "Edith Wolford," "Bertwhistle,"
"Lavender Luck," "Wedding Candles" and "On Edge"
with companion plants assorted pansies, Blue Star 
columbine,yellow, blue and white lupine, Crystal 
Fountain clematis, dwarf Snow Lady daisy, Konigskind 
clematis, tradescantia, High Noon tree peony, 
Silver Beauty Dutch iris, and hybrid tea rose Sunblest

This bed always stands out: Tall bearded irises "Aristocracy,"
 "Artist's Time," "Ever After," and "Bubbling Over" with 
companion plants Elisabeth variegated phlox, pansies, 
single late tulip Don Quixote, heartleaf bergenia, 
Jacob's Ladder, bleeding heart, and assorted pansies

I love these rose and apricot colors together:
Tall bearded irises "Discretion," "Naples," "Mystic's
"Magharee," "Aphrodisiac," and "Role Model," 

with companion plants assorted lupine, and apricot peony

What are some of your favorite combinations?  I'd love to
hear from you!