Monday, February 3, 2014

Siberian Irises that the World Overlooked - "Lemon Veil"

By Bob Hollingworth

I may be stretching a theme a little bit to include "Lemon Veil" on a list of overlooked Siberian irises, because it did win an HM, but still I believe it never received the full recognition that it deserves. It was introduced by Bob Bauer and John Coble at Ensata Gardens in 2000. It's pollen parent was "Shebang", and although this is a multipetal type, "Lemon Veil" has a perfectly normal form. (This is not surprising since 50% of the progeny of such a cross should have the normal three fall and three standard form.) The pod parent was a seedling involving a lot of genes from "Silver Illusion" – an iris aptly named because although it was a truly beautiful silvery-blue, it was an illusion that it would survive for most people. 

"Lemon Veil" upon opening (Photo: Ensata Gardens)
"Lemon Veil" is a strong grower, with a pleasing ruffled form and good bud count, but its colors are the main interest. It opens as a pearly, light lavender-pink with strong hints of a pale yellow color underneath that lights up the “pinkness” and ends in a strong yellow signal at the base of the falls. The yellow fades with time, but the final lavender-pink color is itself attractive. Now, 15 years later, this light yellow and lavender-pink combination might attract less attention, but then it was novel and there were some clear hints that the combination could be very attractive and should be explored further. In all, it had its own personality that stood out from the crowd and it still makes a fine garden subject.

Certainly it was interesting to me. I kept coming back to it to try to discover just what it had that set it apart, and decided it could be a promising new parent for the red over yellow combinations that represent the biggest advance in Siberians over the last decade with their orange-brown, brick red and cinnamon colors.  So in 2004 I crossed it with a deep yellow ("Laugh Out Loud") and with an existing brownish-red seedling, hoping to see lots of these new color combinations. In fact, that’s just what happened.
"Copper Country"
One result was "Copper Country" – a lovely coppery brown color. We introduced it in 2008. This was a mistake. Perhaps "Copper Country" inherited too much from "Silver Illusion", because it too resents being transplanted and often quits life without much of a fight. We got carried away with the new color and should have watched and waited a bit longer. However, it has a sister seedling, 06U6A8, which is still being considered, and both have given some interesting seedlings which seem to be more ambitious growers, such as 12S3B2.
Seedling 06U6A8

Seedling 12S3B2
Taking a second direction, a group of "Lemon Veil" x "Laugh Out Loud" seedlings were treated with colchicine, which is used to convert diploid plants to tetraploid ones, giving more genetic possibilites for different color results. Several of these proved to be tetraploid, and, critically, they were both fertile and vigorous, though blooming rather short. These are now part of an ongoing breeding program for these newer color blends which is showing promising results,  e.g. seedling 11R9B3 with the red-violet color on the fall enriched by the underlying yellow. So, I’m hoping all may not have been in vain with this line of breeding.
Seedling 11R9B3 (tetraploid)
Around the same time that I was admiring "Lemon Veil", so too were Marty Schafer and Jan Sacks. They have done a much better job of producing viable and interesting new varieties from their crosses. These include "Sugar Rush" (2008), "Hot Sketch" (2008), and its sib, "Miss Apple" (2009), all with "Lemon Veil" as the pod parent, all showing red over yellow interactions to give glowing red and pink shades, and all of which received HMs at their first opportunity. I am quite sure there will be more awards to come. The line continues with such newer introductions as "Sweeter Still" (2011), which has "Sugar Rush" as one parent.
"Hot Sketch"

"Miss Apple"
More recently, Zdenĕk Seidl in the Czech Republic saw something he liked about "Lemon Veil" and has introduced several seedlings over the last two or three years. I haven’t seen these in person, but the photographs are interesting.  Here is "Colors of Ostrava" (R2012) from a cross of "Lemon Veil" and "Huntress" which reveals a different way of combining lavender and yellow.

"Colors of Ostrava" (Photo: Zdenĕk Seidl)
John Coble and Bob Bauer tell me that they never got anything they liked from using "Lemon Veil" as a parent, which is surprising because it is certainly making an impact as a parent for others. That reminds me of a discussion some years ago with Currier McEwen who told me that he very much regretted not using his lovely "Ruffled Velvet" much in his later crosses after other hybridizers (me included) had received Morgan-Wood Medals by using it as parent. It seems that sometimes you only get fully appreciated after you leave home.

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