Sunday, June 29, 2014


'PARISIAN DAWN' Keppel 2006

By Susanne Holland Spicker

The 2014 TALL BEARDED IRIS SEASON was the best for me in recent memory. I divided nearly all of my irises last year, and wasn't expecting a banner year, but their increase and bloom was more prolific than I have seen for several years. The weather in the top of Utah was ideal for them to establish a good root system in the fall, and the hard freezes in late winter and early spring came before there was damage to the buds, as had been the case the past few years. The new rhizomes I planted had a 95% bloom success--unheard of in my experience with new plantings. Although I was very happy with these new irises, sometimes first-year blooms aren't indicative of what kind of plant it turns out to be. I usually need to wait a few years to know important factors such as hardiness, vigor, and dependability in bloom. These are some of my favorite first-year blooms in 2014.

'PHOTOGENIC' Ghio 2006

'GOING DUTCH' Van Liere 2009

'RHINELANDER' Schreiner 2006

'LENTEN PRAYER' Schreiner 1998
'ABOUT TOWN' Blyth 1997
'PRETTY GENEROUS' Innerst 2004

'CHRISTMAS EVE' Van Liere 2010
'QUEEN'S RANSOM' Van Liere 2012
'TICKLE ME PINK' Van Liere 2011

'GYPSY LORD' Keppel 2006

'SISTERHOOD' Van Liere 2011

'DREAM TEAM' Johnson 2007


'LEMON CLOUD' Painter 2008
'GITANO' Keppel 2007

'ROSY FORECAST' Williamson 2010

'WINNING EDGE' Ghio 1997
'MARCHING TO ZION' Metler 2011

'OVERJOYED' Gatty by Keppel 1994

'ADOREE'  Blyth 2006

'EVENING TIDINGS' Schreiner 2009

'ARISTOCRACY' Keppel 2006
'RED SKIES' Ghio 2007

First-year blooms are always exciting; it's much
like  Christmas  morning  to  go  out  and  see a 
new cultivar in bloom for the first time. Time will
tell if these new irises stand the test of time
for good increase, dependability and hardiness--
I hope so, they were beautiful this year.

I'd love to hear about a favorite first-year bloom 
you've had.  

Have any disappointed you with their vigor or 

Monday, June 23, 2014


Griff Crump

Renee suggested that I might share some of this year's surprises.

The biggest and best surprise was recovery of an introduced variety that I thought had been lost.  Two years ago, I dug and lined out La Cumparsita, introducing it in 2013.  Luckily, before I sold any of it, it bloomed in two convention gardens and wasn't the right flower.  I saw photos and was mystified until some of the lined-out plants bloomed in my own garden and also were the same nondescript purple seen in the photos.  Clearly, the marker had been switched before the digging, probably during weeding, and an adjacent clump had been dug.  I was tempted to rip out the whole planting, but, since some of the lined-out clumps hadn't bloomed, I tossed only those that had bloomed and left the rest in place.  This spring, two of those which had been spared bloomed and were La Cumparsita!  It will take a couple of years to build up stock again, but I said to some of my fellow irisarians that if nothing else good happened this year, it was still a good year!

La Cumparsita

Other surprises were winning Best Seedling of Show at the Fredericksburg Area Iris Society's spring show, the Chesapeake and Potomac Iris Society's spring show and the Region 4 spring show at Timonium, Maryland.

The winner at Fredericksburg was tall bearded 062D1:

and at Chesapeake and Potomac, standard dwarf seedling 092B4:


At the Regional show at Timonium, I counted on the judges adhering to the judges' handbook, which requires only one bloom to be open on a seedling.  Although I must admit that I was surprised by my wins at Fredericksburg and Winchester, I felt that my entry at Timonium was a real winner, but would the judges vote for an entry which had only one last bloom and the shriveled remains of the other eight buds drooping from its branches?  Yes!  They went by the book and chose it. 


This is a product of Coffee Whispers X Blackbeard's Daughter.  It's a dramatic introduceable, and I'm looking forward to good things following from it.

Another very pleasant surprise was the appearance of a first-year seedling, 13P20, which displayed a remarkable  progression of blossom form, opening to resemble an iris of many decades ago:


But, as a day passes, a later-in-time form develops:


Finally, a modern form is achieved.  At the right moment, all three forms are displayed on the branches.

If this seedling prospers and blooms true to its initial performance, it will be quite interesting.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Louisiana irises grown in New Zealand

Bernard and I are both members of the New Zealand Iris Society and we try to attend the annual NZIS conventions every year. These are very interesting events, as they are typically held on the North Island one year and then on the South Island the next year. This is all very democratic - and means that, for example, North Island irisarians have one year with fairly easy travel costs and effort to attend the convention and the next year (when the convention is held on the other island) they have higher travel costs. Of course, there are die-hard irisarians who attend every year, irrespective of where the convention is held. As we live in Australia it costs us about the same each year to attend. We really look forward to attending these great events for several reasons. Firstly, the conventions are rarely held in major cities, but are more than usually located in a reasonable-sized provincial city or small town. Accommodation options are plentiful in New Zealand, so you can live it up in 5 star luxury or not during your stay. The experience at the conventions are still the same though - friendly and relaxed. Secondly, we get to see a different part of New Zealand every time we attend. You can enjoy an in-depth immersion into a small part of this scenically beautifully country - complete with a bus load of friends! Thirdly, many of the private gardens visited are not normally open to the general public (or even to private gardening groups). Most are completely stunning. Most gardens visited feature some type of iris. What you get to see can depend on the general geographical area (coastal, alpine, high desert etc.) and the personal iris preferences of the garden host. Fourthly, New Zealand is a country that everybody should visit at least once in their life. Similar in many ways to Australia, the New Zealanders share a strong spirit of colonial history intertwined with cultural diversity, a real 'can-do' spirit and a love of rugby, cricket and hot, sunny Christmas times. A few years ago the NZIS convention was held in the North Island in the Bay of Plenty area. The BOP Group are one of the largest groups in the Society and they put on a great convention. A highlight for us was visiting Rivendell Iris Gardens of Kati Kati in the Bay of Plenty area. Stephanie and Alistair Book specialise in Louisiana irises. The temperate winters and warm, balmy and slightly humid summers are a perfect fit for our favourite iris species! I am attaching some photos taken at Rivendell Iris Gardens to show how happy Louisiana irises are in our part of the world (south western Pacific Ocean). Many New Zealand irisarians traditionally grow various forms of bearded irises, Siberian cultivars and iris species. Louisiana irises have been actively hybridised for many decades in New Zealand, but the cultivars rarely receive much attention - which is a great pity! This blog will (hopefully) go some way to evening up the playing field, eh? So, those irisarians who live in the northern hemisphere need to consider just how far 'south' do Louisiana irises grow? Answer: at least 40 degrees south of the equator! Heather Pryor Sydney, Australia

Thursday, June 19, 2014


                                                           by Dawn Mumford

On May 31st of this year we enjoyed some visitors to our iris garden.  There were about 20 members of the American and Utah Iris Societies.  They took pictures, smelled the aromas, looked at the flowers and "talked iris."  I invited our guests to come in the house when they were done in the garden to have some chilled bottled water.  I asked one of the gentlemen if he particularly liked any of the irises and he replied that he had made a list.  He was interested in those irises that were 30 years old and older.  According to him, that is how old they had to be to be considered "historic."  It was at that moment that I realized how many I had that fit into that category.  I hadn't looked at our irises that way.  We have been growing irises since the 1980's and many were several years old when we bought them.  That visitor made me look at my irises in a new light.  I would like to share some of my favorite "oldies but goodies." here today.

'Aztec Treasure' ( R. and L. Miller 1984) 
This bitone shows nice ruffling on both the falls and the standards.  

'Praise The Lord' (Boushay 1972) 
This self has rich blue color and contrasting white beards. 
'Gold Trimmings'  (Schreiner 1975)
Despite its age this iris has graceful ruffling and good branching.
  'Chartreuse Ruffles'  (Rudolph 1976)
I like the subtle coloring of this lilac, white, and chartreuse (green and yellow) bloom.

I don't advocate ridding the garden of new irises to plant only older varieties.  But there are lots and lots of beautiful older irises that we should protect and not get rid of just for the sake of having something newer and marginally better.  I grow the newer irises too and they are wonderful, but I have the luxury of plenty of room to put in the new ones without getting rid of the old ones.  If you don't have the space for both old and new then you have a hard choice to make. 

'Invitation'  (Schreiner 1982)
This amoena has little ruffling or lace but has an elegant color combination.

 'Heather Cloud'  (B. Hammer)  has much the same color combination as 'Celebration Song'. 
'Extravagant' (Hamblen 1983)
This is one of my last to bloom and still surprises me with its beauty.

'Chocolate Shake'  (Gibson 1982)
This one doesn't increase well for me but I like how unusual the colors are.

'Lemon Mist'  (Rudolph 1971) 
Blooms and blooms here and increases yearly.
'Gay Parasol' (Schreiner 1974)
This one is not a big bloom but has beautiful form and color.

   'Geniality' (O. Brown 1981)
There is nothing old fashioned about this bloom.   

"Beyond'  (Gibson 1979)
A 35 year old plicata (stitched or stippled margin color on white or dots or peppering).

 'Showcase'  (Schreiner 1972)
Lots of color contrast in this plicata.
Bayberry Candle'  (C. DeForest 1969)
 'Desert Mist'  (Williamson 1980)
'Sky Hooks'  (Osborne 1980)

What are some of your favorite older irises?  If you have limited space, how do you make the decision on which ones to grow?   How do you choose your irises?  Is it based on color, form, time of year it blooms or by the hybridizers and the year?  Is it by hardiness or cost?  In the past I have just chosen irises based on color and form but I am learning to pay more attention to the name of the hybridizer and the year it was introduced.  It is a surprise to me that I have chosen so many historics.  And remember, each year more historics are added to the list!