Monday, August 25, 2014

Iris Bloom Season in Northwest Louisiana Part II

by Ron Killingsworth

Earlier we looked at some irises and other flowers that bloomed this past spring in NW Louisiana.  The season was very late and when it finally turned warm, everything bloomed at once!  

"Flareout" a Louisiana iris by Marvin Grainger 1988
"Flareout" is one of many doubles hybridized by Marving Grainger.  It has all falls and the style arms are usually deformed. 

"Longue Vue" a Louisiana iris by Dormon Haymon 1999
Dormon Haymon named this iris for Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans.  It remains a favorite white iris and is a great garden iris.

"Gladiator's Gift" a Louisiana iris by John C. Taylor 1990

Hardy gladiolas and poppies growing with Louisiana irises in the background

'Heavenly Glow" a Louisiana iris by Richard Morgan, 1988
This remains one of my favorite irises.  It grows well and has such nice green style arms.  The veining is very nice.  Richard Morgan produced a lot of great irises.

"Hush Money"  a Louisiana iris by Mary Dunn 1998
If forced to name my favorite Louisiana irises, this one would probably be at the top of the list.  It is a great garden iris and is simply beautiful.  And, what a name.  (Especially when Louisiana politicians are so well known for their "hush money"!)

"Iris.Nelsonii"  - Dwarf
We do not grow a lot of the species of Louisiana irises but I really like this tiny little nelsonii.

"Iris.Nelsonii" growing in a clump

A mixture of various hybrid Louisiana irises in one of our many beds.

"June's Pick" a Louisiana iris by M. D. Faith 2002

"LaFitte Celebration" a Louisiana iris by Pat O'Connor 2002
A nice clump of this iris growing by the Koi pond with several others off to the side.

"Notta Lemon" a Tall Bearded iris by Tom Burseen 2009
I really like this Tall Bearded iris!  It was a gift and that makes it even more special.

"Our Parris" a Louisiana iris by C. Carroll 1987
I have never met C. Carrol and really do not know much about the hybridizer, except he hybridized outside the US.  It is a pretty iris and I look for it each bloom season.

"Peaches in Wine" a Louisiana iris by Heather Pryor 1997

"Pointe Aux Chenes" a Louisiana iris by Joe Musacchia 2005
A beauty with a great south Louisiana name.  Joe Musacchia (Cajun Joe) has produced numerous lovely Louisiana irises.

"Praline Festival" a Louisiana iris by Dormon Haymon 1992
Another beauty with a great "southern" name.

That's about it for part II folks.  Don't miss part III. I hope your bloom season was more "normal".  If you are interested in knowing more about or growing Louisiana irises feel free to contact the Society for Louisiana Irises for more information.  You can learn more about all the other irises at the American Iris Society website.

Until next time -- don't just sit there, get out and grow some irises!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

2014 Wister Medal Winners

By Andi Rivarola

Gorgeous 'Black Magic Woman' by Rick Tasco (R. 2008) became one of the three winners of the 2014 Wister Medal.

The other two are:

'Montmatre' by Keith Keppel, (R. 2007) and 'Magical' by Joe Ghio (R. 2007).

The Wister Medal

The highest award given by The American Iris Society to a tall-bearded iris.

This medal is named in honor of John C. Wister (1887-1982), founding member and first President of the AIS. All iris categories award only one medal for each year with the exception is this category, the very popular Tall Bearded (TB) iris category. There are three Wister Medals awarded each year, and only AIS registered judges may vote for them.

2014 Award Winners

The entire list of Award Winners for this year can be found on our website: 2014 AIS Awards.

And, for a fantastic and more expanded list with links and images, visit The AIS Encyclopedia: 2014 Awards at the Iris Encyclopedia

Monday, August 18, 2014


Susanne Holland Spicker

In the past when planning my beds, I always organized them with a specific color or colors in mind, with a few favorite irises, then added an assortment of several perennial plants that coordinated with, or enhanced the bed.The past several years, however, my passion for tall bearded irises has increased and I have planted additional irises that coordinate with each other, adding several to the beds. The upside is that this past season the beds were a glorious array of coordinating colors! The downside to adding more irises is that division must be done every 2-3 years in my beds because of closer planting. I still have companion plants of every kind, but the number of irises now outnumber the other perennials.


I have recently added some new irises to this bed.  The collage shows how I organize the iris in color schemes that are pleasing to the eye.  I've added ''CENTER ICE' and 'LIMERANCE' this year to this favorite garden bed.   I also moved two irises into different beds where I thought they would look better and to make room for new ones.  That's the great thing about irises-- they are so easy to move around. 


Another bed that got revamped this year is a striking combination of red/buff/gold:
Collage showing partial view of a previous iris bed. 'BEWILDERBEAST', 'TIMELESS MOMENT', 'RED SKIES', 'DRAMA QUEEN' and 'COFFEE WHISPERS'
For example, this bed consisting of 10 irises will now have 15 next year, as shown in the new collage. 


In choosing irises, I regularly pour over commercial catalogs, both printed and online. I also utilize the AIS wiki, a comprehensive encyclopedia of every iris that has been introduced.  Most have multiple pictures, and all the information regarding the cultivar is listed as well. I also enjoy viewing photos of irises in several groups on facebook; two being Iris Lovers and Iris Growers and Traders.

As far as my collages, when I have a new iris that I've just planted and it hasn't bloomed, I try to get a picture in a garden so I can take my own photo. When unable to do so, I use those photos only in my personal files, then replace my own picture when the iris has bloomed.

Making changes is easy with the collage. This bed has several new cultivars, and promises to be a favorite next year. 




The collage shows additions and changes made in the bed. 

Because there are so many tall bearded irises to choose from, mixing, and coming up with harmonious color schemes is an easy task. The hardest part is choosing from the thousands of irises that have been hybridized over the years, with every year hundreds more being introduced. Making a collage has helped make this process much easier for me.

Do you coordinate your iris beds? What color combinations do you like in them? What has worked for you in planning out your beds? I'd love to hear from you! 

(NOTE:These pictures 
should not be shared publicly without the consent 
of the photographer.Thank you fellow Iris lovers for the use of 'COFFEE 

Friday, August 15, 2014

When Pacifica Iris Pods Are Ripe

Kathleen Sayce

Mid to late summer is exciting:  it's harvest time for Pacifica Iris pods. Some species irises shed seed by early July in my garden, including Iris tenax and I. innominata. These species often grow at high elevations in the wild, flower in May or June, and have ripe seed by mid July to early August. They waste no time cranking out the next generation. Other species take more time to ripen seeds, nine weeks instead of five to six weeks, including I. douglasiana. Pods often go through a color change as they ripen, from green to gold or yellow. Even when not opened, a yellow pod has mature seeds inside, ready to collect. 

Just a few weeks ago, seed pods were green. 

Iris pods are opening all over the garden by late July, when the mesh bags come into use. Here, all pods in this cluster have opened, the tips are spread on the upper two, and the bottom one has valves spread to show the seeds inside.

Mesh bags or nylon stockings are good devices to use to contain seeds and ensure that a gardener's work in crossing specific parents isn’t lost at the seed collection step. Saving even a few seeds from a choice cross can be important in a hybridizing program. 

I cut the stems and collect the pods, still in their mesh bags, to dry before taking out the seeds. The stems can be tied together with a wire tie or string, hung in a dry shady place, out of the sun and away from direct heat––just as you would dry herbs or flowers, or put into paper bags in a warm dry spot. After a few days, any pods that can open, have done so, and the seeds are ready to clean and package. 

A basket of treasure:  Ripe pods in paper bags, ready to dry indoors. 

Normally the valves separate from the pods, and the seeds break off and scatter. Occasionally pods stay closed or only partially open. Either the tip will not separate, or the sutures along the edges do not open.  When this happens, I use a knife or razor blade in a holder to cut the tip off, or cut along a suture line, being very careful to keep my fingers intact, and to not cut into seeds. Then I gently peel out the seeds.

Seeds go into a bowl. Use a large bowl that you can swirl seeds around in. This lets you blow or toss seeds outside to separate seeds from chaff and pod fragments. I also use a sieve to shake out fine bits if the pods are dirty. I clean the seeds and remove all non-seed bits and pieces, insects, et cetera. Separating seeds from chaff is a very old process. Humans have been doing this for thousands of years. And it’s fun! 

After the seeds are clean, I put them in a clean bag (mesh or paper), to continue air drying. The label moves with them. I save seeds for seed exchanges, such as Society for Pacific Coast Native Iris, and Species Iris Group of North America.  

I learned the hard way to not put fresh seeds into glassine or plastic bags––they mold. The mold doesn’t kill the seeds, it’s just in the seed coats, but it looks terrible, and when it’s really bad, all the seeds are encased in a dense whitish mold into one solid lump. Ugh!  If there's too much mold I scrub the seeds with a plastic scrubby to clean them, then rinse and re-dry the seeds. 

Drying seeds, in a row of paper bags. This takes patience, and at least ten days!

Let the seeds dry thoroughly before packaging each seed lot. I’m not naturally a patient person, so this is hard. Wait ten days, at a minimum. More is better. Only when the seeds have dried indoors, in a clean mesh bag, and I have let the days slip past, do I then put the seeds into an envelope, label it, and set it aside to send to a seed exchange. I also share seeds out to gardening friends, and this is when those seeds are mailed. 

Labels need to include what, when, where, and any details of the plant or flower that are important. List:  Pod parent, pollen parent if known, the flower color on the pod parent if it’s a species or unregistered new flower, likewise any characteristics of the pollen parent that were important to note, or bee-pollinated, if open pollination was used. If you use crossing codes to track garden crosses, write down those codes too. This helps you and others track the parentage of your seeds. 

Another task is to take all the used mesh bags, wash them in warm soapy water, rinse, dry, and then freeze them for at least two weeks. Why freeze the bags? If any invertebrate eggs are in the bags, this will kill them. Washing, drying and freezing helps ensure that the bags are clean, and ready to use again next year.  

Do you grow PCIs, and do you save seeds to give to other gardeners?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

2014 Dykes Medal Winner: MTB 'Dividing Line' by Chuck Bunnell

By Andi Rivarola

If I offered proof that I've been following the work of Chuck Bunnell, and in particular the many lives of MTB (Miniature Tall Bearded iris) 'Dividing Line,' would you believe it? 

'Dividing Line' at the 2006 Portland National Convention

Well, believe it or not, that is the case. I say the many lives because I have encountered it in several locations growing and blooming so happily that I stopped taking pictures of it, I must regret. I'm such a fool!

Besides having seen this gorgeous little Bunnell creation at several of the AIS National conventions the last few years, I also grow another of his MTBs, 'Missus Bee' with great success. May I remind you that it's very rare to grow any MTBs at all in the Mediterranean weather of Southern California where I live?

I first encountered 'Dividing Line' blooming profusely in rainy Portland during the 2006 National Convention. It's form caught my attention from the start, different from other MTBs and with triangulated edges; the quantity of blooms and bloom stalks also made it very attractive. And, I was intrigued by the vertical line across its falls. Who would have known?

'Dividing Line' at the 2006 Portland National Convention

So, it is with great pleasure that I say: Congratulations Mr. Chuck Bunnell for winning this year's Dykes Medal with beautiful 'Dividing Line,' a little iris that could.

Chuck Bunnell at the  Stanton Gardens of the 2012 Ontario National Convention

The entire list of Award Winners for this year can be found on our website: 2014 AIS Awards.

And, for a fantastic and more expanded list with links and images, visit The AIS Encyclopedia: 2014 Awards at the Iris Encyclopedia

Monday, August 11, 2014

What Do Iris Hybridizers Look For?

by Griff Crump

In suggesting topics for this posting, Renee Fraser remarked, "One thing I always wonder about hybridizers is which new intro caught their eye and why?"

The first attraction for me is, simply, the beauty of the flower itself.  The second motivator is its being of the patterns that I prefer, which are predominantly amoenas and near amoenas with velvety falls, usually dark.  The third consideration is whether it might fit into my breeding goals.

Here are some of the recent introductions that have caught my eye:

Judy's Smile (Skaggs 2014), offered by Stout Gardens At Dancing Tree.  From Starring x Kitty Kay.  I have both of the parents, so might try the cross myself.
 'Judy's Smile'

Another beauty, which I won't use in hybridizing (because it doesn't fit within my goals), but which I admire and would like to grow just for its handsomeness, is Mike Lockatell's  reblooming border bearded Double Dare.  I saw it when he first exhibited it at a Region 4 fall regional showI and others thought it should have won best seedling, but one of the judges just didn't like plicatas.
'Double Dare'

I always like a good red, and Don Spoon's Red Hot Momma (Rogue X Dynamite) falls in that categoryI can't seem to keep either of those parents alive (or, at least, blooming), but Don has, so maybe I'll approach him for a start.
'Red Hot Momma'

Lesley Painter's Midnight Rose (Napa Country Iris Garden) is the kind of iris that I really like, a near amoena with dark velvet fallsAs a hybridizer with limited space, however, its unknown parentage gives me pause, i.e., will it work with the genetics of my existing stuff?  If I had more space, I'd grab it.  (And if you have space, I think you should, too.)
'Midnight Rose'

Keith Keppel's Gambling Man (Silk Road X Roaring Twenties) caught my eye, as does anything with the Edith Wolford color pattern.  This, though, is from quite different lineage.

'Gambling Man'

I am particularly impressed with the introductions of Robert Piatek, of Poland, and those of Anton Mego,  of Slovakia.  I have Mego's Slovak Prince and seedlings from it, and I hope that others of  their cultivars will soon, if not already, be available in the USA.
'Slovak Prince' 

Which newer introductions caught your eye this year?

Monday, August 4, 2014


                                                                by Dawn Mumford

This post will show irises that won the Dykes Medal from its first year, 1927, to 1957.  My appreciation to everyone who took such nice photos and allowed us to use them. 

Starting with the oldest first we have...

"San Francisco' by Mohr Dykes Medal 1927
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser

'Dauntless' by Connell Dykes Medal 1929
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser  

'Rameses' by H. P. Sass Dykes Medal 1932 
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser

'Coralie' by Ayres  Dykes Medal 1933 
Photo courtesy of CRIRIS

'Sierra Blue' by Essig Dykes Medal 1935 
Photo courtesy of  CRIRIS

'Mary Geddes' by Stahl-Washington Dykes Medal 1936
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser 

'Missouri' by Grinter Dykes Medal 1937
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser

'Copper Lustre' by Kirkland Dykes Medal 1938
Photo courtesy of  CRIRIS

'Rosy Wings' by Gage Dykes Medal 1939
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser

'Wabash' by Williamson Dykes Medal 1940
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser

'The Red Douglas' by J. Sass Dykes Medal 1941 
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser

'Great Lakes' by Cousins Dykes Medal 1942
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser

'Prairie Sunset' by H.P. Sass Dykes Medal 1943
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser 

'Spun Gold'  by Gultzbeck Dykes Medal 1944
From The American Iris Society Wiki
photo courtesy of Betty Higgins 

'Elmohr' by Loomis Dykes Medal 1945 
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser

'Chivalry'  by Wills Dykes Medal 1947
From The American Iris Society Wiki
photo courtesy of Kent Pfeiffer 

'Ola Kala' by Sass Dykes Medal 1948
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser

'Helen McGregor" by Graves Dykes Medal 1949 
From The American Iris Society Wiki
photo courtesy of Kent Pfeiffer 

'Blue Rhythm'  by Whiting Dykes Medal 1950
From The American Iris Society Wiki
photo courtesy of Carlos Ayento  

'Cherie' by Hall Dykes Medal 1951
Photo courtesy of Sherry Austin 

'Argus Pheasant' by Deforest Dykes Medal 1952
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser 

'Truly Yours' by Fay Dykes Medal 1953
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser 

'Mary Randall' by Fay Dykes Medal 1954
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser 

'Sable Night' by Cook Dykes Medal 1955
Photo courtesy of Mike Unser

'First Violet' by Deforest Dykes Medal 1956
From The American Iris Society Wiki
photo courtesy of Terry Laurin 

'Violet Harmony' by Lowry Dykes Medal 1957
 Photo courtesy of CRIRIS

Well, there you have it.  Between the last article and this article we have  the complete list and pictures of all the'historic" Dykes Medal Winners from 1927 until 1984.  (If you missed my last post, it includes 'historic' irises that won the Dykes Medal between 1958 and 1984.  Click here to see it:  

I'm sure that there are some that really caught your eye and made you think about planting them. 

Do you grow any of these iris?  Which ones are your favorites?