Monday, March 16, 2015

The Curse of 'Ola Kala'

By Mike Unser

The Dykes Memorial Medal is the highest award an iris variety can win and is highly coveted by hybridizers. It represents, we hope, the creme de la creme of the iris world. But for every winner there are those that came so close, but didn't quite make it. This is the story of two varieties thwarted from the top spot by the same iris. 

Dr. Rudolph E. Kleinsorge was a celebrated hybridizer in his day, introducing iris varieties from 1929 through 1961. He created many significant varieties that were not only good garden plants but also advances in color that changed the iris palette forever. One thing he never did achieve was a Dykes Medal, however he did come very close. He thrice missed the top spot by slim margins. And, oddly, it was the same variety that beat his two of those times.

In 1945 his lovely pink blend 'Daybreak' came in second to 'Elmohr'. In 1946 it tied for the top spot with  'Ola Kala', the renowned golden yellow masterpiece from Jacob Sass, and no award was given that year. In 1948 the Doctor's next great advance, 'Bryce Canyon', was a runner up to that year's winner - 'Ola Kala'. Talk about a curse! 'Ola Kala' was not OK for the good Doctor*.

'Ola Kala' deserves its place. It was an amazing advance for yellow irises, bringing great depth of color, lovely form, and much needed height to a class that was begging for improvement. It is sad that it eclipsed the fine advances that both 'Daybreak' and 'Bryce Canyon' also brought to the table, but such is the cast of the die. Thankfully all three of these wonderful varieties are still with us, and we can grow them and judge for ourselves which are deserving in our own eye of top honors. 

*Much thanks to Phil Edinger for the info and clever turn of phrase that inspired this post.


  1. You made me google "Ola Kala"!

  2. Ola Kala still grows across the continent, but the others in rare collections. RS


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