Monday, November 30, 2015

Understanding Iris Descriptions

by Tom Waters

If you've spent some time looking for information about particular irises, you've probably encountered something like this, which I've copied from the American Iris Society (AIS) online Iris Encyclopedia:
'Montmartre' Keith Keppel, R. 2007). Seedling 01-49B. TB, 33" (84 cm), Early thru midseason bloom. Standards greyed red-purple (M&P 45-J-5), 1/4" straw yellow (10-F-2) edge; style arms straw to reed yellow (10-I-1), midrib flushed red purple; Falls velvety dark red purple, darker and brighter than raisin purple (54-B-12), narrow oyster white (10-B-1) edge, inner haft lemon (9-L-2), white around beard; beards chrome yellow (9-L-7), white and lemon at end. 99-61A: (96-11D, sibling to 'Moonlit Water' x 'New Leaf') X 'High Master'. Keppel 2008. Honorable Mention 2010, Award of Merit 2012Wister Medal 2014.
Most of this text is from the official description of the variety as published by the AIS. The information is presented in a standardized order and format. Even unofficial descriptions, as you might find in catalogs or other publications, tend to follow this format to some extent, although usually somewhat simplified.

This is a rather intimidating mass of text for the novice iris enthusiast to process. In this post, I will step through it all one piece at a time, explaining what it all means and sharing some interesting background information along the way.

The first portion is this: "'Montmartre' Keith Keppel, R. 2007)." 'Montmartre' is the name of the iris; Keith Keppel is the person who created it, and 2007 is the year it was registered ("R.") with the AIS.

Registration is the process by which a new iris is assigned a unique name. Why is this necessary? Can't the person who breeds a new iris just call it whatever he or she feels like? That was essentially the state of affairs in the nineteenth century, when nursery businesses devoted to ornamental plants were coming into their own. The result was a great deal of confusion. Different plants were being sold under the same name, and some plants were being sold under more than one name. Furthermore, plants were sometimes given names that looked like botanical names but were not. The bring order out of chaos, an international system for naming cultivated plants was created. This is the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP). The code includes rules about what form a name may take (it can't look like a botanical species name, for example, cannot be excessively long, or be just a descriptive word like "yellow"). For many types of ornamental plants, the ICNCP rules are implemented through a designated International Cultivar Registration Authority. For all irises except those that grow from bulbs, the registration authority is the AIS. So it is the role of the AIS to ensure that new irises are named according to the rules, and that each name is officially assigned to a single particular cultivar.

(The world "cultivar", coined from the phrase "cultivated variety", is the technically correct term for a unique plant. Although the term "variety" is often used, that word has a different meaning to botanists.)

Cultivar names are enclosed in single quotes, according to the ICNCP. There was an older practice of printing iris cultivar names in capitals, which you may still encounter from time to time.

So 'Montmartre' was registered with the AIS by Keith Keppel, the hybridizer who created it, in 2007. The person who registers an iris is usually the hybridizer who made the cross that produced it, but this is not always the case. One can register a particular or distinctive form of an iris species found in the wild or raised from collected seed with no deliberate cross-pollination involved. In this case, the person who registers the cultivar is just the person who has grown the plant and decided it should be named. It also sometimes happens that one person selects the plant to be registered, even though the cross that produced it was made by someone else. For example, 'Brown Lasso' resulted from a cross made by Gene Buckles, whose seedlings were passed on to David Niswonger when he died. So it was Niswonger who registered 'Brown Lasso' on behalf of the deceased hybridizer. The registration for this iris reads as follows:
'Brown Lasso' ( Eugene Buckles by David Niswonger, selector. R. 1972).
There is no requirement that the person who made the original cross be acknowledged in this fashion, but it is a commonly observed courtesy. 

It also sometimes happens that an iris has been in circulation for many years, without ever being registered, and an iris society or knowledgeable individual may step in and register it, so that its name can be officially recorded with a proper description.

I sometimes encounter people who are under the impression that registration somehow implies that the iris is deemed worthy by the AIS, or "approved" to be sold. This is not the case. The AIS does not make any judgment on the merits of the cultivars that are registered. The sole purpose of registration is simply to officially assign a name to a cultivar.

The next part of the description of 'Montmartre' is
Seedling 01-49B. TB, 33" (84 cm), Early thru midseason bloom.
First comes the hybridizer's seedling number. Hybridizers usually raise so many seedlings that they use numbers to keep track of them until a few are selected to be named. There is no standard format for numbering seedlings; each hybridizer has his or her own system. Why is this number included in the official description? It seems superfluous once a name has been chosen. One reason is that the iris may have been used for breeding, and referred to by number in a pedigree, before being registered. It also helps people in the future interpret the hybridizer's breeding records. Furthermore, the iris may have been grown and seen under its seedling number, for example at an iris convention, and this lets everyone know that this new iris is the same one they admired (or detested) when they saw it earlier.

TB stands for "tall bearded". Each class of iris has its own abbreviation. Next follows the height in inches and centimeters. The height of an iris can vary considerably, even in one garden, and much more so if grown in different climates and soils. So the height figure is best taken with a grain of salt.

Next comes the season of bloom ("Early through midseason"). You may also see the bloom season expressed in abbreviations: E-M, in this example. Bloom season is not referred to calendar dates, because that changes enormously from one climate to another, and even from year to year. Rather, it is expressed relative to other irises of the same type. So in this case, we know that 'Montmartre' starts blooming somewhat earlier than most TBs and continues blooming into the middle of TB season. These designations are always relative to the type of iris involved, so a standard dwarf bearded (SDB) iris with midseason bloom means it blooms in the middle of SDB season, even though this may be a month or so before TBs bloom.

Next comes the color description, which is often the longest part. The standards (upper petals) are described first, followed by the falls (lower petals, which technically are sepals). In this particular description, you will notice alphanumeric codes being used to describe the colors. There are a number of different color charts published by various individuals and organizations to help identify colors more precisely than common language can do. In this case, the system being used is that of Maerz and Paul (note the "M&P" given the first time a code appears in the description). Other color systems often encountered are RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) and Ridgeway. If you have access to the specified published color chart, you can consult it to see precisely which colors are referred to in the description. There is an important caveat, though: colors can vary depending on soil and weather and the age of the bloom. So the precision implied by using a color chart is somewhat illusory.

The M&P color system used in this description also assigns English names to colors, and these are used in the description ("reed yellow", "raisin purple", and so on). These sometimes strike me as rather too fanciful to be useful without consulting the color chart, but they can convey some general distinctions. (I think we all have a sense of how straw yellow differs from lemon yellow, for example).

One is not required to use a published color chart when describing an iris, and many hybridizers do not. In recent years, the AIS has been collecting photographs along with the registration descriptions, which is a wonderful development. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words. A photograph is not required, however, just encouraged.

At the end of the description comes the parentage, or pedigree, of the iris. The pod parent is given first, then a large X, then the pollen parent. These may be named cultivars, or seedlings identified by number, parentage, or both. The parentage can sometimes be dauntingly complex if the hybridizer has been using their own seedlings for many generations.

Let's untangle this particular parentage, which is fairly easy as such things go. First look for the large X that separates the two parents. We can see right away that the pollen parent is 'High Master'. What about the pod parent? It is this:
99-61A: (96-11D, sibling to 'Moonlit Water' x 'New Leaf')
The pod parent is a seedling numbered 99-61A. (Since no other hybridizer is indicated, this is one of Keith Keppel's own seedlings.) That seedling's parentage is given inside the parentheses, after the colon. Its pollen parent is 'New Leaf' and its pod parent is another seedling, 96-11D, which we are told is a sibling to 'Moonlit Water'. So if we want to know that seedling's parentage, we can look in the description of 'Moonlit Water' (siblings have the same parentage, by definition.) Why refer to it that way? Why not just give its parentage? In this case, it is an enormous space saver. Look up the parentage of 'Moonlit Water' and you'll see what I mean!

Sometimes you will see a description that says "parentage unknown", or lists a pollen parent as unknown. When the pollen parent is unknown, it could be that the cross was made by insects, rather than the hybridizer. (These are often referred to as "bee pods".) This is not always the case, however. Particularly when the entire parentage is unknown, it is likely to be a case of an intentional cross with lost of confused records.

Following the parentage, we see "Keppel 2008". What is this? We already saw at the beginning that the iris was registered by Keppel in 2007. This last bit of information is the record of introduction. "Introduction" is short for "introduced into commerce" and refers to when and by whom the iris was first offered for sale to the public. In this case, Keith Keppel sells his irises himself, so we just see his name and the year 2008. It is rather common for an iris to be registered in one year and first offered for sale in the following year, although the gap can be longer, or an iris can be introduced the same year it is registered. If the iris were introduced by a commercial garden, it is the name of the garden that is used. For example, Mid-America Garden introduces irises bred by Paul Black and Thomas Johnson.

Why is introduction important? One reason is that where and when an iris is introduced determines its eligibility for AIS awards. (AIS awards are given only to cultivars introduced in North America, and the year of introduction determines when an iris becomes eligible for awards. The AIS does not recognize an iris as having been introduced until the person who registered it sends evidence of introduction to the registrar.

In fact, the year of introduction is so important that when an iris is referred to in text, the hybridizer and year of introduction are often given in parentheses following the name: 'Montmartre' (Keppel, 2008).

Can an iris be registered and not introduced? Indeed. Registration, remember, is just the official assignment of the name to the plant; it does not imply anything about whether the iris should or will be offered for sale. The hybridizer might lose the plant, decide not to sell it, or be unable to sell it for some reason.

Conversely, there are irises (mostly older ones) that have been introduced into commerce but never registered. The ICNCP is not a legally binding set of rules, nor does the AIS have any legal standing to require irises to be registered before they are sold (although an iris must be properly registered to be eligible for AIS awards). So there have been iris hybridizers (mostly in past eras, and mostly working outside the US) who did not bother with registering their creations before selling them.

Finally, at the very end, is a list of the awards the iris has received: in this case, Honorable Mention, Award of Merit, and the Wister Medal.

I hope this post has given some insight into the nuances and complexities of iris descriptions. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments below, and I will do my best to answer!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Reddish, Redder, Red––A Short History of Selecting for Red in PCI Flowers

Kathleen Sayce

Recent Pacifica Iris selections are starting to look very red, but first selections of this rich color appeared decades ago in mid 20th Century hybrids. 
PCI 'Claremont Indian' R. by Lee Lenz,
photo from SPCNI photo collection. 

PCI 'Claremont Indian' was registered in 1956. Here's Dr. Richard Richards' notes about early reds,
 "The first "red" iris I ever saw was Dr. Lee Lenz's Claremont Indian. He produced it in the 50s, in a cross of innominata and probably douglasiana

"It was the foundation for the
reddish irises that appeared in Southern California, such as 'Pasadena Indian' and 'Native Princess' by George Stambach.

PCI 'Native Princess' by George Stambach, 1964

"About the same time Ghio introduced 'Emigrant', from seed I believe that
came from Hargreaves. Spelling approximate. From that iris came the Ghio reds. Of course hybridizers were using both 'Claremont Indian' and 'Emigrant' right away."

PCI' Emigrant', R. Joe Ghio, 1981

The early reds had species-like petals, much narrower than present-day hybrids, with reduced ruffling and narrow standards and style arms. Signals were typical of species, edging and veining were both restrained, and flowers tended to hold up well in inclement weather. 

By the late 20th century, ruffles, wide flower parts (falls, standards and style arms), bright colors and increased complexity in patterns on falls were, and still are, developing from year to year. 

I'm not going to show all fifty plus 'red' PCI selections (you can look them up in the Iris Encyclopedia), but will list some of them, focusing on those that are important for breeding, toughness, depth and complexity of color, and other desirable traits. 

PCI 'Indian Maiden', by George Stambach, R. 1971. 

'Indian Maiden' was another Stambach hybrid that showed complex dark veining on a lighter background. This patterning is an attractive feature of new 21st century hybrids, in a variety of color combinations. 

1970s registrations include:
'Sundance Eight' (e. Molseed, 1979), 'Verdugo' (Phillips, 1971)

PCI 'Mission Santa Cruz' (R. Ghio 1982) is still an useful parent for new hybrids. Its petal colors are intense, and carry forward into new hybrids a distinctive deep color saturation and sturdy petal structure. 

PCI' Mission Santa Cruz' R. 1982, Joe Ghio
In England, Marjorie Brummitt produced a series of Banbury hybrids during the latter part of the 20th Century, including 'Banbury Gem' (1972) and 'Banbury Melody' (1983). 

Other 1980-90s 'red' registrations include: 
'Adept' (Ghio, 1997), 'Battle Alert' (Ghio, 1995––and the name should be a clue that this is one of the very dark red hybrids), 'Common Sense' (Ghio , 1997), 'Endless' (Ghio, 1985), 'Escalona' (Ghio, 1994), 'Gamay' (Terry Aitken, 1995), 'Junipero' (Ghio, 1989), 'Mission Santa Clara' (Ghio, 1992), 'Opulence' (Elaine Bessette, 1996), 'Riva' (Ghio, 1988), 'Town Belle' (Elyse Hill, 1998), and 'Upper Echelon' (Ghio, 1988). 

PCI 'Salsa Picante', R. 2014, Emma Elliott,
photo courtesy Emma Elliott, Wild
Ginger Farms
'Salsa Picante' looks back at 'Emigrant' in a modern, sturdy plant with flowers held upright.

Two recent introductions by Debby Cole, 'Red Delicious' and 'Scarlet Woman' also edge closer to solidly red flowers. 

PCI 'Dracularity', another Debby Cole introduction, is an intensely colored flower, reminding us of the color blast that comes from well saturated petals, in this case with light edges. 

PCI 'Dracularity' R. 1998, Debby Cole

PCI 'Tulum', R. 1996, Joe Ghio.
 This article ends with another hybrid from Joe Ghio, 'Tulum', which shows more ruffles, wider flower parts, and in this hybrid, a dark signal and veining on a lighter background. It's a lovely hybrid with a velvety surface and in full sun, a pinkish red. 

Most of the photos in this article are from the SPCNI photo collection, with thanks to Ken Walker, Recorder, for sharing them to this blog. Emma Elliott shared  'Salsa Picante'. I also thank Richard Richards for his comments on early red PCI hybrids. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

IRISES, the Bulletin of the AIS - Fall 2015 Edition

By Andi Rivarola

A warm welcome to another wonderful issue of IRISES, the Bulletin of The American Iris Society. As you can see from the cover below it features 2015 Dykes Medal Winner 'Gypsy Lord' by hybridizer Keith Keppel. 

The Fall 2015 issue of the AIS Bulletin is now available for online viewing within the Emembers section of the AIS websiteNote: to access this area of the website you must have a current AIS Emembership. AIS Emembership is separate from the normal AIS membership. Please see the Electronic Membership Information area of the AIS website for more details.

In this edition you will enjoy the images of all 2015 AIS Award Winners, starting on page 2, including all three Wister Medal Winners, 'Money In Your Pocket' by Paul Black, 'Snapshot' by Thomas Johnson, and 'Temporal Anomaly' by Rick Tasco.

On page 7 don't miss a beautiful picture of 'Royston Rubies' by Adam Cordes, the winner of the Lloyd Zurbrigg-Clarence Mahan Cup for Best Iris Seedling at the Portland, OR Convention.  It was an exciting seedling to see doing well at most Convention gardens. 

A heartfelt note by outgoing AIS President, Jim Morris on page 9 who says Adieu fondly recollecting the many experiences, and paying homage to the people that made it possible for him to accomplish his timely mission. I enjoyed his quote by U.S. President John F. Kennedy

Before we can set out on the road to success, we have to know where we are going, and before we can know that we must determine where we have been in the past.
On Section Happenings on page 10, Gary White, AIS Section Cooperating Society Liaison got this report from the Society for SIberian Irises: 

A Siberian iris was the first runner-up to the Dykes Medal, after judges voting for iris awards this year. 'Swans In Flight' (Hollingworth 2006) may be the closest siberian iris to date to winning the Dykes Medal. 
The Portland Convocation was fully covered in this edition of IRISES, starting on page 12 with articles and photos by Jim Morris, from Missouri; Stephanie Markham, from Massachusetts; Ginny Spoon, from Virginia; Bonnie Nichols, from Texas; Chuck Bunnell, from Indiana; and Kate Brewitt, from Canada. 

On page 28 you will find a full list of 2015 AIS Awards

Read the continuation of an amazing article called "The Long Road to a New Iris in India: Part 2" awaits you on page 36.

A fantastic dedication to the passing of David Cadd (1945 - 2015), written by Jim Morris is on page 50. We will miss you David.

Lastly, don't miss news about the 2016 National Convention to be held in Newark, NJ and at The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens on page 51, with a Registration form on page 52. (FYI, the website for the convention can be found here).

There's a lot more to see and read in this edition of IRISES, either in digital or print formats. If you are an AIS member know that you will receive the print edition soon (it's in the hands of the Post Office), or if you are an e-member, then that version is already available online as mentioned above. 

Happy gardening!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Feeling The Blues

By Patrick O'Connor

If you are bored with blue, you might want to move on to greener, or more psychedelic, pastures.  This post is just about the pursuit of pale blue tones in Louisiana iris hybrids.  Kevin Vaughn calls them “icy” blue, and the color has intrigued several hybridizers.
In a way it is odd that it would be necessary to hustle after pale blue Louisiana hybrids since the color is found within the natural range of the blue species, I. giganticaerulea, I. brevicaulis, and, possibly, I. hexagona.  There are rare white forms of each, of course, and the intensity of the predominant blue color sometimes shades gradually toward white.
I don’t know much about the East Coast I. hexagona, but I have seen native stands of brevicaulis in Louisiana that exhibit a considerable range of blue hues within a short distance.  A case in point is a light blue in Gary Babin’s yard in Baton Rouge.  Gary has maintained an extensive planting of brevicaulis in many shades that originated with collections from a nearby wetland many years ago.   Almost all flowers are considerably darker, some a fairly deep blue-purple.

I. brevicaulis from Gary Babin in Baton Rouge

Pale blue I. giganticaerulea growing in LaPlace, LA
Several I. giganticaeruleas or related specimens are another example.  One, found in LaPlace, Louisiana, is the palest blue, nearly white.  Most giganticaeruleas are a darker blue, blue-purple or blue-lavender.
'Eolian'  -  Photo by Robert Treadway.
When I started with Louisiana irises in the late 1970s, Charles Arny’s ‘Eolian’ was the iris held up as the lightest of blues.  It’s still grown and sometimes wins shows, but ‘Eolian’, while lighter than most blue Louisianas, really is not the icy blue that has obsessed some of us.

'Delta Dove'
"Ice Angel'
Three examples of icy blues emerged in the 1980s:  ‘Delta Dove’ (Dunn, R1984); ‘Ice Angel’ (Faggard, 1988); and ‘Southdowns’ (O’Connor, registered in 1992 but first bloomed in 1980).   All these irises approached or met the color requirement, and they also offered a larger, fuller flower than ‘Eolian’.  I can’t speak from much experience about ‘Delta Dove’ and ‘Ice Angel’, having only seen them sporadically, but ‘Southdowns’ is mine and I am well acquainted with its characteristics. 

Some people say that it lacks substance.  I say, however, that it is a gossamer thing of ephemeral beauty – that lacks substance.  So what if you can almost see through a petal?  Isn’t everything supposed to be “transparent” these days?  Does the judges handbook suggest that poor substance is a fault?  Afraid so, but it is a great grower and a fine garden iris that looks especially nice at dusk and in a little shade.  ‘Southdowns’ may not be covered by the Second Amendment, but no one is going to take it away from me.
Another attribute of ‘Southdowns’, if you look closely, is that it really is not blue.  The color upon opening consists of fine purple veins over a white ground.  With time the purple lightens, and even at first and from a distance, the eye sees it as pale blue.  Newer icy blue hybrids are actually icy blue.
These early light blues did not seem to come from a disciplined pursuit of that color.  Dunn’s ‘Delta Dove’ might have, in that one parent was a seedling from two whites, ‘Ila Nunn’ and a white giganticaerulea (‘Her Highness’).  The cross was a wide one, however, with the other parent being the famous red ‘Ann Chowning’.  It was a roll of the dice for blues, but they produced a winner.
Nothing is known about the parentage of ‘Ice Angel’, and ‘Southdowns’ came from a bee pod on ‘Cajun Caper’ in the first year I fiddled with seeds.  (I am sure that the other parent was the blue ‘Mac’s Blue Heaven’ but I did not make the cross.  Cajun Caper’ is a red-violet blend with a strong orange suffusion).
'Faubourg Marigny'
'Estelle Egan'
'Sarah Faith' - Photo by Robert Treadway
Later hybridizing has been more systematic.  There are five irises I would cite as modern examples of work leading to icy blue Louisiana irises.  Three are mine:  ‘Bywater’ ( R2005, Southdowns x Lake Sylvia); ‘Faubourg Marigny’ (R2011, Bywater x Beale Street); and ‘Estelle Egan’ (R2013, Bywater x Sinfonietta).  The fourth is ‘Sarah Faith’ (R2008, Dural Bluebird x Jeri) by the late M.D. Faith.  The last and most recent is Kevin Vaughn’s ‘Aqua Velva’, (R2014, Beale Street x Dural White Butterfly).
‘Bywater’ is actually blue, and like ‘Southdowns’, a very good grower.   The flower form is nearly overlapping, but depending how they are held, some blossoms may appear a bit open.
‘Faubourg Marigny’ is an even lighter blue.  In fact, it opens a pale, pastel blue over a white ground, and it does fade to near white.  Those icy genes clearly are there, however. 
‘Sarah Faith’ got by me.  I have only seen a picture sent by Robert Treadway, who told me about the iris.  It is a beautiful, ruffled pale blue.  Robert says the iris has a nice stalk, too, so everything considered, it was a real loss not to have grown this one, so far.  Judging from just the picture, it is right similar to the next iris.
‘Estelle Egan’ probably is my best pale blue.  It has the color right and adds both ruffling and improved substance.  The iris grows well and forms a nice clump.
I have only seen Kevin’s new ‘Aqua Velva’ one time in a garden, but it looks like a fine addition.  It certainly has a good pedigree, and what a perfect name!
'Aqua Velva'
I am excited about a new iris that popped up in the pursuit of light blues.  ‘House of Blues’, currently in process of registration, comes from a cross of the pastel blue ‘Faubourg Marigny’ and the pastel pink ‘Birthday Suit’.  ‘House of Blues’ may not qualify as icy, but it definitely is cool.

'House of Blues'
If anyone else is intrigued by icy blues, the groundwork done should support real progress.  A good strategy might be to work with strong whites and blues as well as with the existing icy hybrids.  It should be possible to develop pale blue irises with many of the good attributes of modern Louisianas.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

2020 AIS Centennial News - November 13, 2015

They are almost indescribable, the exhilarating feelings that accompany the preparation for a very special celebration taking shape within the team getting ready for 2020, the Centennial founding of The American Iris Society. We hope that you will join us not only in the celebration itself but also in every step we take to get ready for the Anniversary. Please join us as a volunteer, as a contributor of ideas, or simply by sharing all of our communications regarding the festivities with your friends and family.

It is with great pleasure that we start communicating with you by announcing the winner of the 2020 AIS Centennial Logo Contest. You will be seeing the winning logo (above) from now on in all of our communications regarding the AIS Centennial, be it online or via printed material. It was chosen unanimously by all committee members, and we particularly enjoyed it because it contains all the many types of irises we all enjoy.

We also want all of those who entered the Logo Contest to know how grateful we are, and how much we appreciate them. The AIS 2020 Centennial Committee members who chose the winner felt  thrilled to have viewed the different ways all of you expressed your creativity and love for irises.

And, the winner is Lori Galletti!

A bit camera shy Lori Galletti

Since there's nothing better than letting the person introduce themselves, well, here it is, in her own words:

I currently live in  , PA and I belong to The American Iris Society, HIPS, Delaware Valley Iris Society, and I have irises on the brain. For the last 4 years I have slept, dreamt and daydreamed irises.

I moved from Long Island, NY to Wyomissing, PA approximately 8 years ago.  When I bought my home, my mother shared with me her purple irises, which my father gave to her when they bought their first home. Because they were NOID's, I began investigating their origins and during my research I came across Bertrand Farr.  I found that the home I am living in, and the entire surrounding development, is on the land that was originally Farr Nursery. From that moment on, I have been actively collecting irises and Farr Nursery memorabilia.

In 2013, I purchased a collection of all the remaining artifacts from Farr Nursery and donated it to the New York Botanical Gardens. Included in the donation were Victorian era Dutch Boy and Girl costumes which were used in advertising Tulip Time at the Nursery. Two children would dress in full costume and greet customers as they arrived. It was so romantic and charming, it showed me the world through Mr. Farr's eyes.  His spirit lives on in his irises and his enthusiasm can still be felt and is quite infectious.

In February of this year, part of the collection went on exhibit at the Reading Public Museum. The museum generously hosted a Bertrand Farr exhibit, celebrating his 1915 gold medal win for his irises at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Quaker Lady garnered special attention at the PPIE and was Mr. Farr's personal favorite. She is my muse as well.  And as an artist,  I tend to sketch and photograph her more than any other iris in my garden.

When I first moved to Pennsylvania, I never expected to go on this journey, and I have to say, it has been exhilarating.  Having my design chosen for the AIS Centennial Celebration is an incredible honor and a highpoint in my love and obsession with all things iris.

Many thanks to Lori Galletti for her wonderful work!

Andi Rivarola
On behalf of the 2020 AIS Centennial Committee 
PS: Special Centennial email address: 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Celebrating Autumn: Dark Red PCI Flowers

Kathleen Sayce
Red is not a natural color for iris flowers, and so it is of course one of the most sought after goals among Iris breeders. 

PCI 'Wine and Cheese' by Vernon Wood,
PCI 'Gold Streaker' by Vernon Wood, 2003

Flower color in the genus Iris comes from two different parts of cells in flower petals, cell sap and plastids. The pH in the cell affects the sap colors. Growing temperatures, soil pH, and soil nutrition may also affect colors in both areas of the cell.  

PCI 'New Blood', by Joe Ghio,
One color portion comes from the cellular sap, the fluid inside each cell in the flower. This sap is the source of cool colors––blues, lavenders, purples. Cell sap colors are very sensitive to pH. 

The other color portion is in cell organelles, plastids, which are the source for warm colors, primarily yellows and oranges. 

PCI 'Pop Idol'
For flower colors that nature did not design, breeders tweak the balance between colors in the cell sap and colors in the plastids. 

Well, that is the outcome of what they do. 

In the garden, breeders select, year after year, for the plants that come closest to the colors they are looking for. There is also some serendipity––the breeder might not have been looking for brilliantly dark red falls with golden streaks, but when these appear, wow!

PCI 'War Zone' by Joe Ghio, 2008
While looking for Pacifica Iris to feature in this article, I requested red photos from SPCNI members and the photo collection.

Ninety plus images later, my head reeling from an abundance of choices, I decided to post them in several sets, sorted by hue and intensity. 

As we've just passed the Autumn celebrations of Halloween, Day of the Dead, and Samhain, this article features dark, intensely red to near black PCI flowers. 

PCI 'Red Flag Warning' by Joe Ghio, 2010
Joseph Ghio has been breeding more intensely colored PCI for years, see the hue intensity ramp up from 'New Blood' and 'Pop Idol' to 'War Zone' and 'Red Flag Warning'. I live on the Pacific Northwest Coast, and we've already had a few red flag storms blast through this fall, so I appreciate this name! 

Intense reds don't stop here. They keep going to near-blacks and dark red purples.  

PCI 'Brand Name' by Joe Ghio, 2009

PCI 'Brand Name' has intense coloration in all flower parts, the signal is small, even the style arms are darkening up. 

It is clear that near black flowers aren't too far away. Pigment levels are getting very intense. Not surprisingly, the names are getting intense too!

PCI 'Battle Line' by Joe Ghio, 2004

My former plant physiology instructors would roll over in their graves if I failed to mention green plastids.  Green plastids are in all plant cells, and are called chloroplasts. They contain chlorophyll and accessory pigments, and capture light to make chemical energy to fuel plants. These green plastids largely disappear in mature flowers, as the flowers take on other pigments, stop growing, and expand into open flowers ready for pollination. 

OK, duty done, next, on to more reds, pinks, and red-orange-yellow PCI flowers. 

All of the photos in this article are from the SPCNI Photo Collection, shared by Ken Walker, SPCNI Recorder to this blog.