Monday, August 29, 2016

2016 Summer Rebloom in KY, Zone 6

by Betty Wilkerson

In my zone 6, Kentucky garden, summer rebloom is anything that blooms between the end of spring (approximately the third week in May) until the beginning of cycle rebloom in the fall (approximately September 15).  My last post discussed the late stalks, which I consider to be rebloom.  Now, on to the full summer bloom.  

The very first summer stalk I found was on 'Artistic Showoff.'  It is a sibling to 'Echo Location' and usually starts rebloom late, some six weeks after the spring bloom is over.  This year an established planting is also producing stalks later in the summer.  

'Artistic Showoff'' (Wilkerson 2013) 

After sending up a late beautiful stalk with over 11 buds, 1907-10Re has four more stalks. Unfortunately the last two, blooming in the extreme heat of July, have heat stunted stalks.  The stalks do not reach full height and the blooms are stacked on top of each other.  

1907-10Re (Wilkerson seedling) 

 'Summer Honey' has won "best specimen" in a fall show in Virginia.  The exhibitor was Mike Lockatell.  It has two stalks on one clump this summer.  One row was used and the other row is a bit under grown as the adjoining field imposed upon the plants.  It is usually well branched.  The first stalk was hit with a strong thunderstorm so the first couple of blooms were a bit mauled.  I am lining out the rest in hopes of more stalks next summer.  

'Summer Honey' (Wilkerson 2013)

'Over and Over' is really dependable in my garden when it comes to rebloom.  It's been in three different beds over the course of nine years and has rebloomed in all three locations. It has very clear and clean white standards and falls with a trace of blue/lavender along the edges.  Currently, a new clump transplanted in the fall of 2015 has two blooming stalks.  In the fall it is a very good foil for my own 'Star Gate', so I try to keep them planted together.  

'Over and Over' (Innerst 2003)

There was another stalk on 2611-04Re.  This is a total of eight stalks in approximately ten months, two stalks in the fall of 2015, four in the spring of 2016, one late stalk right after spring bloom ended and another in the early summer.  Another sibling, 2611-06, is showing color and should be open in a couple of days.  It appears to be much like 04Re.  

2611-04Re (Wilkerson seedling)

We've had a hot summer, but it's also been wet.  There have been about three weeks in which the night time temperatures have not been below 70 degrees.  This may have an effect on the fall rebloom.  If night temperatures are as important as we've come to believe, there may only be late fall rebloom, which can be frozen back unless the freezing temperatures hold off.  

My primary goal is to have rebloom before the late fall hard freeze.  Although I'm not really crazy about having blooms open in extremely hot weather, I can see cutting some stalks to bloom indoors.

Inside or outside, I've found my garden to be a wonderful place this year. Hope you have all enjoyed your gardens, too! 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Truth, Consequences, and the Inevitability of Both

By Vanessa Spady

Once again, as I begin writing the collection of deep and significant lessons I have learned as a gardener of iris, I am humbled, awed, and pooped. Apparently, I like this state of affairs as I am in no way considering a change to my gardening circumstances. I have a large garden, and as you know, with iris that means that it’s always expanding. I don’t keep up with all the associated chores, but scaling back is not my plan. While I love the idea of being “done” planting, or weeding, or feeding, I must acknowledge that it’s probably not in the cards for me. That’s the truth.

I admire the iris gardeners who get their orders of new rhizomes and dash out to the (already prepared) beds and lovingly, carefully plant those new iris in the long-ago designated order and space where they belong. I have nothing but respect for the gardeners who seem to have conquered weeds, leaf spot, excess increases, and the laws of time, and post pictures of their impeccable, immaculate, gorgeous and altogether perfect looking iris beds. I don’t know how they do it, truly I don’t. 

Even when I wasn’t working, I didn’t have perfect beds, or manage to feed or weed on a timely schedule. I created lots of beauty, but it was always squeezed in between the other things I was doing in my life, and never, except on day one, do my beds look groomed or tended. Sometimes they don’t even look like beds that were planted on purpose. Things around here get that feral look pretty quickly.

Scroll back in time to see how these looked when they were first planted...
Feral is the right word for the current conditions
But I do have the ambition to plant my rhizomes as soon as they arrive. And I know I’m not alone. I know some of you have rhizomes growing—nay—thriving where you put them down “just until you can get them planted..." I believe that I’m not the only one who pots new rhizomes with the promise to “get them into the ground when the weather cools off a bit” and then ends up creating a drip system to water all those potted iris… I am certain that I’m not the only one who finds a box in the garage sometime in September or October and opens it to find a cluster of dried and cranky rhizomes that have been completely forgotten in the midst of everything else that has to be done which sadly comes before gardening. That’s the consequence.

I do a lot of apologizing to my rhizome orders, or rather, to the unopened boxes they ship in. I often resent the parts of my life that require my time and attention and keep me from planning and executing those perfect beds of perfect arrangement and perfect sun, water, and exposure conditions. How dare I have to eat, and sleep, and go to work? How dare that new business I bought in May take up so much of my time… it’s bloom season! Or, it’s digging season! Or, it’s new order arrival season! Or it’s dividing season, or planting season, or weeding season… It’s not realistic for me to ignore my life, and so I squeeze in iris time whenever and wherever I can.

So I freely admit that I have slam-planted about half the iris that I have ordered into raised beds in the shade, in no particular order, after soaking them for a day or two because they sat for (up to) 6 weeks in boxes in my hot garage. I also admit that I received orders from vendors I did not remember actually ordering from (and I just found out I still have one more shipment headed my way, egad!). And I must also disclose that shopping from the comfort of my couch in the midst of those long, cold winter evenings means that I’m receiving more iris than a team of us could prep for and plant in a timely fashion.
This is the punk-rock of planting iris. I make a nice soil mixture, I put them
in the shade, and I plant them in whatever order I grab them out of the box.
Unorthodox, but they have name tags, and in they’re in a bed,
so I’m satisfied for now

The good news is that the rhizomes (mostly) forgive me. I break all the rules, and they still grow for me. I neglect them. I overheat them. I ignore them. I am in all ways a bad iris mom. So far, they look a little dry, they aren’t as lush or green as they could be, and they certainly aren’t going to be re-blooming this fall. But they’re in decent soil, and they make new green shoots, and they turn out to be just the right plant for the kind of gardener I am these days. Which is humbled, awed, and pooped.

And, the new rhizomes are slowly but surely getting planted in temporary raised beds, and labels are being made simultaneously (which is certainly part of the delay in planting, in my feeble defense), and I suspect I’ll have all the 2016 orders in the ground before, oh, September eighth? Maybe as late as the tenth? I’m pretty happy with that, since “in the ground” is a major step in the right direction. The truth is I love iris, so I embrace this chaos. The consequence is that I sometimes garden after dark, and make labels on my lunch hour.

Run out of real name tags? No problem. There are always plastic knives around.
Note the not luscious green leaves on some of the rhizomes.
Trust that the roots look fantastic.
No, really. They do.
Once I’m done planting the new ones, I can consider separating, replanting, and moving some of the vastly-increased rhizomes from last year’s project… Oh yeah! Those! 

And, because we need inspiration when all we see is dirt and dry leaves and name tags, here are some pictures of the iris that bloomed earlier this year. My gosh I love them so...

Natural Blonde, and a close-up to show the iridescence
'Natural Blond' Joseph Ghio, R. 2002). Seedling #97-24B3. TB, 36" (91 cm), Early midseason bloom. Warm creamy peach, with light peach sherbet standards center, heart, and falls shoulders; beards peach, tangerine base. Seedling #95-29U2: (seedling #89-89R2: ( 'Lightning Bolt' x ( 'Stratagem' x 'Bygone Era')) x Shoop seedling #89-23-2: ( 'Tropical Magic' x sibling)) X seedling #93-40J3: ( 'Heaven' x seedling #91-92B2: (( 'Birthday Greetings' x 'Bubbling Along') x ( 'Birthday Greetings' x 'Presence'))). Bay View 2003. Honorable Mention 2005

'Coal Seams' ( Schreiner R. 2013) Sdlg. MM 425-1. TB, 41" (104 cm), Midseason bloom. Standards dark purple (RHS 89B); Falls slightly darker purple (89A); beards dark purple. 'Badlands' X GG 378-A: ( 'Dark Passion' x 'Thunder Spirit'). Schreiner 2013. Honorable Mention 2015

'Suspicion' ( Keith Keppel, R. 1998). Seedling 93-83H. TB, 38" (97 cm), Mid bloom season. Standards greyed greenish yellow (M&P 19-DE-1), central area blended aster violet (45-F-7); style arms greenish yellow (19-C-1), lavender lip; falls light greenish yellow (19-B-1), slightly darker margins (19-C-1) and shoulders (20-K-1), giving russet green to oil yellow (12-L-1) effect; beards yellow (10-L-6); pronounced sweet fragrance. 'Wishful Thinking' X 'Spring Shower'. Keppel 1999.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

IRISES, the Bulletin of the AIS - Summer 2016 Edition

By Andi Rivarola

I hope you enjoy the new edition of IRISES, cover below, which you will receive through the mail very soon. 

A warm welcome to those who are seeing the gorgeous cover of this issue of IRISES, the Bulletin of The American Iris Society for the first time. Those of us who were there in late May will recognize the image as that of Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. The Presby was one of the locations of the 2016 National Convention. 

The Spring 2016 issue of the AIS Bulletin will be available soon for online viewing within the Emembers section of the AIS website. Note: 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.

It's all about Convention Beauties on this edition of IRISES, starting with the cover, the back cover and pages 2 and 59, all filled with fantastic Convention iris images. 

Wonderful shots of the Awards Banquet, on pages 22 and 23, showing AIS President Gary White presenting awards to a variety of winners, including Hybridizers Paul Black, Jill Copeland, Rick Tasco and Harry Wolford, but also a portrait of Virginia Keyser of Salinas, California who has the record for most AIS Conventions. Guess what the record is?

All Convention featured gardens are covered starting with the Glenara Gardens on page 24 — 26; the Hildengrandt Garden on pages 28 — 30; and an extensive coverage of the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens on pages 31 — 34, and then 38 and 39. People doing things on pages 40 and 41.

Don't miss the AIS Centennial Convention Visits described in word and beautiful pictures by Jill Bonino on pages 45 and 46. 

Please also read about the Morris Arboretum on page 47, written by Jim Morris. 

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 U.S. Post Office), or if you are an e-member, then that version will be a available online soon as mentioned above. 

Happy gardening!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Dry Summers, Summer Water and Pacifica Iris

Kathleen Sayce

Pacifica Iris, or PCI, thrive in a mediterranean climate––that’s a small ‘m’ for the climate, not the geographic area. This climate type has a wet fall-winter-spring period, with rain starting in early fall to winter, and ending in late winter to late spring, depending on latitude. In the Pacific Northwest, cool wet weather can last from six to ten months, and very dry weather (no measurable precipitation) two to six months. Most years, the August-September period is very dry. Going south on the West Coast, the wet season shrinks until in southern California, it lasts a few weeks in midwinter, and the dry season lasts most of the year. 

Iris chrysophylla x I. douglasiana, a large leaved, branched flowered form that flowers in June. 

It’s August now, and that means the West Coast is well into the annual dry season, from northern Baja California, Mexico to somewhere along the British Columbia coast. My garden is dry, and I’ve started supplemental water to some plants, but my PCI do not get supplemental water. The last of the PCI are ripening seeds, most have already open seed pods, and they are toughing out the dry season in a warm dormancy. Roots are not growing. These irises wait out the dry weather.

Seed pods from the same plant as above, 2 months later. 

I could clean up plants at this time, but I have learned that if the dry season is prolonged, then PCI will abandon more leaves, and I’ll have to take those leaves off later. So I limit my cleanup to removing vigorous weeds, dead plants, and any plants I want to remove from a particular spot. There’s no replanting this time of year. Plants that are dug out now will not reestablish if replanted. If I were watering regularly, I might be able to transplant in a few weeks. 

On watering PCI in summer, opinions are mixed. Some say no water at all. Many  nursery growers have found that PCI are fine with regular summer watering. As Secretary for the Society for Pacific Coast Native Iris, I’ve been offered many opinions from members all over the world on this subject, and have concluded that PCI do not like hot, alkaline water. Cool, neutral to acidic water is fine. I prefer not to drag hoses or sprinklers, so I do not water them, though my plants would probably be bigger and have more flowers if I did supply water all summer. 

Iris tenax, flowering mid June, on one of the last rainy days of the year. 

Late summer is a curious time in the garden:  Flowers are still abundant on many perennial and annual plants, which will keep flowering with supplemental water into fall. Butterflies make the rounds on warm days, feeding on those flowers. The end of second flight of Anise Swallowtails is still underway. Margined White butterflies are on their fourth or fifth adult generation for the year. Soon, the occasional south-migrating Monarch butterfly may pass through. Even these plants are shedding leaves, setting seed, getting ready for summer’s end. Meanwhile, fall flowering bulbs and perennials are starting to show buds and first flowers. 

The clear signal that fall is coming is birds migrating south. I live on a large estuary, Willapa Bay, where tens of thousands of shorebirds, ducks and other waterfowl fly through each fall. Shorebird numbers are picking up from week to week. Bald Eagles fledged their chicks; the adults will leave by September for inland rivers, to fish for fall migrating salmon. I hear the fledgling eagles call for their parents by mid August, looking for those formerly attentive parents.

New visitors, two Indian peacocks, check out the flower beds. The turquoise, silver and blue eyes in the tail feathers would make a striking PCI flower.  

 This week, there was a new bird species in the yard. It’s not migratory, and yes, it is introduced. Two Indian peacocks wandered into the yard. Sightings have traveled up and down the bay for several miles this summer, and this week, it was our turn for a visit. The editor of our bulletin asked me a few weeks ago about my hybridizing goals for PCI. A PCI with the brilliance of a peacock’s tail seems a very worthy goal!

Monday, August 8, 2016


By Dawn Mumford 

2016 was a good iris year for us.  The conditions in Utah were ideal (except for some strong winds that blew sporadically throughout the season).  We had an exciting season because we had so many "first time to bloom here" irises or "maiden" irises. Here are a few:

'Bravery' (Joseph Ghio, 2011)
This iris is very dramatic; it was very popular in our garden. The blue/white standards are a perfect contrast to the purple/black falls. To add even more contrast there is a bright tangerine beard.  This is a favorite. 

'Ocelot'z Lot' (Brad Kasperek, 2012)
This is a border bearded.  This is one of those irises that turned out even better than the advertised picture in the catalog or on the web page. I have come to have a real fondness, love even, of the broken colored irises that Brad is so famous for.  

 'Red At Night' (Richard Ernst, 1993)
This iris and 'Dynamite' are my irises that have the most pure red color without having the rust or brown in them.  It didn't fade and it withstood the rain without getting white measles. (which is a made-up term) 

'Eye For Style' (Barry Blyth, 2006)
Everyone raved about this iris.  It is justified.  This is a beige/pink (maybe mauve) color.  The lavender/blue blaze around the orange beard makes it more attractive. It has good substance, stays open a long time, and the branching is good. The pollen parent is 'Decadence' and so you may recognize the heavily ruffled form.

'Center Ice' (Joseph Ghio, 2009)
The standards are white with a pale blue edge tint that I find so attractive.  The falls are white with a rosy violet band.  The beard is pale yellow even if the catalog described it as cream tipped with white.  I would describe this iris as crisp.  Notice the bee trying to get in.  

'Golden Legacy' (Gerald Richardson, 2013)
This one is gold/buff with a violet base tint.  The falls are amber-gold, lighter below the yellow-orange beard.  This one got a little battered by the heavy sustained winds.  

'Louisa's Song' (Barry Blyth, 1999)
My heart swelled and my breath caught when I saw this iris. I love purples, lavenders, and orchid colors and this has it all.  It holds itself up proudly and the substance is heavy and this bloom stays open longer than usual.  Another favorite of mine. 

'Goodnight Moon" (Schreiner's, 1995)
This lemon yellow self is huge.  I think of it as generous.  The beards are a golden yellow.

'Heartfelt Beauty' (Margie Valenzuela, 2012)
The standards are pale lavender white. The falls are also pale lavender white with pale peach hafts. It has a beautiful red beard. 

'Peekaboo Zebu' (Brad Kasperek, 2005)
This iris from Brad is rich in red/purple color with white streaks.  It has tangerine beards.  Another broken color beauty to add interest to your garden. 

'Splurge' (Joseph Ghio, 2009)
When I ordered this I was afraid it would be too muted for my taste so this was a pleasant surprise.  The standards and style arms are pink. The falls are pink with deep coral on the shoulders with red violet veins and speckles. This was different but nice and not too muted.   

'Neutron Dance' (Barry Blyth, 1987)
This Amoena, white standards with colored falls, has fresh clean colors. It's standards are white but mine have a tiny rim of pale yellow,and the falls are deep yellow. The beard is also deep yellow.

'Dinner Talk' (Barry Blyth, 2005)
This was my first bloom of 'Dinner Talk'.  It had 4 falls but the subsequent blooms had the standard 3. It had luxuriant ruffles and a very heavy substance. This one will go on my new favorite list.  

'Persian Berry' (Larry Gaulter, 1976)
This 40 year old iris is so graceful and the blending of mulberry, lavender and orchid is glorious. The contrasting orange beard finishes it nicely. 

'Bubbling Waves' (Joseph Ghio, 2005)
Almost everyone who came to the garden this year asked what this one was. The color is described as simply blue.  The form is outstanding.  

'Slovac Prince' (Anton Mego, 2002)
The pod parent for this one is , 'Edith Wolford' and the Pollen parent is 'Queen In Calico'. The standards are pale lavender white with a tiny gold rim. It wouldn't be as attractive without that.  The falls are blue/purple with a lighter rim.   

'Pond Lily' (Evelyn Jones, 1994)

The standards are veronica violet , flushed deeper at midrib. The falls are also veronica violet with pink influence. The beards are tangerine.

This year I bought a new macro lens for my camera.  I had such a good time with it.  At first I cut everything off because I stood too close to the subject, but later I backed up some and was happier with the result.  It was fun to use it when I wanted more detail with a blurred background. 

Iris season was crazy and hectic and just wonderful. My husband and I just finished planting all the new rhizomes that I ordered from iris vendors. I look forward to many more maiden blooms next year or the year after, and there are still many from this year that I will show you in future blogs.

Happy gardening, and remember I love hearing comments from you because it is always fun to talk iris.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Untapped Potential of Iris reichenbachii

by Tom Waters

Today's post is all about an underappreciated bearded iris species, Iris reichenbachii. The name, it seems, is bigger than the iris itself. I. reichenbachii is a dwarf, ranging in height from 10 to 30 cm (4 to 12 inches), with one or sometimes two buds at the top of the stalk. (Very rarely, a third bud may appear further down the stalk.) The flowers are yellow (often with brownish markings or blending), smoky violet, or occasionally clear deep violet.

Iris reichenbachii
The species is native to the Balkan peninsula, from Rumania and Bulgaria through Serbia and into Greece. A related species, I. suaveolens, is similar but smaller. Two other species names, I. balkana and I. bosniaca, are now regarded as synonyms of I. reichenbachii.

As a garden subject, I. reichenbachii is pleasant enough, if somewhat unremarkable. It has found a home with rock gardeners and plant collectors. For those who fancy modern hybrid dwarf and median irises, this little species can seem drab by comparison. The petals are rather narrow, substance is lacking, and the colors can seem a bit murky.

To the hybridizer, however, I. reichenbachii has something unique to offer. Its chromosomes are very similar to those of tall bearded irises, and it is quite compatible with them. Furthermore, I. reichenbachii exists in both diploid (two sets of chromosomes) and tetraploid (four sets) forms. Since modern TBs and BBs are tetraploid, they can cross with tetraploid I. reichenbachii and produce fertile offspring. (For an explanation of diploids and tetraploids, see my earlier blog post Tetraploid Arils, Anyone?)

'Progenitor' (Cook, 1951)
 from I. reichenbachii X TB 'Shining Waters'
In the 1940s, the talented hybridizer Paul Cook did precisely that. A seedling from the cross, aptly named 'Progenitor', was registered in 1951. It was an unimpressive iris of intermediate size, but Cook could see its potential. 'Progenitor' was a bicolor, with violet falls and pure white standards. At the time, this was a new color pattern. (Earlier bicolors were actually variations on a "spot pattern" from I. variegata, and seldom showed the completely solid falls and pristine standards of 'Progenitor'. It is interesting to note that I. reichenbachii itself is not a bicolor. The bicolor pattern resulted from combining its genes with those of the TB parent. By crossing 'Progenitor' back to high-quality TBs, Cook was eventually able to transfer the bicolor pattern onto irises that otherwise showed no resemblance to the modest little dwarf that had given rise to the new pattern. 'Whole Cloth' (Cook, 1958), four generations on from 'Progenitor', won the Dykes Medal in 1962.

Virtually all TB and BB bicolors today (standards white, yellow, or pink; falls blue, violet, purple, reddish, or brown) are descendants of 'Progenitor', and hence of I. reichenbachii.

But there is still more to be done with this interesting little species. When Cook was making his crosses, there was very little interest in dwarf or median irises. In fact, medians as we know them today hardly existed at that time. So Cook simply worked to transfer the new color pattern into TBs. Today, however, there is considerable interest in breeding medians, especially BBs and MTBs that are consistently small and dainty. Surely the little dwarf I. reichenbachii has something to offer in these endeavors. The tetraploid forms are compatible with BBs and tetraploid MTBs, while the diploid I. reichenbachii could be crossed with diploid MTBs. Since these sorts of crosses should produce fertile seedlings, a hybridizer could continue the breeding line to achieve any desired goal.
Iris reichenbachii

I. reichenbachii is a little difficult to find in commerce, but not impossible. Some specialty nurseries list it, and if one is willing to grow from seed, it shows up rather often in seed exchanges that include iris species.

If you see this odd little species available somewhere, why not give it a try? Perhaps even make a cross or two to see what happens...