Monday, June 19, 2017

I'm Singing the Blues

By Bryce Williamson

In the last twenty-five years, there has been an amazing proliferation of new patterns and color combinations. Lost in this transition, however, is one of the basic reasons to grow irises—they have wonderful blues and violets colors found in few other flowers. Other flower groups should be green with envy if they had these colors.

In the light blues, I am particular fond of Richard Tasco's light, approaching sky blue, Absolute Treasure:
Image by Bryce Williamson

With tall stalks that stand up well inclement weather, Absolute Treasure looks good in newly set plants and in second and third year clumps.

In the mid-blue range, I am adding Schreiner’s Blue Hour to the garden this year:
Image by Bryce Williamson

I saw this at the American Iris Society Portland National and was impressed, but did not add it to the yard then since we were in the middle of the horrible drought. With water restrictions lifted, it is nice to have plants thriving instead of struggling to survive.

In a darker shade of blue, Keith Keppel’s Adriatic Waves starts the tall bearded iris season for me:
Photo by Jeanette Graham

With its deep ruffling, it is a standout in the garden.

In a variation of the blue theme, Paul Black has added a tangerine-red beard to his creation Bluebird of Happiness:

Going yet darker in blue, but still clearly blue, it is the hard to beat Ray Schriener’s Yaquina Blue:
Yaquina Blue--Image by Betty Jacobs

This easy to grow variety won the Dykes and deserved to win it.

Then there are the wonderful blue-violet irises. I think Gerald Richardson’s Magheralin is about as close to perfection for form as an iris can get:

Image by Dale Austin
Sadly this wonderful iris, a standout in the yard for both growth, healthy plants, and good bloom, has been ignored by the public.

From blue-violet, the colors can go in two direction. Slipping into the magenta range of violet, it is still hard to beat for growth and good form Schreiner’s Diabolique:
Diabolique--Image by Augusto Bianco
The cerise-violet coloring commands attention.

In a different direction as the blue-violets get deeper for color, then the irises are in the territory of blue-black. One of the few newer irises that I am adding to the collection this year is the stunningly dark Coal Seams (Schreiner’s).
Image by Bryce Williamson
With family members loving these colors and demanding to see them in the spring, I can keep peace within the family with this purchase.

If these irises don't provide enough variety, there are the variations on the theme of blue--reverses and neglectas.

My own Chance of Showers is an example of a reverse with darker standards and lighter falls.
Chance of Showers--image by Jeanette Graham

In the group of neglectas, I am especially fond of Global Crossings (Van Liere). In the same color range as Great Gatsby and World Premier, this is an updated version of them.

I like the velvet finish on the falls.

So, when gardening with irises, enjoy the amazing new color combinations and patterns, but don’t forget to sing the blues and you will not regret those choices and you will be the envy of your neighbors.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Iris Bloom Season in NW Louisiana on Historic Caddo Lake

By Ron Killingsworth

This was one of the most unusual bloom season I can remember.  Last year we had rains and floods and a lot of the iris beds were under water for over a week.  I am happy to report that they survived but they did not bloom this year.

We started the spring with lots of "colder than usual" weather.  It was very cold one day and then hot a few days later.  The irises simply did not know what to do -- bloom or wait for the weather to turn and stay warm.  Only about half of our Louisiana irises bloomed this year.  The remainder put up nice foliage but simply failed to put up bloom stalks.

Growing irises on Rocky Point on Caddo Lake in NW Louisiana holds special meaning to me.  The native American tribe of Caddo "Indians" settled in this area long before European immigrants made it this far into Louisiana.  Growing native Louisiana irises on this beautiful lake is my way of recognizing the natives of this area and although I am not sure they grew here naturally, having them on the lake pays tribute to the Caddo tribe.

'Atchafalaya' (Campbell, F 1998)
 This beautiful Louisiana iris was named for the Atchafalaya basin in south Louisiana. It is one of the "cartwheel" forms with a slight silver halo around the petals.

Louisiana rises growing near the "Marie Caillet Pond" with bamboo bridge in background
 I do not know the name of this beautiful and very tall Louisiana iris.  This picture was taken near a pond we dug and named for Marie Caillet, a charter member of the Society for Louisiana Irises.  There is a large stand of bamboo on the property and we make many things from bamboo.  I have recently started making bird houses from this bamboo.

'Aunt Rose' (Musacchia, J 2010)
"Cajun Joe" is what Joe Musacchia is best known by.  He lives so far south in Louisiana that you almost need a boat to get to his home.  Joe has hybridized many Louisiana irises.

See comments below
This lovely iris could be 'Glowlight' (Taylor, JC 1986) or may be 'Lois Setser' (Matheny III, E 1999).  The pictures I have of both irises look very much alike.  Regardless of the correct name, it is a beautiful iris and the standards "stand up" while the falls tend to "fall down".

'Dr. Dormon' (Conger, S 1972)
The iris in the foreground is named for Caroline Dormon.  Her name is often misspelled as "Dorman".  Dr. Dormon was a world renowned author, artist, conservationist and a charter member of the Society for Louisiana Irises.  Thanks to her efforts we now have Kisatchie National Forest in west central Louisiana, the home of many species of pine trees and of the Red-headed woodpecker.  Caroline hybridized many Louisiana irises in the 1940-70 time frame.  Her home is now called  Briarwood Nature Preserve.
Briarwood is a must see if you are ever in Louisiana.  It is located in the almost center of the state near the town of Saline, LA.

This iris was named to honor Caroline by Sidney Conger, who lived in my hometown and also hybridized many Louisiana irises.  Sidney's home in Arcadia, LA, had a huge garden full of Louisiana irises but they are all gone now, mostly destroyed when the home was sold outside the family.

Louisiana irises growing in a large planting in front of my house with my sister and BIL's home in background

A mixture of Louisiana irises, i.virginica and other plants growing near several cabins on the property.

Louisiana irises in a massive planting in what once was my vegetable garden.  We put them here "temporarily" over 8 years ago!

Louisiana irises growing by the Koi pond with "yard art" in background

'Cocka The Walk' (Musacchia, J 2005)
 This iris is registered as "42-48 inches" but grows much taller for me.  If you are interested in knowing the meaning of this name, check it out at Cock of the Walk.

Professor "someone".  These are tetraploid Louisiana irises and most of them hybridized by Joe Mertzweiller were named for his professor friends at what is now the University of LA at Lafayette. I have trouble telling them apart.
This is a large clump of tetraploid irises growing near the "Marie Pond" with the bamboo bridge.

'Delta Star' (Granger, Marvin 1966)
 Marvin Granger hybridized many "cartwheel" form Louisiana irises from a natural hybrid he collected in the marshes of south Louisiana.  These flowers have all falls and no standards and the signal is of course located on all petals.

'Kristi G' (Mertzweiller, J 1985)
 'Kristi G' grows like a "weed" for me.  This picture was taken at the Catfish Pond and you can see duck decoys in the background.

'Her Highness' (Levingston 1957)
 'Her Highness' is a collected iris.giganticaerulea alba and certainly shows the characteristics of this species of Louisiana irises named iris.giganticaerulea.

'Her Highness' (the white one) and "Professor who knows" with Caddo Lake and bald cypress trees in background

Massive planting of Louisiana irises with Caddo Lake in background

Pretty purple Louisiana iris with Caddo Lake, bald cypress trees and our boat house in background

'Myra Arny' (Arny, Charles 1969) with Caddo Lake in background

Bald cypress trees growing in Caddo Lake.  These trees produce cypress "knees" and are happy growing in water.

Do not recall the name of this tall Louisiana iris but she's a beauty.

Once again I do not recall the name of this Louisiana iris and took it as a "scenic shot".

Unknown Tall Bearded iris.  We grow very few Tall Bearded irises here in NW Louisiana.  Simply too hot and too wet for them.

'Seminole Moon' (Wolford, Harry 2009)
Harry Wolford lives in Palm Bay, FL, and has hybridized many Louisiana irises.  He retired from teaching in Ohio and moved his large collection of Tall Bearded irises to FL where they all died.  He then became interested in growing Louisiana irises.  This is one beautiful Louisiana iris.  If you know anything about Florida, you know where he gets the first name of many of his Louisiana hybrid irises.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures/  I take hundreds each year.  Not sure what to do with them.  If you are ever in the area, as they say in the south, "ya'll come by and see me sometimes".

To learn more about irises visit the web site of the American Iris Society.

To learn more about Louisiana irises, simply "google" Louisiana irises, AFTER you have visited the web site of the Society for Louisiana Irises.

Monday, June 5, 2017


By Susanne Holland Spicker


The Irises of Kat Zalewska

'HAZELBRAE' (Zalewska 2015)

If you're not familiar with award-winning iris hybridizer Katarzyna "Kat" Zalewska, it is my pleasure to introduce her to you.  When I first saw the magic of her beautiful iris garden, I wanted to share her video with our AIS blog readers. She has graciously agreed.

Kat lives in the English Midlands, in the county of Staffordshire and is proud of the fact that she is the first Polish female iris hybridizer since before the second world war. Kat says that hybridizing is her true love and passion. Her iris garden has approximately 600 varieties of tall bearded irises (TB) and more than 100 dwarf bearded (DB) varieties.

Kat Zalewska seedling 18-13-KZ-B

She says she was hooked when she received her first iris from a neighbor. It wasn't long before she "realized how many varieties there were" and her "interest in botany took hold." She says, "After my first stuttering attempt, I became completely focused on creating my own varieties." 

'PEAR IN WHISKEY' (Zalewska 2016)

Her first crossings were in 2012. However, she says that this "first attempt was not too successful," as most of her "seed pods were damaged in a thunderstorm."  It is not uncommon for her to spend months trying to come to a decision for a suitable name for her cultivars. However, being inspired by both history and her travels, "sometimes a name will spring to mind" as soon as she sees a variety bloom for the first time.

                  'WANILIOWE JEZIORO' (Zalewska 2015)

In the last two years she has registered 11 cultivars. The number of seedlings she has hybridized in the past two years, however, has been a few thousand, a number of which she is still assessing. 

Kat Zalewska seedling

Even though she has "become more interested in crossing dwarf bearded varieties as each year passes, she mainly focuses on hybridizing tall bearded irises.  

Kat Zalewska Seedling 18-13-KZ-D

As yet, Kat has not exported any cultivars beyond the European Union, and currently, there are no growers in the USA, but she would "very much like that to happen," as would I!

                     'VIOLET VENUS' (Zalewska 2015)

As a gifted photographer, Kat's irises provide her with wonderful subject material. The British weather is very temperamental, so the best time to take photos is dictated by that rather than the time of day. She has an old Lumix camera, which, as she states, "serves its purpose." She commissioned a talented young director to produce the beautiful iris garden video that begins this article.

'CRYSTAL CREEK' (Zalewska 2016)

She writes: "A number of hybridizers concentrate on specific characteristics of irises and this heavily influences the fruits of their work. I recognize that different regions have different tastes and I try and embrace this.

Kat Zalewska seedling

Someone once said, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are gardens."  I wholeheartedly agree, and as a fan of Kat's garden and her stunning iris cultivars, I am hopeful some of her beautiful flowers will make it to the United States.  In the mean time, I look forward to viewing her exceptional flowers on various Facebook groups featuring irises, or on her website: where more information about her and her hybridizing program can be found.

Kat Zalewska seedling 

Thank you, Kat, for sharing your spectacular iris garden and giving us the opportunity of getting to know you better. Your passion for hybridizing has helped to make the world more beautiful.

Kat Zalewska seedling

If you have any questions or comments for Kat, I'm sure she'd love to hear from you! Leave your comments or questions here and she'll respond.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Space Age Iris - After Austin

by Jean Richter

After Lloyd Austin's untimely death in 1963, his widow Gladys carried on the business for several more years, making introductions until 1966. Later, other hybridizers stepped in to continue the work on space age iris, and in the late 20th century space age iris reached new heights of recognition and acclaim. Here are a few examples.

Washington hybridizer Luella Noyd was the first hybridizer after Austin to introduce space age iris in the late 1960s. Here is one of her best known space agers, 'Horned Sunshine.'

                                           Horned Sunshine (Noyd 1968)

San Francisco area hybridizer Manley Osborne introduced a number of space age iris beginning in the 1970s. Here is one of his earlier ones, Moon Mistress.

                                          Moon Mistress (Osborne 1976)

In 1980 Osborne introduced a space age iris that would usher in a new era for these iris. In addition to being an excellent grower and bloomer with very consistent appendages, it was widely used in hybridizing by other irisarians interested in producing space age iris, and is in the background of some of the most famous of all space age iris. This singular variety was Sky Hooks.

                                       Sky Hooks (Osborne 1980)

Oregon hybridizer Duane Meek introduced space age iris Buckthorn in 1979, still an unusual color for a space ager.

                                                 Buckthorn (Meek 1979)

Other hybridizers began to create space age iris in the 1980s. James Mahoney from New Mexico crossed Horned Sunshine with Dykes Medal winner New Moon to create Aah Soo.

                                          Aah Soo (Mahoney 1982)

Central California hybridizer Nancy Bartlett did not introduce very many iris, but among them was the lovely space ager Lavender Queen.

                                          Lavender Queen (Bartlett 1986)

Another hybridizer who began to introduce space agers in the 1980s was Monty Byers. In 1989 he introduced Thornbird, a very polarizing iris - people either loved or hated its interesting color. No one could deny its vigor and excellent garden qualities, however, and in 1997 it became the first space age iris to win the Dykes Medal.

                                       Thornbird (Byers 1989) DM 1997

That same year Byers introduced another space ager, Conjuration, and that iris won the Dykes Medal the year after Thornbird, in 1998.

                                         Conjuration (Byers 1989) DM 1998

Byers wasn't finished, though. In 1991 he introduced Mesmerizer, which went on to win the Dykes Medal in 2002.

                                         Mesmerizer (Byers 1991) DM 2002

This was an astounding accomplishment - three Dykes Medals in six years, and all space agers! Unfortunately, no space age iris has won the Dykes Medal since.

What are your favorite space age iris from the late 20th century? Let us know in the comments!

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