Wednesday, April 26, 2017

IRISES, the Bulletin of the AIS - Spring 2017 Edition

By Andi Rivarola

A warm welcome to those who are seeing IRISES, the Bulletin of The American Iris Society for the first time. If you are a member of The American Iris Society I hope you enjoy this new edition, cover below, which you will receive via U.S. Mail very soon. 

The Spring 2017 issue of the AIS Bulletin will also be available soon for online viewing and is accessible via 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.

International News feature iris news from Italy and Australia, on page 14

Youth Views on page 15 focuses on Coloring Contest Winners, Photo Contest winners of the Clark Cosgrove Memorial Award for Youth Achievement and more. 

New taxonomic arrangement of the Genus Iris? James Waddick's article, Comments on Crespo et al, on pages 20 and 21 exposes this dilemma. 

Enjoy a second article about genetics through, Still Confused About Genetics?  — a reprint of Dr. Currier McEwen's column from Spuria News dated 1967. 

Our own blogger, Susanne Holland Spicker, has a fantastic article on subjects we know her to do so well: growing irises and capturing them for the rest of us to enjoy. It's on pages 24 — 27, Tall Bearded Irises: Companion Plants with Pink, Red and Purple Irises 

Don't miss the inspiring story of Cindy Rust, in
Tell Me a Story, A Hybridizing Adventure — on pages 28 through 31. 

"Although I am just an ordinary person myself, I inherited an extraordinary way of seeing ordinary things.

You won't miss the 2020 Centennial Iris Competition rules in the centerfold, pages 32 and 33. Thank you to the IRISES editors for giving it an extra push.

Bob Pries takes us to the origins of the Iris Encyclopedia with a write up on pages 34 and 35 — Confessions of an Information Junkie
"The river of information on the Internet is miles wide but only inches deep."

Considerations for Cool Season Tall Bearded Reblooming Iris Judging on pages 36 through 40, is an thoughtful examination of judging reblooming irises, by Mike Lockatell. 

Is your group interested in hosting a National Convention? If not sure, read Hosting an AIS National Convention by Paul Gossett on pages 43 through 45. It's an excellent source of information. 

Lastly information on Des Moines, IA the site of this year's National Convention of The American Iris Society on pages 46 and 47. 

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. 

Happy gardening!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Dwarfs for Every Garden

by Tom Waters

The dwarf bearded irises (those classified as miniature dwarf bearded, or MDB) are a charming addition to any garden. With blooms held eight inches (20 cm) or less from the ground, they are the daintiest of all the bearded irises. They are also the earliest to bloom. In my garden, the first ones open a full two months before tall bearded season.

Almost all MDBs grown today fall into one of three categories. All three groups owe their existence to the eastern European species Iris pumila, which came to be used by American hybridizers in the 1940s.

'Liitle Drummer Boy'
The first category is Iris pumila itself. This tiny species is seldom more than 4 or 5 inches (10-12 cm) in height, with just one bloom per stem. (Actually, the stem is often almost nonexistent, most of the height being in the perianth tube formed by the flower parts themselves.) It comes in a range of colors from white and yellow to blue, violet, and purple, usually with a darker colored spot on the falls. There are a number of cultivars produced by hybridizers or selected from wild forms for their garden value. Some of my favorites are 'Little Drummer Boy' (Willott, 1997), 'Hobbit' (Miller, 2004), and 'Royal Wonder' (Coleman, 2013).

'Royal Wonder'
The next two categories came about as a consequence of the creation of the first standard dwarf bearded (SDB) irises in the 1950s. As I discussed in an earlier blog post, the SDBs were the result of crossing Iris pumila with tall bearded irises (TBs). The SDBs averaged about 12 inches (30 cm) in height and would typically have 2 or 3 buds. They are regarded as medians, not as true dwarfs, because of their larger size and occasional branch, something not seen in traditional dwarf irises.

'Alpine Lake'
Shortly after the SDBs appeared, hybridizers crossed them back to Iris pumila to produce irises of truly dwarf stature, but with a little something extra from their TB ancestry: plicata pattern, for example, or wider petals and more flaring form. These were the most common type of MDB in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. 'Knick-Knack' (Greenlee, 1961), 'Zipper' (Sindt, 1979), and 'Alpine Lake' (Willott, 1981) are good examples of this type.

The third category came about from SDB breeding in an even more direct way. Sometimes crossing two SDBs produces an iris smaller than average. These small ones, if they are 8 inches or less in height, belong in the MDB class, since the definition for that class is based on height, not ancestry. Because so much work has been done to improve the SDB class over many decades, these are often the most "developed" dwarfs in terms of form and variety of color and pattern. Popular examples of this type are 'Dollop of Cream' (Black, 2006), 'Icon' (Keppel, 2008), and 'Beetlejuice' (Black, 2013).
'Dollop of Cream'

Generally speaking, the greater the amount of Iris pumila in a dwarf's makeup, the smaller, earlier, and more adapted to cold winters it will be. Those with less Iris pumila will have larger flowers with greater width and ruffling, a greater range of color patterns, and perform better in warm-winter areas.

There are no official designations for these categories, although hybridizers sometimes identify them by the number of chromosomes: Iris pumila has 32, the SDBs and their small MDB progeny have 40, and the SDB x pumila hybrids have 36.

How can you tell which of these categories and MDB belongs to? Alas, the only way to be sure is to look at the parentage on the Iris Encyclopedia or other resource. In most cases, this will lead you back either to SDBs or to Iris pumila, or else the parentage will be an SDB x pumila cross. If this sort of research interests you, my list of pure Iris pumila cultivars may help make sense of things.

I love dwarfs in all their variety, and happily live in a locale where all kinds grow well. Do you grow dwarfs in your own garden? Which kinds are your favorite?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Betty Ward Wilkerson

It is with sadness that The World of Irises announces the death of our longtime blogger, Betty Ward Wilkerson. Betty was a hybridizer and proponent of reblooming irises that grow and bloom in colder climates. Over the years, Betty shared her insights with our readers as she created new hybrids in her taxing climate in Kentucky, using the best of mild climate rebloomers with cold climate parents. She released her introductions through her Bridge in Time garden.
Summer Radiance
Her enthusiasm and expertise will be missed by all. Although in treatment for cancer, Betty had started a new blog when she became too ill to finish it. She stopped in mid-sentence, but we are posting it since it shares her last thoughts on reblooming irises. After working so many years to expand the reblooming gene pool, Betty wanted others to take up the banner of reblooming cold weather rebloomers. The World of Irises extends our sympathy to her family.

All Revved Up

In her unfinished blog, Betty wrote:

“Winter seems to come twice a year these days!  Guess I should be happy since that's twice as many musings and less hot sweaty garden days?  Not really!  I thought it was time I get down to one of my serious problems with irises and the way rebloomers reported.

About Tomorrow

“If I were to build a program by which rebloomers are reported throughout the country it would look something like this. 1:  All rebloomers would be listed according to the areas in which they were developed 2.  They would be reported based on where they have rebloomed.

“For instance, my own 'Cool Character' would be listed to for KY, CA and VA.  These are the areas that have reported so far and it's a relatively new introduction. As other states report, they would be added.

All About Tranquility

“You say this is not realistic?  It would take too much work on the part of the people that produce the catalogs?  I would have to agree.  It depends on too many variable, not the least of which is the interest of the people doing the work.  If a problem isn't important to their interests most people will not get involved.

“This is why the rebloom society has worked so hard to create the Reblooming Checklist and to keep it updated. This work has, primarily, fallen on the hybridizers and the reblooming royalty, the crew to which we owe this wealth of information.  The hybridizers use the information to create the next generations of rebloom.  Simple?  It's really a bit more complicated than you might expect.  There are a lot more ugly ducklings than you might imagine.  Just for fun, let’s look at some of the ugly ones first!  No?  Okay, I'll spare you the agony!

About Tomorrow

“Let's talk about…”

All photos by Betty Wilkerson except the final one by her son Chris.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Iris Serendipity

By Bryce Williamson

Serendipity, meaning a fortunate happenstance or pleasant surprise, was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754. The notion of serendipity is a common occurrence throughout the history of scientific innovation such as Alexander Fleming's accidental discovery of penicillin in 1928, the invention of the microwave oven by Percy Spencer in 1945, and the invention of the Post-it note by Spencer Silver in 1968.
In the world of iris hybridizing, serendipity also plays an important role. In his recent blog, “Arilbred Irises: A Little History,”  Tom Waters wrote about “the iris 'William Mohr' that was essentially sterile….And occasionally 'William Mohr' would reward such persistence by producing a seed or two. We now understand that these seeds were the result of unreduced gametes, where an ovule is produced by bypassing the normal cell division.” From those beginnings, the Mohr class was born, a class of irises grow that with relative ease and have flowers with many aril characteristics. Today's Mohr types irises, as seen below, have come a long way in flower form and patterns.

Perry Dyer (Black '17)--Paul Black image

Confederate (Tasco '17-- Mohr type aril-median)
Photo by Rick Tasco

Unreduced gametes have also shaped other tall bearded irises of today. Snow Flurry is perhaps the most famous of those creations. Other hybridizers have followed this path.

Snow Flurry (Clara Rees)--photo by Rick Tasco

Writing on his Facebook page in 2016, noted iris authority Keith Keppel wrote that “in the 1930's, hybridizer Paul Cook crossed the greenish yellow diploid species Iris imbricata with a diploid ‘pallida pink’ seedling. A resultant seedling was then crossed to a tetraploid blue, and he obtained a seedling with standards somewhat darker than the falls.”
Then serendipity intervened and “He accomplished two things: (1) bringing imbricata genes into the tetraploid TB mix and (2) producing a blue with noticeably darker standards, the start of a reverse blue amoena. Interesting to note: he had begun the imbricata project hoping it would aid in the clarification of blue TB pigments; instead, he started a reverse amoena line."

Iris imbricata photo by Lloyd Baumunk

Mr. Keppel goes on to write, “A good hybridizer makes a cross for a purpose; a great hybridizer recognizes when something unexpected appears, goes off on a tangent, and develops something entirely different. Four generations from the initial imbricata cross, Cook introduced Wide World (1954) and the reverse amoena rush began.

Wide World (Cook)--photo by Milan Bla┼żek 

               “As time went on, depth of color and degree of contrast increased. Breeders began crossing these reverse amoenas with carotene pigment (oil soluble, warm colors) carriers and the reverse amoenas evolved into all manner of combinations of "reverse bicolors". Although many breeders were involved, it was George Shoop who made the most (and the most innovative) introductions of this new genre....his beloved 'dark tops.'"

Crowned Heads (Keppel)--photo by Jeanette Graham

Spring Tidings (Shoop) photo by Colleen Modra

Mood Ring (Keppel '17)--photo by Brad Collins

George Sutton Y-5-B image by Mike Sutton

These serendipity events may have value even today. In recent years, Mr. Keppel has been involved in what could be seen as an exercise in futility. He has been using “Iris albertii, a diploid species, (that) seems not to be in the general gene pool of modern tall beardeds.”

Iris albertii--photo by Keith Keppel

As he writes, “So.....why not....cross with tetraploids and see what happens? Easier said than done. Of many crosses made, only one....Smash X albertii....yielded seed: six seeds with two germinating and one lasting to bloom, 05-4A. If nothing else, the albertii shoulder patterning came through!

Smash (Craig)--photo by Vicki Craig

Keppel 05-4A--photo by Keith Keppel

Keppel 12-120A--photo by Keith Keppel

A good grower, 05-4A blooms prolifically, but is a problem in crossing. About every third cross produces a pod. About every third pod is not a false pregnancy, but would have 1 to 3 seeds. Further problem is, the seed doesn't germinate.” Then once again serendipity intervened when “one year three volunteer pods formed that had much larger seed than what I had been getting from the crosses made. Three pods...six seeds germinated. That one is 12-120A, taller (about two feet), considerably larger flower than its parent, making me think the unknown parent must be a tall bearded. And, it has limited fertility. Will it lead to anything different? Anything worthwhile? And if so, will I still be around to see it?
“The pleasures of iris hybridizing do not fall within the realm of instant gratification!”

Editor's Note: The image of Iris imbricata is designed to show what the species looks like, but it is doubtful that the clone shown is actually the iris used by Paul Cook in his hybridizing.

Monday, April 10, 2017

My Top Three Louisiana Irises

by Ron Killingsworth

I have been growing Louisiana irises for about fifteen or so years.  My background is investigative work and police work.  Although my grandmother was a “flower person” who grew many kinds of flowers and hybridized daylilies, I was not bitten by the flower bug until very late in my life.

Green House with Louisiana irises in front
We grow thousands of Louisiana irises in Mooringsport, LA, on historic Caddo Lake.  Every year many people visit us during the bloom season.  I am always asked which is my favorite Louisiana iris.  I generally reply with the names of about ten or so irises that I especially love.  It is difficult, therefore, to choose just a few.

My overall favorite Louisiana iris is ‘Adell Tingle’ (Hutchins, B 2006) for simply sentimental reasons.  My mother’s sister, Adell Tingle, was one of my favorite relatives.  She was a “flower nut” from birth and grew many flowers, especially native Louisiana plants.  Adell loved to attend the Society for Louisiana Irises (SLI) conventions.  In fact, it was the high point of her year.   It is a beautiful light lavender iris with medium lavender veining, slight ruffling, gold steeple signals outlined with darker purple veins and a great garden iris.  It was introduced by Plantation Point Nursery in 2007 but has never won any American Iris Society (AIS) awards.  
Louisiana iris 'Adell Tingle'
I remember the convention in Lafayette many years ago when Sue and I entered ‘Adel Tingle’ in the iris show at the convention.  It did not win the attention of the AIS judges but it did win the Ira S. Nelson Award (first place).  This award is given to the iris voted by the SLI members at the show as being the best iris in the show.  Sometimes this award is given to the best iris as selected by the AIS judges, but sometimes the members do not agree with the judges and select a different iris. When the award was presented at the awards banquet, Aunty A jumped out of her chair and rushed to the front to receive “her” vase and large rosette!  Of course these awards generally go to the person who entered the iris, not to the person it was named for!  But, none of us had the heart to explain this to Aunty A and she often said that was the best day of her life.  Aunty A is now strolling through the iris fields in heaven.

'Adell Tingle'
'Adell Tingle' the iris
Adell Tingle surrounded by Louisiana irses
 ‘Adell Tingle’ remains a great garden iris and many members of SLI grow her because of our love for Aunty A.  But even if you did not know her, it is a great iris and worthy of your consideration.
Louisiana iris 'Hush Money'
My second choice is based on the beauty of the iris and the unique iris name.  Sometimes you simply have to take off your “judge’s hat” and allow other things to decide what you love as opposed to what the book says.  That is not to say that AIS judges do not agree with me! 
'Hush Money'

My second choice is ‘Hush Money’ (Dunn, Mary 1998 (registered by J. Ghio for Mary, introduced by Bay View Gardens in 1998).  ‘Hush Money’ is registered as “stands cream with blue cast; falls cream, raised gold signal.”  It is obvious Joe did not spend much time on the description!  This does not come close to describing this wonderful iris.  I think the petals are almost white.  They do have a blue cast to them.  The signal is very long, very pretty, a goldish/yellow, and reaches to the midpoint of the falls.  It has a complicated genealogy.
'Hush Money'
Mary Dunn was a fabulous hybridizer and crossed and registered many great irises.  I grow a large selection of her irises.  I wrote an article about her many years ago that was published in the Fleur de Lis.  I never met her but would have loved her had I done so.  ‘Hush Money’ is a fabulous iris.  It is a good garden iris and it is a show winner.  My problem is keeping enough of it, as I tend to give it to everyone visiting the iris beds.  It won a Honorable Mention in 2002 but did not advance any further in the AIS awards scheme.  In my opinion it is certainly a Mary Swords DeBaillon Award winner – although no longer eligible for any AIS awards.  That does not stop it from winning show awards.  Don’t you just love the name?  Isn’t it a beautiful iris?
Louisiana iris 'Starlite Starbrite'
My third choice is ‘Starlite Starbrite’ (Granger, Marvin 1985).  ‘Starlite Starbrite’ is registered as simply as possible --“white, small greenish yellow signal; slight fragrance.”  One would think the registrar was charging by the word!  ‘Starlite Starbrite’ has never won any of the AIS awards.  It won the SLI award, “Caillet Cup” in 2012, when viewed by SLI convention attendees right here at Plantation Point.

'Starlite Starbrite' - Cartwheel form
The bloom season was early that year and by the time the convention rolled around, there were not a lot of irises still blooming.  It had rained and beat what few blooms remained into bloom pieces.  However, there were at least three different locations that had huge clumps of ‘Starlite Starbrite’ still blooming.  The convention guests voted it as the best iris seen in the convention tour gardens.

'Starlite Starbrite'
We continue to grow several large “clumps” of ‘Starlite Starbrite’.  It is a great re-producer, very tall, an outstanding iris in all regards.  Yet simple in its open and flat form.  If you can find a good specimen of it to enter in an iris show, it will probably win you a nice ribbon.  It often takes the “Queen of the Show” in many iris shows.  So, it is a great garden iris and a great show iris.  What more could you ask for?

Almost all of our irises are grown in dug beds.  We are in zone eight.  We have nice spring showers but very hot and dry summers.  We are fortunate to be able to pump irrigation water from a lake and keep the irises watered during the long dry summers.  Even then some of the irises go dormant.  We have little success with Tall Bearded irises because of the spring rains and the hot summers.

With so many thousands of irises to care for, they do not get fertilized as much as they should.  Twice a year applications of commercial fertilizer is about all they are afforded.  I do grow quite a few in raised beds, my own personal irises, and they are happy to receive more water and more fertilizer.  I find raised beds, lined with heavy plastic, work great.  Even with the heavy plastic lining, if located near a tree, roots will find their way into your beds and suck up all the good stuff. I don’t think you can over fertilize or over water Louisiana irises, which makes them just about the easiest iris to grow. In fact, just throw that rhizome down on the ground where it can reach some dirt and watch it grow.

Ron and Aunty A with "small" catfish caught on Caddo Lake.  Field of irises in background.
Did I mention that Aunty A loved to fish in Caddo Lake?  Here is one of the smaller ones we caught.  It is a flat head catfish also called Oppaloosa catfish.  We caught one a few years back that weighed in at 65 lbs.

To learn more about Louisiana irises, visit the Society for Louisiana Irises web site.

If you have never grown Louisiana irises, give them a try.  They grow as far north as upper state NY and from coast to coast.  There are many Louisiana iris hybridziers in  Australia and New Zealand.

To learn more about the American Iris Society and other species of irises, visit their web site.

To follow the Louisiana iris Facebook group, visit their facebook page.

Monday, April 3, 2017

When all else fails, garden

By Vanessa Spady

Despite all my best plans, life requires more of me than just puttering in my garden, planting and feeding and admiring my iris, and writing my favorite blog about gardening. Indeed, all the things other than my garden are often the reason I so desperately yearn to get back to my garden and revel in its restorative beauty.

'Coral Point' George Sutton, R. 1999). Sdlg. G-67. TB, 37" (94 cm), Midseason late bloom. Ruffled and laced pale pink (RHS 56D); beards coral, pink horn; slight musky fragrance. 'Sky Hooks' X F-257: (2-14A: ( 'Pink Ember' x 'Playgirl') x 'Twice Thrilling'). Sutton 2000.

It has been a remarkable year, as I look back at my blog postings, photos, and out into my yard. Not only did we plant our experimental garden of kiddie pools, re-purposed tires, and (hopefully) gopher-proof raised beds, but so much has happened in the world. So many public figures and close friends have passed on, the election was a tumult no matter what stance you take, and personally, there has been so much upheaval, drama, excitement (both good and not so good) and commotion in my life that garden therapy has become my saving grace.

'Alien Mist' Cy Bartlett, R. 1998). Seedling HD-IQ 1. TB, height 37" (94 cm), Midseason bloom. Ruffled very pale blue self; beards bright medium blue violet, horned; slight sweet fragrance. 'Howdy Do' X 'Inca Queen'. Sutton 1998.

I don’t have a routine or schedule for gardening; I often have to squeeze in projects and maintenance around other obligations, and I know this is true for so many of my friends and fellow-gardeners. That’s unfortunate, both because the number of hours my garden wants from me and the number I can provide are usually not the same (with the deficit showing in weeds and untidy beds), but also because the benefits of being in my garden extend beyond the well-being and beauty of the flowers into the well-being and beauty of the soul. Big words, but it’s true for me.

There is something so healing in a freshly turned bed. Even just clean dirt makes my heart happy. Planting is wonderful therapy, even if the rewards are only visible one season a year (for non-re-blooming iris). Weeding an area, and stepping back to see how the plants can now stretch, and grow, and thrive… it polishes up the tarnish that day-to-day living splashes on us in little bits all day long. 

'Fortunata' (Joseph Ghio, R. 1985) Sdlg. 79-125-O. TB, 38" (97 cm), E-L. S. melon; F. cool white, melon rim and shoulders; tangerine beard. 'Artiste' X 'Private Label'. Bay View Gardens 1986. Honorable Mention 1989.

The garden is a place where my mind and soul work together to feel the power and grace of nature. Harmony of the living body and the living dirt is a meditation that results in inner and outer beauty. And, at the end of a day in the garden, there is that lovely, lasting, tangible result that others can see, and share, and appreciate. It’s a lot harder to show your friends how great chanting “Om” makes you feel, but they can all appreciate gorgeous flowers, shady paths, and well-tended beds.

I can’t say when or where I noticed that gardening was good for my soul. I am grateful for the understanding, though. When work comes home with me in an unwelcome way, when stress and traffic and responsibility get too tiring, when I need to feel something more tangible, more basic, more real, I can go into my garden, and shed the rest of the world from my thoughts. I can erase the yuck, and embrace the muck. I shall always turn to my garden for the generous way it rewards my efforts.

'Sunshine Boy' (Frank Foster, R. 1985). Seedling #79-25. IB, Height 25" (64 cm), Early thru late bloom. Standards lemon cream; falls white, deep yellow markings and lines around hafts and orange beard; ruffled; pronounced spicy fragrance. 'Beau' X 'White Lightning'. Pod and pollen fertile. Vagabond Gardens 1986. Honorable Mention 1988. Award of Merit 1990.