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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