Monday, June 18, 2018

Spurias in Oregon - Part II

By Kevin Vaughn


I was most happy that the seedlings had taken after ‘Banned in Boston’ for having large and wide flowers as seedlings from the oranges can often be small, harking back to small-flowered  ‘Elixir’, which is behind most of the oranges. The best of these flowers were sib-crossed to see what will come next from this most interesting group.
As hybridizers we try for things we don’t have already.  Dave Niswonger has pursued pink for a while and others have gone after red.  When Lee Walker’s ’Red War Clouds’ first bloomed for me I was impressed at how much further towards red this spuria was than its predecessors.   A look at the pedigree showed that it had the red and pink approaches developed by others (‘Zulu Chief,’ ‘Countess Zeppelin’ and ‘Pink Candles) so the genes were there for further improvement.  Although the flower was not large, it was rather nicely formed and the plant grew well. Just down the bed from ‘Red War Clouds’ was Barry Blyth’s ‘Mahogany Lord’.

Spuria seedling (and photo) by Kevin Vaughn
‘Mahogany Lord’ is an odd shade, purple sort of flushed red, giving a maroon effect. On paper this looked like a match made in Heaven, as both were approaches to red and hopefully the effect of both would be redder yet.’Mahogany Lord’ was also a bigger, wider flower so improvements in size and form could also result.   Almost 200 seedlings resulted from the crosses, done in both directions. Let’s just say it was easy to dig out the good ones. It was a very sad lot for both form and color. Most were small flowers with rather muddy brown colors predominating. Only one was saved as a slight improvement in color and had at least acceptable form. It will never be introduced but it might be useful as a parent down the road. I should say that ‘Red War Clouds’ is not a horrible parent as I had just 4 seedlings from ‘Lucky Devil’ X ‘Red War Clouds’ and all were nice, not red, but nice dark purples with good form.  Two of these were sib-crossed in an effort to recover the red. I also used Terry Aitken’s lovely ‘Hot Chili’ with these seedlings, so there may be red in my future yet. Several years ago Dave Niswonger commented that he often made crosses that on paper would think you were progressing towards pink and getting nothing close but in a cross not intended for pink they appeared. I suddenly knew exactly how he felt!
A group of spuria seedlings (and photo) by Kevin Vaughn

This year all the selected seedlings from previous years bloomed well and I hope to make final selections of a number of seedlings from the last 4 bloom seasons. These mostly involve crosses of ‘Banned in Boston’ and ‘Angel’s Smile’ crossed to other colors, to take advantage of the form and branching habits of these hybrids.   Most of these crosses gave siblings of similar quality so final decisions will be made based upon bud counts and vigor as well as beauty of the flowers. Seedlings from intercrossing these selections should bloom this spring to see if any of these plants are also going to be yielding parents.

From the Editor: This article first appeared in Spuria News, the bi-annual newsletter by the Spuria Irises Society. Part I, can be found here. Reprinted by permission of the author. The Spuria Iris Society is a section of The American Iris Society, and is dedicated to expanding the public's knowledge of spuria iris. For more information about growing spuria irises and/or becoming a member of the society please visit their website.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Black Swamp Boardwalk Tour in Baton Rouge, LA

by Ron Killingsworth

The joint American Iris Society (AIS) and Society for Louisiana Irises (SLI) convention in New Orleans was a smashing success.  On Friday we toured the Baton Rouge Burden Museum and Gardens in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, about an hour drive north of New Orleans, LA.

Our tour buses arrived at the Baton Rouge Burden Museum and Gardens early Friday morning.  Four buses full of iris lovers crowded into the registration/gift show area and were treated to a short video on the history of the museum and gardens.  Next to the gift shop was a pen with two “Texas Longhorn” cows.  I’ve seen a lot of Texas longhorns before but these two had extra long horns!

Texas "Longhorn" steer

Texas "Longhorn"
 
While most people chose to walk around in the gardens and to tour the historical buildings scattered around, a group of us “able to walk quite a distance” were led by Patrick O’Connor on a mile or so walk to the Black Swamp boardwalk entrance.  There is a small pond, located at the entrance of the boardwalk through the swamp.  We did lots of “picture taking” there as there were a few Louisiana irises growing in the edge of the pond.

Iris lovers walking toward the Black Swamp tour entrance


Small pond at entrance to Black Swamp

Louisiana irises grown in small pond

Louisiana irises growing at back of pond with beehives in left background

Patrick O'Connor prepares to lead us into the swamp!
We walked on to the entrance of the boardwalk and walked along the extensive walkway through the “swamp”.  The swamp is a rain-fed swamp and is believed to have originally been a Mississippi flood fed swamp.  The swamp is no longer fed by flood waters since the building of the many levees in the area. Although the swamp is called the “Black Swamp”, the water was not that dark, instead, sort of brown from the tannins from the Black Tupelo tree.

On the boarwalk in the pond with Black Tupelo trees in forground
 I understand that until recently there were no Louisiana irises to be found in this swamp, but thanks to the efforts of the Greater New Orleans Iris Society (GNOIS) and especially Benny Trahan, many rhizomes of three species of Louisiana irises were planted in the swamp in 2015.  There were not a lot of blooming irises to be seen but when a clump was found, everyone crowded around for pictures. 

iris.giganticaerulea growing near boardwalk
 One clump of blue i.giganticaerulea received a lot of admiration and a clump of i.nelsonii about 30 feet out into the swamp was really beautiful, especially if you had a telephoto lens on your camera.  Another clump of white i.giganticaerulea was very close to the boardwalk.

iris.nelsonii growing in Black Swamp

iris.giganticaerulea (white) growing in swampy waters

Louisiana irises growing near boardwalk
 No “critters” were noted during the walk and only one snake was found, up in a tree, but either the snake was dead or fast asleep.  It was a very pleasant walk along the boardwalk and the two varieties of tupelo trees were evident everywhere you looked.  We have tupelo trees on Caddo Lake in NW Louisiana and I know they produce a fruit much loved by squirrels. We also saw one Magnolia tree just starting to bloom.

Walking along the boardwalk deep in the "Black Swamp"!
While we did not see a vast amount of irises, the ones we saw were beautiful in their native habitat.  Hopefully more irises can be planted here in years to come.  If you visit the museum, you can park closer to the swamp entrance and save the walk.

To learn more about Louisiana irises visit the Society for Louisiana Irises.  To learn more about the American Iris Society visit their website.

For many more pictures of Louisiana irises growing in south Louisiana, visit the Greater New Orleans Iris Society.  

Monday, June 4, 2018

In Praise of Regelias

by Tom Waters

The Regelias are a group of irises native to central Asia, their range extending from near the Caspian Sea to the mountainous regions bordering Tibet. Their nearest relatives are the oncocyclus, which are found further west and south from western Iran to the Mediterranean. Regelias and oncocyclus together comprise the aril irises.

First, a few comments on the name "Regelia". The name honors German botanist Eduard August von Regel, who was director of the botanical garden in St. Petersburg, Russia, late in the nineteenth century. Russian plant explorers of that time were very active in central Asia, seeking out new species and bringing them to attention of European botanists and gardeners. The proper pronunciation of the name is thus Reh-GEH-li-a, although most English speakers have taken to using the pronunciation Reh-JEE-li-a instead. The name should be capitalized, since it comes from a personal name. Spell-checking software likes to change the name to "regalia", which refers to Royal trappings, a blunder that one should be alert for.

Regelias are similar to oncocyclus in having a large cream-colored aril attached to the seed, in going completely dormant in summer, and in preferring arid conditions. Whereas oncocyclus iris have only one bloom per stalk, Regelias usually have two. Regelias have beards on the inside of the standards as well as the falls! Whereas many oncocyclus have large globular blooms with prominent signals, Regelias have more svelte, elongated flowers, often with conspicuous veining. The two groups are interfertile, and there are advanced-generation hybrids between them.

There are eight or more species of Regelias. Historically, the three species grown in European and American gardens were the diploid Iris korolkowii and the tetraploids I. stolonifera and Iris hoogiana. More recently, I. afghanica and I. lineata are also sometimes obtainable. W. R. Dykes regarded Iris hoogiana as the most beautiful of all irises, because of its satiny sheen and elegant form.
Iris hoogiana
Iris stolonifera

'Vera' (RH)






















There are hybrids between the Regelia species, called Regelia hybrids (RH). Two widely known Regelia hybrids are 'Vera' (uncertain parentage, derived from Iris stolonifera, probably crossed with Iris korolkowii), and 'Bronze Beauty Van Tubergen', a stolonifera/hoogiana hybrid registered by the Aril Society International in 2001, but in commerce since the mid-twentieth century.


All Regelias are adaptable to a wider range of climatic conditions than their oncocyclus relatives. Here in northern New Mexico, mine persist better than daffodils, and get the same care. Cold winters present no problem whatsoever, as they are native to continental mountainous regions. Dampness and humidity in summer can cause problems, as the plants are dormant then and susceptible to rot.

Regeliocycli

'Bronze Beauty Van Tubergen' (RH)
Once it was understood that the Regelias and oncocyclus irises could be crossed readily, hybridizers became interested in such hybrids, mostly as way to breed the Regelia adaptability into the often troublesome oncocycli, which are notoriously particular and difficult to grow in many climates. The firm of Van Tubergen produced a number of regeliocyclus hybrids in the early 20th century, many of which indeed proved quite durable and are still enjoyed today. Most of these were produced by crossing Iris korolkowii with oncocyclus species, and showed both Regelia veining and oncyclus dotting and signals. In current usage, the term "regeliocyclus" (RC) refers to a hybrid with both Regelia and oncocyclus ancestry that is predominantly Regelia in appearance. In practice, regeliocycli are aril hybrids with 1/2 Regelia ancestry or more.

'Dardanus' (Van Tubergen, not registered) (RC)
Regeliabreds

When hybridizing interest in arils blossomed in the 1940s and 1950s, the attention was almost exclusively on the oncocyclus. Regelias were thought of as "poor relations" that were not always welcome at the table. The prevailing opinion at the time was that they might be useful in breeding arilbreds that were easier to grow, or to facilitate breeding oncocyclus with bearded irises, but it was the "onco look" that was the holy grail of arilbred breeders, and signs of Regelia ancestry were frowned upon.

'Stars Over Chicago' (H. Danielson, 1973)
Henry Danielson was among the first to produce and promote arilbreds of purely Regelia ancestry, launching a popular series of regeliabreds with 'Genetic Artist' (H. Danielson, 1972). These regeliabreds (RB) were derived mostly from I. stolonifera and I. hoogiana. Rather than the globular oncocyclus look expected of arilbreds at the time, they tended toward elongated, open form, showing off the often dramatic colors of the insides of the standards. Although I. stolonifera itself tends to brownish and muted violet tones, its arilbred descendants often combine gold or yellow color with lavender or electric blue flushes in the center of the falls and standards, with similarly colored beards. These unconventional arilbreds were welcomed enthusiastically by some, but reviled by others as garish departures from the oncocyclus ideal.

In the 21st century, French hybridizer Lawrence Ransom picked up the torch of regeliabred breeding, using the Regelia hybrid 'Vera' to produce the siblings 'Eastern Blush' (2002) and 'Eastern Dusk' (2010). 'Eastern Dusk' then gave the distinctive horned arilbred 'Poisonous' (Ransom, 2010).

'Poisonous' (RB-)
Ransom also produced a delightfully varied series of regeliabred arilbred medians, again using 'Vera' as the Regelia parent, with mixed SDB pollen. These "Vera girls" include the widely grown 'Vera-Marina' (Ransom, 1998) and 'Vera-Ruby' (Ransom, 1996).

A special favorite of mine is an arilbred dwarf regeliabred from I. stolonifera X I. pumila, 'Topaz Talisman' (Jensen, 2015), from long-time Regelia enthusiast Elm Jensen, registered at 10 inches in height.

'Topaz Talisman' (RB)
Regelias and their regeliabred descendants have attracted a devoted following over the years, and have shown their great potential in adding variety, interest, and ease of culture to a collection of arils and arilbreds. Much of their full potential, I believe, is still untested. For decades, they have suffered from unfair comparison with their more popular oncocyclus and oncobred cousins. As more growers and hybridizers move away from the prejudices of the past, the Regelias and regeliabreds may at last come into their own as fascinating and beautiful types of iris in their own right.

Monday, May 28, 2018

"Talking Irises" - THE 2018 TALL BEARDED IRIS BLOOM SEASON: A SPECTACULAR SHOW!

By Susanne Holland Spicker



(picture of the garden bed in 2016)  'GARDEN BRIDE' (Chapman '98) and 'BOLD EXPRESSION' (Ernst '03) are pictured, center

"I have found enduring happiness from the beauty found in the flower garden and from the joy that the love of a garden gives." 
                                                  Doris Day 
                                                                                                                                            
The 2018 tall bearded iris bloom season, although later than usual, has put on a spectacular show in the top of Utah, zone 6. One complaint, however, is that a week of above normal temperatures reduced the  bloom time of the stalks as they sweltered in the heat.  Many later varieties haven't bloomed at the time of this post, but here are a few of my favorites as I took a stroll around the garden beds. I love these varieties because of their beauty, reliability and their fabulous colors.

(top l to r) 'PERSIAN BERRY' (Gaulter '77), 'PLUM PRETTY WHISKERS' (Spoon '03), 'PRIVATE EYE' (Johnson '10), 'EYE FOR STYLE' (Blyth '06), 'MING LORD' (Blyth '06), 'QUEEN'S RANSOM' (Van Liere '12), 'ROMANTIC GENTLEMAN' (Blyth '02) 'OXFORD COUNTESS' (Blyth '07) I love this bed--it has some of my all-time favorites!


  'LEANNA' (Meininger '97)  A favorite plicata


'LENTEN PRAYER' (Schreiner '98), 'TORONTO' (Johnson '01), 'APHRODISIAC' (Schreiner '86), 'GIGOLO' (Keppel '84), 'NAPLES' (Johnson '01). Color galore--this bed has it!

'DAUGHTER OF STARS' (Spoon '01)  Always among the top three to bloom--it was the first tall bearded iris to bloom this 2018 season.


 'DARING DECEPTION' (Johnson '12) Stunning--breath taking beauty!


 'FLAMINGO FRENZY' (Johnson '12) The unusual colored beard is fabulous on this blue-pink beauty


 'EDITH WOLFORD' (Hager '86) Always a garden visitor favorite


 'ABSOLUTE TREASURE' (Tasco '06), 'DESIGNER LABEL' (Ghio '03) Both are exquisite


 'MIDNIGHT TREAT' (Schreiner '06), 'THORNBIRD' (Byers '89) A visual treat--unique


'CENTER ICE' (Ghio '10), 'GITANO' (Keppel '07), 'WINNING EDGE' (Ghio '97). 'PHOTOGENIC' (Ghio '06), 'LOUISA'S SONG' (Blyth '00), 'IN THE MORNING' (Ernst '04), 'LIMERENCE' (Blyth '09), 'MIDNIGHT REVELRY' (Schreiner '05). Outstanding color!


(t l to r) 'CITY LIGHTS' (Dunn '91), 'FOREVER BLOWING BUBBLES' (Ghio '07), 'PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE' (Schreiner '84), 'MILES AHEAD' (Schreiner '10), 'NO COUNT BLUES' (Schreiner '09) A single rhizome of  each of these irises were just planted last summer, and I was thrilled that they all bloomed.



'EMBRACE ME' (Van Liere '08), 'BUBBLING WAVES' (Ghio '06), 'TICKLE 
ME PINK' (VanLiere '11), 'QUEENS CIRCLE' (Kerr '00), 'PROUD TRADITION' (Schreiner '90), 'HEATHERIDGE' (Gatty '85), 'NIGERIAN RASPBERRY' (Kasperek '95), 'SONG OF NORWAY' (Luihn '81), 'CROWNED HEADS' (Keppel '97), 'EVENING TIDINGS' (Schreiner '09), 'ABOVE THE CLOUDS' (Schreiner '01), 'MAGICAL' (Ghio '07), 'RUFFLED BALLET' (Roderick '75), 'SOCIETY PAGE' (Ghio '10).  This established bed never disappoints.                                                                                                            

'CENTER ICE' (Ghio '07), 'PURPLE SERENADE' (Schreiner '05), 'GITANO' (Keppel '07), 'LOUISA'S SONG' (Blyth '00) 'FLORENTINE SILK' (Keppel '05). There are many irises still in the bud still to bloom in the coming days.

'LACED COTTON' (Schreiner '80) A laced iris that always opens up nicely


How has your tall bearded iris bloom season been?  What were your favorite blooms this year?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, May 21, 2018

The 2018 AIS Convention - Iris in Louisiana

by Jean Richter

The 2018 national convention of the American Iris Society was a unique experience. As it was held in New Orleans, Louisiana, where bearded iris do not grow happily, there were no bearded iris on display, either as guest iris hosted for the convention or otherwise in the convention gardens. This provided an unprecedented opportunity to focus on a type of iris that is usually not front and center at these events - the most common iris native to North America, the Louisiana iris.

The six convention gardens and associated area visits provided opportunities to see Louisiana iris in a variety of situations - in a working horticultural research station, an historic home and formal gardens, public gardens, naturalized settings, and in the wild.

Our first stop on the garden tours was the Greater New Orleans Iris Society's species preservation project, located near a bayou in suburban New Orleans.  A highlight of this visit was seeing all five of the native Louisiana iris species.

The most rare of the Louisiana iris species is Iris nelsonii, found in only a few small areas of Louisiana.

Iris nelsonii

Very similar to nelsonii but smaller and much more widespread is Iris fulva.

Iris fulva

Iris brevicaulis is one of the most widespread species, occurring from Louisiana to Canada.

Iris brevicaulis

Iris hexagona is found primarily in Florida and nearby states.

Iris hexagona

Iris giganticerulea is quite common in Louisiana and neighboring states.

Iris giganticerulea

Our next destination was Longue Vue, an historic estate with numerous formal gardens. There were plenty of Louisiana iris among these gardens, including one named for the location: Longue Vue (Haymon 2000).

'Longue Vue' (Haymon 2000)

Our next stop was the New Orleans City Park Sculpture Garden, which also featured the first set of guest iris plantings. A highlight at this garden was Watermelon Wizard (H. Nichols 2011), which later won the Franklin Cook Cup for best out-of-region iris at the convention.

'Watermelon Wizard' (H. Nichols 2011)

Nearby was the New Orleans Botanical Garden, which among many other exhibits featured an outstanding cactus collection and orchid display.

Orchids at the New Orleans Botanical Garden

The second day of our Louisiana iris adventure found us crossing the 24-mile-long causeway across Lake Pontchartrain to A Louisiana Pond, a neighborhood garden project of Louisiana iris planted at the edge of a flood prevention pond. One of the beds around the pond features an area devoted to the introductions of local hybridizer Patrick O'Connor. This planting also featured another iris native to the area, Iris virginica.

Iris virginica

Iris giganticerulea was also putting on a lovely display near the pond.

Iris giganticerulea

Our next stop was the Hammond Research Station. First established as the Fruit and Truck Experiment Station to serve the strawberry and vegetable industries in the region, the facility currently focuses on landscape horticulture. The Greater New Orleans Iris Society partnered with the station to develop a collection of Louisiana iris on the grounds. Guest iris on display included Patrick O'Connor's House of Blues.

 'House of Blues'

The third day of garden tours found us on the road to Baton Rouge. Our first stop was the Burden Museum and Gardens, an open-air museum dedicated to rural life in bygone times, with many historic buildings depicting everyday life on the Burden plantation. Of great interest to many convention-goers was the walking tour of the nearby swamp, with an opportunity to observe Louisiana iris in their native habitat.


 The last garden on the tour was the Baton Rouge Botanic Garden, which features an Iris Pavilion among its many plantings. One standout guest iris here was Acadian Sky (Musacchia 2017), which went on to win the President's Cup for best in-region guest iris.

'Acadian Sky' (Musacchia 2017)

All in all, it was an excellent convention. I have a greater appreciation for Louisiana iris now, and would certainly return if another AIS convention was held there in the future. Kudos to the convention organizers!




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