Wednesday, August 15, 2018

2018 Knowlton Medal

The American Iris Society Announces
The 2018 Knowlton Medal Winner
'Sheer Excitement'

This medal is restricted to border bearded (BB) irises. It is named in honor of Harold W. Knowlton (1888-1968) of Auburndale, Massachusetts, a tireless promoter of the border bearded class of irises. 

'Sheer Excitement'--image by Rick Tasco

'Sheer Excitement' (Richard Tasco) blooms in the early midseason. Standards violet (RHS 83B) veined lighter, lightening toward slight tan edge; style arms cold white, faint violet blush toward fringed crest, slight yellow blush on top of crest; falls slightly darker pansy-violet (83A) sanded and veined lighter toward slight tan edge, very bright primrose yellow (4A) areas becoming white areas on sides of beards; beards tangerine, white at end; luminata pattern; citronella fragrance.

While Mr. Tasco has won many medals including the Dykes, this is his first median medal award.

The World of Irises blog will be posting once a day all of the medal winners. The entire list of winners can be found at, the AIS Encyclopedia and later in the AIS Bulletin, IRISES. Pictures can be found at

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Wister Medal Winner 2018

 The American Iris Society Announces
The 2018 Wister Medal Winners
Notta Lemon
Bottle Rocket
Strawberry Shake

This medal is restricted to tall bearded (TB) irises. It is named in honor of John C. Wister. Three medals are awarded each year.

John C. Wister led the organizing meeting that created the American Iris Society and became its first president, a position he held for fourteen years. He guided the society through its formative years.

This year's three Wister Medals are:

'Notta Lemon'--image Howard Dash

'Notta Lemon' (Tom Burseen, R. 2009). Early to late bloom. Standards and style arms lemon yellow-gold; falls white, lemon yellow-gold edges, yellow texture veins; beards gold, large; very ruffled; pronounced spicy fragrance. 'That's All Folks' X seedling 02-169: (seedling 98-521, 'Jaw Dropper' pollen parent, x seedling A166, 'Vegas Bound' pollen parent). Burseen 2010. Honorable Mention 2012, President's Cup 2013, Award of Merit 2014.

'Bottle Rocket'--Image by Mike Sutton

'Bottle Rocket' (Michael Sutton, R. 2009). Seedling# U-524-A. TB, 35" (89 cm). Early midseason bloom and rebloom. Standards orange buff flushed pink at midribs; style arms buff orange; falls ruby red veined orange, lighter veining around carrot beards, greyed-orange 1/4" rim; slight musky fragrance. Seedling# S-702-A: ('Connie Sue' x 'Let's Boogie') X seedling# R-687-A: ('Return Address' x 'Tropical Delight'). Sutton 2010. Honorable Mention 2012, Award of Merit 2014.

'Strawberry Shake'--image by Robin Shadlow

'Strawberry Shake' (Keith Keppel, R. 2011). Seedling# 05-92B. TB, 36" (91 cm). Midseason bloom. Standards hydrangea pink (M&P 2-E-7); style arms peach (9-A-5); falls peach to orient pink (9-A-6), center creamier pink (9-AB-4); beards shrimp (1-E-10). 'In Love Again' X seedling# 99-115C: ('Crystal Gazer' x seedling# 96-35C, 'Adoregon' sibling).

The World of Irises blog will be posting once a day the other medal winners as soon as the hybridizers are notified. The entire list of winners can be found at, the AIS Encyclopedia and later in the AIS Bulletin, IRISES. Pictures can be found at

Monday, August 13, 2018

Dykes Medal 2018

 The American Iris Society
Announces the
2018 Dykes Medal Winner

First awarded in 1927, the Dykes Medal is the highest award of the AIS, awarded to no more than one iris per year. Irises are eligible as a Dykes Medal candidate for three years following the winning of a classification medal. Only AIS registered judges may vote.

Image Keith Keppel

From (Royal Sterling x (Last Laugh x (Electrique x Romantic Evening))) X (Hello It's Me x Reckless in Denim)), it is described in Keith Keppel’s 2010 catalogue: “From the cross of two Blyth seedlings comes this ethereal beauty. Pale pinkish grey to heliotrope grey standards, falls a bit deeper, with shadowy, ghostly emanations of deeper veining from the heart, paling as they move outward. Inconspicuous heliotrope to ibis pink beards. A very subtle, very lovely flower with superb ruffling and heavy substance.”

Congratulations to Mr. Keppel for winning the Dykes the second year in a row.

The World of Irises blog will be posting once a day the other medal winners as soon as the hybridizers are notified. The entire list of winners can be found at, the AIS Encyclopedia and later in the AIS Bulletin, IRISES. Pictures can be found at

Jean and I

by Kevin Vaughn

Jean at her 92nd birthday party together with her 3 daughters.

When Jean Witt passed in 2016 it marked the end of a 50 year correspondence and friendship.  Jean put this then 12 year old in an elite MTB robin that included the likes of Dorothy Guild (who became another long time pen pal), Mary Louise Dunderman, and Walter Welch.  In those days, MTB pods were few and far between. The original Williamson plants, excepting Nambe and Widget, were close to sterile, so that a good crop of seedlings for a year’s effort might be 20-30. Of those seedlings, fewer might qualify as MTBs because of a too large stalk or flower.  With encouragement of Jean and the other robin members, I was able to introduce three of my MTB seedlings that met the class and were improvements on the existing MTB cultivars of their day.   Jean introduced the last two, ‘Real Jazzy’ and ‘Tammy’s Tutu’.  ‘Real Jazzy’ still finds favor in my eyes for its intense coloration and fine form.

For 30 years, I lived and gardened in MS, where bearded irises were risky and the diploid MTBs hated the lack of cold, but a move to Oregon 2010 allowed my program to start and it was time to rekindle a relationship with Jean again.  It was such a pleasure having Jean visit my garden twice during MTB peak and go through the seedling patch with me.  Even in her 90’s she had very definite opinions on MTBs and where the class needed to go.  She convinced me to save a few things that were not a perfect fit for the class but that added important genetic material to the MTB “stew”.  Jean was excited that I was again doing MTBs and gifted a number of seedlings for me to use in breeding.  Among these were several pastel variegata blends from a lavender plicata seedling that she had dubbed “Persis”: (‘King Karl’ X ‘Rhages’) crossed with ‘Jazzy D├ęcor’.  One of these seedlings, now named ‘Jean Witt’, was a genetic powerhouse, and the first crop of seedlings from (‘Sun Dream’ X ‘Jean Witt’) produced an incredible series of seedlings from variegatas, amoenas, maculosas (yellows splashed with violet), and broken colors.  Best yet the X54 series seedlings were all perfectly formed, in-class flowers with high fertility.  I look forward to seeing the first seedlings from crosses with the X54 seedlings next spring.  Many of these had what Jean had described as the “fall flip”, not quite a ruffle but an undulation of the falls that imparts a bit of grace.  It started with 'Real Jazzy' and Jean found that addition was better than ruffling in terms of keeping the MTBs more like their diploid ancestors.

Vaughn Seedling X 54-3 with the "fall flip"
Vaughn seedling X54-1 with the "fall flip"
Clump of Vaughn X 54-3
Vaughn seedling X54-6 (maculosa)
Vaughn seedling X 54-8 (erratic)

When Jean passed, her daughters dug many of the plants from the garden for me to grow on to see if anything would be introduced or useful for further breeding.  Besides the plant we had already named ‘Jean Witt’, there were several that commanded attention at the Region 13/ TBIS meeting this spring.  One that was blooming its head off that first day of tours is a most unusual dotted plicata with the dotting only in the center of the falls.  This has rather nice shape including the fall flip that Jean liked.  Unlike many other MTB breeders that just crossed MTBs to MTBs, Jean wanted to incorporate the best of the diploid TBs into the stew.  Such was the case with this seedling. ‘Rhages’ is an all-over dotted plicata TB and a beautiful pattern. No MTBs existed in this pattern. However, this dotted seedling was a much daintier and beautiful edition of ‘Rhages’.  It doesn’t have pollen but is a sinfully easy pod parent. It is being registered as ‘Just a Dusting’.   Another related seedling that Jean had nicknamed “Sanded Epaulettes” is a Tea Apron type plicata with the hafts heavily peppered on a white ground but no markings elsewhere.    One that Jean nicknamed “Icie” is a lovely flower of clear white standards and falls strongly lined and dotted medium blue-purple.  It has lovely form and is sinfully fertile in both directions.  It is on the shorter side for MTBs, ~18” tall but still manages 7-8 buds/ stalk.  Besides these three plicatas, there were several nice smooth lavender blues, a brown plicata, and a very odd one she had nicknamed “Yellow Stripe” as it was a pale yellow- cream flower but with a yellow belly stripe on the falls.  These were also considered but none seemed either a perfect fit for the class or were the level of advancement in their class/ color that would have pleased Jean.  Several of these have been used as parents.

 'Just a Dusting'
Just a Dusting (clump)
 "Sanded Eppaulettes"

Jean had been working with red MTBs for some time and her Redrock Princess has been a most popular introduction of hers, garnering an AM and being widely used as a parent for MTBs.  Included in the plants dug by Jean’s daughters were ones designated Witt Red #1-3.  These have the unlikely pedigree of ‘Little White Tiger’ X ‘Wawona’ (an unintroduced rusty red) but  ‘Little White Tiger’ was chosen for its form (the fall flip) as well as its nearly perfect MTB proportions even though it was not red.  #2 and #3 were both blooming on the weekend of the tour. Both are pretty much the same size and rust reds with sort of yellow infusions and had the same size and proportion as Little White Tiger with lots of buds on both.   We have chosen #3 of these to be named “Resplendent Redhead” that Jean wanted to use for a deceased granddaughter who had red hair and this one has the color from the orange side, much like human red hair.  When Witt red #1 bloomed I stood before the flower just shocked. It was REALLY red.  Jean had found malvidin in some of the variegatas, the same pigment that makes LA iris red, and this flower had that color of I. fulva in the falls.  I danced a little jig right on the spot (well I am Irish after all!). Then I took the ruler out to measure the stalk. Right at 28” in a year when stalks were often shorter than normal and this seedling was blooming from smallish rhizomes.  Jean would kill me if I introduced a MTB of hers that was too tall! The good news is that it is easily fertile, setting pods on ‘Austin’ and several seedlings of mine and setting seed from pollen of ‘Austin’ and ‘Bold Imp’.  After Jean made such progress on red color I hope that I can get one in those colors with the requisite shorter stalk.  This shade of red is not only a break for the MTBs but for all bearded irises so it needs to be used with abandon!

 "Resplendent Redhead"
Witt Red #1, incredible red coloration, reddest I have seen in bearded iris

Jean passed before she could plant her last seed crop so I also planted these.  Of course we were all hoping for a breakthrough there but only two seedlings of consequence bloomed, both from a bee pod on “Icie”.  One is most interesting flower sort of a gray color with standards edged yellow and falls more lavender, a new color pattern.  A plicata sib that was like a more intense version of “Icie” was also saved.

Grey/ lavender with yellow rim on standard from "Icie"

Besides inheriting the plants and seed, 10 huge boxes of correspondence and notebooks arrived that included the MTB robin letters all the way back to 1952. This was a fascinating read over last winter and shows just how frustrating the MTB class was at their beginnings and what these workers had overcome to bring us to our present state of MTBs.  Jean had quickly found that crossing the original Williamson MTBs with each other just repeated the patterns of the originals.  Even early on, Jean used a number of diploid TBs and BBs such as ‘La Neige’, ‘Mrs. Andrist’, ‘Extempore’, ‘Meadowlark’, and ‘Rhages’ as well as the species I. variegata var. reginae and I.astrachanica in crosses with MTBs.  Not all of these crosses were successful in generating MTBs but they served as parents for further seedlings that did.

 From the correspondence it was clear that Jean was a great “instigator” of trying to interest others in the cause of breeding iris, as she shipped seeds and plants to people all over the world.  When I came across letters between Bee Warburton and Jean in the late 70’s, I had a great chuckle.  Bee wrote “I think the hosta people have kidnapped our Kevin” with Jean responding  “and how do we get him back?”  Both Bee and Jean were involved in “finding jobs for good candidates” and in general encouraging new people to take up the cause.  I hope that both Jean and Bee are pleased that I took up the MTB cause again.

One of the highlights of the 2018 season for me was being visited by all three of Jean's daughters and sharing the excitement of working through Jean’s seedlings for possible introduction.  Jean obviously had some good genes herself as her daughters and grandchildren were all just great people and I felt an almost immediate kinship with them.  I am happy that several of the seedlings that her daughters rescued will be sent onto Terry and Barbara Aitken for introduction.  Aitken’s Salmon Creek had introduced a number of MTBs for Jean and will handle these last introductions for her too.

So thank you Jean for spending a lifetime working with MTBs, introducing unique diploids and species into the genetic stew, and creating a line of highly fertile plants that the rest of us are the beneficiary.  Job well done!

Monday, August 6, 2018

The "Open Form" of Louisiana Irises

by Ron Killingsworth

Louisiana irises have a large variety of sizes and flower forms.  Unlike some of the species of irises, Louisiana irises are not divided into groups by size of the plant, such as Tall Bearded, Medium Bearded, Border Bearded, etc.  Louisiana irises can range from 10 inches (or smaller) to 50 inches (have seen plenty taller than that!).  The diversity of color in the bloom of Louisiana irises is another subject.  The name “Iris” is derived from a Greek word meaning “rainbow” and Louisiana irises certainly come in a “rainbow” of colors. I will try to do some follow up articles about the amazing colors of Louisiana irises.

Publications will generally list the following flower forms for Louisiana irises but I think the list is not all inclusive.  Upright Standards, Semi-flaring to Flat, Pendant Form, Umbrella Pendant Form, Recurved, Open Form, Full Overlapping, Ruffled, Semi-double.  There is also a double form and a “cartwheel” form.  I have been told there is a difference between a “cartwheel” and a “double” but the science is beyond my comprehension. Of course some blooms are a combination of these forms.  You can easily find an iris with the open form that also has upright standards.

Official Louisiana irises flower forms
The purpose of this “blog” is to discuss the open form of Louisiana irises and I have therefore not bothered trying to give the names of all the irises used in this discussion.
Still open form but very close to being "semi-flaring"
The species of Louisiana irises, still to be found in the wild, almost always have the "spidery" open form.  As they were hybridized, over the years, the various other flower forms developed.

This is a good example of the open form but notice it also has upright standards

I believe this is probably the white form of iris.giganticaerulea.  This is a classic example of the up-right standards form with the falls falling down and the stands standing up.  But, it is also the open form because of the size of the petals and distance between them.

This is 'Dixie Deb' by Frank Chowning registered in 1950 so it is not surprising that it has the open form.  This iris is very well known and still wins awards at shows.

Probably another example of the white iris.giganticaerulea.  Many collectors during the early 1930-1950 era collected the species from their native habitat and actually registered and named them.

While it certainly resembles the one above, it is a difference iris.  This one is also the upright standards form while still being the open form.  The falls are larger than the one above.

This flower is just between the open form and the semi-flaring form.  The falls and standards all lie flat out while the style arms often stand up.

Another beautiful example of an older Louisiana iris, possibly species, with the upright standards and the falling falls, yet still the open form.

I would suspect this iris was hybridized in the 40's or 50's, based on the size of the petals and the signal.  I could be wrong!  It is almost into the semi-flaring and almost flat with the style arms standing up.

A very open iris flower with a nice color.  Once again the stands are standing up and the falls are tending to fall down although not all the way down like most irises with the upright standards

A pretty white/yellow flower that is almost flat in shape.  Still the open form but approaching semi-flaring

A very pretty blue iris with nice signals.  I would certainly classify this as the upright standards form but because the petals are small, it still has the open form.

While this flower has the open form, it is almost in the pendant form, where the falls and standards all fall down.  Isn't that a game we played as children?

This flower certainly has a pleasing color.  It was not unusual to find colors like this growing in the wild of south Louisiana.  I do not know if this is species or a registered iris, I simply do not know it and can't remember where I took the picture.

A pretty white iris with really green style arms.  Is it the open form or the upright standards form. Yes, it is.

A very pretty yellow.  Much larger than the 'Dixie Deb' shown above.  Upright standards and almost drooping falls.  I have no idea what the bug might be.  Maybe a Texas mosquito?

Blue, or Violet?  Great signals.  Still the open form.  Note the bud next to it.
 The next two pictures are not Louisiana irises.  To learn more about various iris species, visit this website.

OK, iris experts.  No, this is not a Louisiana iris.  It is a hybridized iris.pseudacorus.  I'm pretty sure this is 'Roy Davidson' or something like that.  Notice that it has the open form, or is it the pendant form?
A nice example of iris.virginica blue.  It certainly has the open form, but is not a Louisiana iris, so who knows what the Species Iris Group of North America (SIGNA) people call this form.

To learn more about Louisiana irises, visit their web site at Louisiana Irises.

To learn more about different species of irises and the crossing of difference species of irises, visit this website - SIGNA.

To Learn more about irises, visit the American Iris Society.

Next time we will look at the many colors of Louisiana irises.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Photo Essay: A Visit to Schreiner's Iris Gardens

By Mike Unser

In spring of 2018 I had the good fortune to take a day to travel to Salem, Oregon and visit the amazing Schreiner's Iris Gardens. Schreiner's is one of America's longest running commercial iris gardens, first established in 1925, and is still run by the same family. They are more than just fields of irises for sale tho - their display garden is renowned for its beauty, and is a favorite destination for iris lovers around the world. The gardens are very well thought out with companion plants that help showcase the beauty of irises in a garden setting, and I spent several hours enjoying the blooms and taking photos. I hope you'll enjoy this photographic tour of the display gardens, and if you ever get to Oregon in May do not miss your chance to experience the beauty in person. It is well worth the trip.

First up - garden shots.

I normally don't like to have people in my photos but I made an exception for this gentleman. He has the enviable job of spending the day examining the flowers and deadheading the irises to make everything look as beautiful as it can for the visitors. 

A closer look at some of the irises. Varietal names are on the photos.

A closer look at some of the companion plants.

A blazing red geum.

Creamy pastel peonies.

I hope you enjoyed this brief tour. 

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