Wednesday, March 28, 2018

IRISES: The Bulletin of the AIS - Spring 2018 Edition

By Susanne Holland Spicker

The American Iris Society Blog, "World of Irises," extends a hearty welcome to all iris lovers and is happy to give an introduction to the Spring Edition of IRISES: The Bulletin of the American Iris Society. Whether this is your first time viewing, or you're a member of The American Iris Society, we hope you enjoy the new Spring 2018 issue.

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.

The Spring issue of the AIS Bulletin is already available for online viewing and accessible via the Emembers section of the AIS website. The print copy is in the hands of U.S. Post Office. 

Featured on the cover is 'SUMMER HONEY' (Betty Wilkerson 2013 TB-Re), photo by Carole Buchheim.

This edition offers a wealth of information, good articles, and lots of beautiful pictures.

Page 11 gives us important information concerning Novelty, Spuria and HIPS (Historic Iris Preservation Society).

On page 12, Mike Lockatell gives us a nice article on the late Betty Wilkerson (1941-2017). "A Bridge In Time" highlights the cool season rebloom hybridizer with lots of beautiful pictures of her reblooming cool season irises. It's a wonderful insight to this great lady and her lovely irises.

On page 16 we have the news of our Youth achievers. The winner of the Clarke Cosgrove Memorial Award for Youth Achievement, Hope Winzer - Region 18, is announced. Congratulations!

On page 24, Jim Morris takes a look ahead to 2020, the 100th anniversary of the American Iris Society in New York City.  Jim also looks back with a comprehensive capsule of the Tall Bearded Iris history.  You won't want to miss this fascinating article!

On page 30, Terry Aitkin gives us an excellent article in "The Continued Search for the Red Iris." Compelling information from Terry--thank you!

And on page 44, "Ask the Vets" gives us some very informative and interesting answers to questions pertaining to all irises.  Excellent!

Not a member of the AIS (American Iris Society)?  Please see our website for information about becoming one:

There is much more to view and read in the Spring 2018 Edition of 'Irises,' either in digital or print formats. If you're an AIS member, you will be receiving your print edition soon. If you're an e-member, that version is already available online.

We wish you a great spring bloom season, 
and happy gardening!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Carl Salbach - Important Early California Iris Hybridizer and Purveyor

By Jean Richter

Carl Salbach is the third, and perhaps least known, of the early San Francisco Bay Area iris hybridizers, along with Sydney B. Mitchell and William Mohr, whom I have covered in some of my previous blogs. In addition to being an award-winning iris hybridizer himself, Salbach introduced iris for many other hybridizers, including many of the most important varieties of the early and mid-20th century. Although iris were his primary horticultural interest, early in his career he also hybridized dahlias and gladiolus.

Carl Salbach was born on a ranch near Stockton, California in 1870, one of seven children of Edward and Katherine Salbach, who left their native Germany to settle in California's central valley. After graduating high school he served as the Deputy County Clerk for seven years, before moving on to the field that occupied his interest for much of his early years, the selling of typewriters. He worked for, managed, and owned typewriter companies in San Francisco and Los Angeles. While living in Oakland (across the bay from San Francisco), his growing interest in horticulture led to him publishing his first plant catalog (devoted to dahlias and gladiolus) in 1922. Around this same time period he first was introduced to modern tall bearded iris, and he so enthusiastically embraced iris that he offered his first iris catalog just two years later in 1924. This first catalog had nine of William Mohr's varieties.

At this same time Sydney B. Mitchell established his Campos Altos Iris Gardens in the nearby Berkeley hills, but soon found that running an iris business left him little time to pursue his hybridizing activities. In 1925 he sold 4.5 acres of his land and all of his commercial iris stock to Salbach, who moved his office to the Woodmont Avenue location. His 1925 catalog included 23 Mohr introductions, including the important early arilbred iris 'William Mohr', which sold for the princely (for the time) sum of $50.00!

Salbach began introducing his own hybrids in 1933. From the start they began winning awards, and in 1944 Salbach was awarded the American Iris Society's Gold Medal for Achievement in Hybridizing, on the strength such introductions as 'Golden Majesty', 'Deep Velvet', 'Radiant', and 'Lighthouse'.

'Lighthouse' (Salbach 1936)
photo courtesy of Superstition Iris Gardens

In 1939 he introduced Clara B. Rees' 'Snow Flurry', one of the most important advances in tall bearded iris in the early 20th century, with unprecedented ruffling and form. 'Snow Flurry's importance as a parent in hybridizing led to it being referred to as the "Queen Mother of the Iris World." Local legend has it that Ms. Rees' sister Ruth cut several of its flowers, securing them with tissue paper in a shoebox, and made an all-day journey by train, ferry, and trolley all the way from San Jose to Salbach's home in the Berkeley hills. Upon seeing the magnificent flower Salbach was so amazed that, after seeing the plant in Rees' San Jose garden, he bought her entire stock on the spot.

'Snow Flurry' (Rees 1939)

Among the hybridizers that Salbach introduced for was Frank Reinelt. In 1940, he introduced Reinelt's important arilbred iris 'Capitola'. Apparently Reinelt was so disappointed by the cross (the parents were 'William Mohr' and 'IB-Mac', one of the first arilbred iris), that he considered throwing it away! Luckily for the iris world he did not, as 'Capitola' is a major parent in arilbred breeding.

'Capitola' (Reinelt 1940)
photo courtesy of Superstition Iris Gardens

In 1943 Salbach introduced one of his finest creations, the arilbred 'Lady Mohr'. This variety went on to win the Honorable Mention and Award of Merit, and many thought it deserving of the Dykes Medal as well, though it was not given that honor. This iris is a good example of Salbach's well-thought-out and planned approach to hybridizing (unlike the hit-or-miss methods of many of his contemporaries). 'Lady Mohr' was the result of a direct effort to produce a light-colored "Mohr" type iris from Capitola. The pod parent was chosen for its form, color, and ability to yield seedlings from hard-to-take crosses (a common problem when working with arilbred iris).

Lady Mohr (Salbach 1943)

The last year Salbach introduced his own creations was 1952, and he saved one of the best for last in 'Oriental Glory'. This striking iris has great garden impact. It's a difficult iris to photograph well, as the blue blaze beneath its beard can be tough to capture correctly.

Oriental Glory (Salbach 1952)

While iris were his main focus, Salbach also introduced a number of other plants. Along with the aforementioned dahlias and gladiolus, he introduced Reinelt's strain of delphiniums (which were to become world famous as the Pacific Hybrids). He also sold seed of Sydney B. Mitchell's hybrid broom (Cytisus), as well as Iceland poppies and helianthemums.

Salbach received a number of awards for iris as well as other plants. As well as the AIS Gold Medal, he received the Foster Memorial Plaque from the British Iris Society in 1948. In 1945 he received the Gold Medal of the New England Gladiolus Society for his work in hybridizing gladiolus, and in 1948 received the Achievement Award of the North American Gladiolus Council for "meritorious work in promoting and bettering gladiolus."

In 1933 Salbach took out the first plant patent to be given to a gladiolus for his introduction 'Golden Goddess'. He patented six gladiolus in all, and was so successful that he announced he was going to patent Clara B. Rees' iris 'Snow Flurry' and his own 'Deep Velvet'. For some reason (perhaps the difficulty of controlling the patents) he never actually did file the patents, which would have been the first filed for iris.

Salbach worked with other types of iris besides tall bearded and arilbreds, growing and selling numerous other kinds of iris and introducing a dwarf iris. He also hybridized Dutch iris. At one time a representative from the Dutch bulb growers visited his garden, and upon seeing several of his Dutch iris seedlings, asked if he would sell them. Salbach replied (probably in an effort to end the conversation) that they were for sale that day only and for $1000. Much to his surprise, the representative immediately handed him a check for that amount!

Salbach married Ella Stockwell in 1900, and their only child Edward was born in 1907. Edward was as keenly interested in iris as his father, and had begun taking on an important share of the management of Salbach Gardens when his life was tragically cut short in an automobile accident in 1939. Without a second generation to continue the management of the business, Carl Salbach retired and closed down the garden in 1959 and the acreage was subdivided for housing (which had already begun to encroach on the area). As Roy Oliphant noted in his appreciation of Salbach in the 1960 AIS Bulletin, "It seems a great loss to those of us who remember the many fine things that came from his gardens, and who remember the beauty of the gardens themselves with their fields of iris, the banks of wildlings, the great bushes of fragrant rhododendrons, the superb spectacle of the flowering cherries in full bloom and who, above all, remember Carl in his garden."

Carl Salbach passed away November 2, 1962, after a massive heart attack just before his 92nd birthday. His legacy among iris enthusiasts is vast, both from iris he developed himself and those he introduced through his business. Without Carl Salbach, the great accomplishments of the early 20th century northern California hybridizers might never have been known.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Looking to the Future of Mohr-type Irises

By Bryce Williamson

In my recent blog, The World of New Exciting Mohr Type Irises, I wrote about the recent introductions and their much more aril like appearance; today is the chance to learn about what the future has in store.

Paul Black wrote to me, "W306A which is a beauty is from ‘Energizer’ X TB seedling.  It looks like a good 1/2 to 3/4 bred."

Black W306A--image by Paul Black

Rick Tasco kindly provided information about his work with Mohr types: “Virtually all of the aril-median crosses I make are between 1/2-breds and SDBs, either reblooming SDBs or SDBs with large and bright spot patterns.  This has worked out very well for me.  We need to get more rebloom in the aril-medians.  I have a very strong reblooming aril-median that I’ll be introducing next year (2018).”

To whet our appetite, Rick provided images of some of his best selections.

Sun and Snow (Tasco '18)--image by Rick Tasco

Scheduled for introduction in 2018, this Mohr-type is a very strong rebloomer in its home garden, opening new possibilities for extending the season.

Tasco 15-AM-07-27--image by Rick Tasco

There is something about this color combination that I really like.

I have written about the value of yellow in irises and the next two seedlings will bring sunlight into the early spring garden even on a rainy day.

 Tasco 15-AM-01-16--image by Rick Tasco

Tasco 15-AM-11-17--image by Rick Tasco

Rick's next two seedlings show the value of crossing medians with spots with arilbreds.

Tasco 15-AM-03-16--image by Rick Tasco

Tasco 15-AM-03-03--image by Rick Tasco

The future of this old class of irises seems bright with hybridizers using new ideas and new blood to revitalize Mohr-types.

At this point, there are only a few sources for plants. Two reputable sources are Mid America and Superstition. Click on the nursery name and it will take you to a link where you can find out more information from the garden owners.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Pondering Pacifica Iris and Voles

Kathleen Sayce 
January 27, 2018

It is winter, and for the coastal Pacific Northwest, this means sleeting rain with the occasional snow shower, hail shower, thunderstorm, high winds, and flooding. Bottom line:  Not a lot is getting done outside in the garden. Iris unguicularis puts up flowers every week, only to have the wind and rain smash them flat within days. 

Between rain squalls, I went out to check on Iris hartwegii australis in its planter under the eaves—and it looks quite happy. There are double the number of fans from last year—and I’m hoping for flowers. 

Iris hartwegii australis--happy in its planter under the eaves. The three main shoots of last year are replaced by more than seven this winter. 

Last summer while harvesting iris pods for the SPCNI seed exchange, I saw a vole cleaning seeds from those same pods. It squeaked and dove off. These voracious herbivores do far more damage in my garden than I had previously realized:  
 *   Native West Coast bulbs that keep disappearing? Voles. 
 *  Ditto for Crocus and Lilium. More voles. 
 *  Rainlilies, which poke leaves up one day, only to have them vanish that night? Right again, voles. 
 *  The iris seedling pots and planters that are excavated one night as the seeds are starting to germinate? Yes, voles, expletives deleted. The last probably have some help from squirrels, crows, and jays.

Hypertufa planter with wire mesh cap, and inside,
Pacifica Iris seeds, soaking up winter rain
and getting ready to germinate. 

Voles tend to leave iris flowers and fans alone, but eat seeds and seedlings. I wonder how many species I’ve lost to them? All but two areas of Crocus are gone. As are Tulipa species bulbs—vanished by the dozens. Voles leave Alliums alone, mostly, and so those are doing well, as are the toxic bulbs of Hyacinthina, scillas or bluebells, which thrive here by the thousands. 

There are many potential vole reducing strategies. Mint-oil scented granules are apparently attractive to them; they cart off any that I apply, overnight. Cats aren’t determined enough to keep voles out of flower beds, and I like to birdwatch, so outside cats would defeat that activity. Terriers are excellent rodent hunters, but their indiscriminate digging is discouraging to any gardener. Haven’t figured out how to entice weasels to nest and breed here—though the years when we had resident weasels was also an excellent period for rodent suppression. When we rebuilt my cold frame, we added mesh panels, to protect the plants inside year round, and now finally have thriving, and flowering rain lilies.

I have plotted some strategies and am implementing several:  Wire cages, castor oil based deterrents, and gravel. New lilies went into wire mesh boxes underground, surrounded and capped by inches of gravel. Same for Crocus, Triteliaea, Dichlostemma, and other tasty bulbs and seeds. Pacifica Iris seeds are in hypertufa and stryofoam planters, with wire mesh caps. Over all garden beds, I am spreading castor oil mole-and-vole-deterring granules. 

Vole-resistance:  wire mesh box to bury in ground, and plant edible bulbs inside. For more deterrence, add a layer of gravel on top. 

The potential is what all gardeners want—better odds for a more floriferous garden in coming seasons. We’ll learn how these strategies work in a few months. 

The vole hazard here is probably due to location, which is next to a salt marsh in a temperate climate. Several vole species live in the marshes, and breed from March to October. The loss of even one key predator in a specific area means that voles can breed more quickly. Also, populations tend to peak every three to five years, thus my garden was overrun this year.  

Monday, March 5, 2018

New Color Combinations in Plicatas 2

Editor’s Note: In recent blogs, Bryce Williamson wrote how the first good pink plicata, April Melody (Iris Stories: April Melody and Iris Stories: April Melody 2), expanded the range of colors in that group. Today’s hybridizers  have been  combining plicata patterns with other tall bearded iris patterns, taking plicata irises in new and exciting directions. Keith Keppel here shares a peek at some these developments in his Salem, Oregon, garden. Please remember, however, that these seedlings represent work in progress and most will not make the cut to naming and introduction based on plant growth or other factors.

By Keith Keppel

Any time the plicata pattern overlays a colored ground, there is a change in the ultimate color effect. Here in 12-103H, the blue plicata is superimposed on a yellow amoena. Note how the fall edging appears more purplish, and on the hafts, where the yellow is strongest and the blue heaviest, it takes on a reddish tone.

Pattern of plicata, pattern of ground, plus color of pattern, color of ground. So many possible combinations! This is what makes breeding plicatas so much fun:  a row of seedlings is a floral kaleidoscope.

Image by Brad Collins

Twenty-plus years ago we began to see an influx of "gilt edge" standards on darker colors. (Think....Slovak Prince, etc.) The edges are now also on plicatas. 11-75A is an example. Complicated pedigree, but the pollen parent is a sib to Mixed Signals, thus goes back to Reckless Abandon which is a good source for the trait.

Image by Brad Collins

 We've had interesting style arms on plics before, such as very dark blue on blue to purple plicatas, but now, some different color combinations are beginning to show up.    This is 12-99D, from a complicated pedigree including Ink Pattern and Reckless Abandon as grandparents, otherwise all numbered seedlings.   With styles like these, you almost don't mind if the standards don't stay closed!

Image by Barry Blyth

Another variation in ground color patterning -- 14-34B, from ((Drama Queen x Tuscan Summer) X Vista Point):

Image by Brad Collins

A puny first-year plant which will probably never amount to much.....but love the pattern and colors! The ground color fall spot is fun, plus the wild markings. Somehow makes me think of a witch doctor's mask.

Image by by Brad Collins

08-14A, Drama Queen X Tuscan Summer. Another with colored "blot" in the falls. Actually there is also a yellow band on the fall, combining with violet to give the oxblood red marginal band.

Image by Brad Collins

A Cosmic Voyage seedling, 14-38C.   A somewhat more subdued spot, surrounded by cream rather than white ground, and obscured as well as upstaged by the dark anthocyanin patterning. An increasing number of similar ground patterns are beginning to occur, often overlooked unless you specifically search for them. In a lightly plic-marked flower the blot would be far more obvious.

Image by Barry Blyth

Beware: a pretty flower picture does not guarantee a desirable garden plant. It's like going to an auto show: we're immediately drawn to the flashiest colored, stylishly made new models, but before putting in an order for one straight off the assembly line, we need to ask a few questions, and the same applies to irises. How many miles per gallon (how many flowers per season)? Does it perform well under varying road conditions (does it prosper in the garden when stressed during differing weather situations)? What about design flaws like impaired visibility, premature air bag deployment (poor substance, weak stems)? A glamour shot of a single flower does not tell the whole story.

This is an unmarked 12-97 series seedling involving Reckless Abandon, Sorbonne, Class Ring, and unnumbered seedlings

Image by Barry Blyth

And finally, adding a touch of pumpkin:  14-35B, from  ((Barbados x 07-204P) X Cosmic Voyage):

Image by Brad Collins