Monday, April 16, 2018

Spurias in Oregon - Part I

By Kevin Vaughn

2017 was not the best iris year in Oregon. Our rainy season was a VERY rainy season, with over 45” of rain from October-April. Bearded irises that appreciate dry weather were not at all happy and a bed of Pacific Coast Natives were virtually wiped out after being flooded. The spurias were another story. In spite of the rain, the bloom on the spurias was especially good and every plant bloomed almost in excess, making up for their bearded cousins.

Spuria iris seedling by Kevin Vaughn (photo by the hybridizer)

For example, several years ago I planted 8 cultivars in a bed bordering a huge Douglas fir stump, in an effort to obscure this stump. It worked like a charm and I defy you to see the stump now and there were close to 100 stalks in that very small garden.

As much as I enjoy growing irises, hybridizing is my raison d’etre. I can’t help but look at a plant and not think of a way in which to improve it. Before I left MS, I was crossing a lot with my spuria ‘Banned in Boston’. It had lots of qualities I like in a spuria as the blooms are wide and the strong striping of dark purple on the falls is very distinct. The stalk is wonderful as the blooms open nicely with no crowding and all the flowers open well. The last year in MS, I crossed ‘Banned in Boston’ with ‘Destination’ and ‘Missouri Orange’, hoping to get a spuria with the basic color of ‘Banned in Boston’ but with a large orange signal to contrast with the purple striping. These seedlings bloomed in ’13 and ’14 and were a fairly motley bunch, mostly sort of dirtied purples and bronzes. Sometimes hybridizers have to hold their noses and make a cross that doesn’t look that good to the eye, but you know has “wonderful genes”.

Spuria iris seedling by Kevin Vaughn (photo by the hybridizer)

So, I dutifully crossed the best flower from each of the two groups of ‘Banned in Boston’ X orange crosses in ’14 and ’15. Most of these seedling bloomed this spring and although I didn’t get the planned-for ‘Banned in Boston’ with orange signal, what came out was a very nice crop of brown spurias with stripes of brown on an orange background. Although most of the seedlings had striping only on the falls, a number of the seedlings also had striping on the standards as well as the falls. This pattern had occurred in some of the other colors of ‘Banned in Boston’ seedlings but it seemed especially striking on these brown over orange combinations.

To be continued on Part II...

From the Editor: This article first appeared in Spuria News, the bi-annual newsletter by the Spuria Irises Society. 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.

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