Monday, July 2, 2018

Developing More Color Patterns Into Rebloomers

by Ginny Spoon

'Little John' -- photo by Ginny Spoon

One of the goals of an iris hybridizer is developing new hybrids with richer colors and new color patterns. When we crossed 'Damsel' with 'Queen Dorothy' one of the results was our 'Little John'. It was a cross of a non reblooming iris with one that was a reliable rebloomer  (Queen Dorothy) in our colder zone 6. 'Damsel' is a lavender pink with a tangerine beard and has not been reported to rebloom in any zone, so that is what we call a rebloom carrier. You can see by the photo that is where 'Little John' gets its lovely color combination.  'Queen Dorothy' is a plicata and have gotten  plicatas and variegated flowers out of crosses with 'Little John'.

'Liquid Amber' -- photo by Ginny Spoon

Taking our 'Little John' and crossing it with another warm climate rebloomer, 'Lady Juliet' (zone 7), we got our reliable zone 6 rebloomer 'Liquid Amber'.  Don has long admired the West Coast hybridizer, the late  Monty Byers, who used cold climate rebloomers for crosses with the warmer zone rebloomers to develop better form and color patterns. Raymond Smith from the Midwest and Lloyd Zurbrigg from Canada and then the east coast also used this method to produce more modern cold climate rebloomers.

'Daughter of Stars' -- photo by Ginny Spoon

Our Wister Medal 'Daughter of Stars' is a good example of a cross with a cold climate rebloomer ('Clarence') by a carrier ('Mind Reader') producing not only a zone 6 rebloomer but a lovely luminata pattern as well. The lovely pink 'Vanity' by Ben Hager is another carrier that has been reported to rebloom in the warmer zones is in the parentage of many cold climate rebloomers. 'Starring' a beautiful non rebloomer by 'Daughter of Stars' produced a lovely cold climate rebloomer, 'Starring Encore'.

'Starring Encore' -- photo by Ginny Spoon

Immortality' --  photo by Ginny Spoon

Taking Midsummer's Eve X Fancy Woman (another carrier) we got BB 'Twiggy' a much better formed pink.  Both 'Twiggy' and our 'Love Goes On', both prolific rebloomers here, have produced early rebloomers with more saturated colors and more modern form. 'Love Returns' (Twiggy X Love Goes On ) is a good example. 'Midsummer's Eve' has 'Immortality' in its parentage.

 'Vanity' -- photo by Ginny Spoon

Don tried over 25 crosses of pinks with the cold climate rebloomer 'Immortality' before he finally got our BB RE 'Midsummer's Eve' While not the best form, 'Midsummer's Eve' has been the parent of many reliable and beautiful cold climate rebloomers.

 'Twiggy' -- photo by Ginny Spoon

'Love Returns' -- photo by Ginny Spoon

I have to relate a story about when 'Little John' was just a seedling. When Don was first hybridizing, and before we were married, he planted his seedlings surrounding his office of the Georgetown Observatory on the campus at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. where he taught Biology and Ecology. He also planted his excess seedlings in the Historic Colonial Farm in Accokeek, MD just across the river from Mt. Vernon. 

When the seedlings were blooming we would go and evaluate those we thought worthy of introduction. When I first saw 'Little John' it was love at first sight. We didn't have any tools with us and I wanted to take a piece home with me, but the ground was so dry that it was as hard as concrete. I would not be deterred so I took a rock and chipped out a few rhizomes and planted them in our garden in Cross Junction, Virginia. The next spring, we had a show stalk with 9 buds and perfect branching. Don said, "Get the shovel, we are going to get the rest!"

            Future introduction, reblooms in zone 6 -- photo by Ginny Spoon

This is a cross of a reblooming seedling from Daughter of Stars X Autumn Explosion. So, from a cross of a non rebloomer back in the parentage that produced a strong cold climate rebloomer, then crossed on another cold climate rebloomer, we have quit a lovely pattern and color combination on a reblooming iris.


  1. I enjoyed this blog, I find it illuminating, interesting irises mentioned, perhaps I can introduce reblooming genes into my iris breeding program one day :D

  2. The future introduction now has a name, 'Autumn Stars'. Introduction in 2019.


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