Wednesday, August 29, 2018

IRISES: The Bulletin of the AIS - Summer 2018 Edition

By Andi Rivarola 

A warm welcome to those who are seeing IRISES, the Bulletin of The American iris Society for the first time. If you are a member of The American Iris Society I hope you enjoy this new issue.

The Summer issue of the AIS Bulletin is already available for online viewing and accessible via the Emembers section of the AIS website. The print copy has been mailed via the U.S. Post Office. On the cover this time, the Winner of the 2018 President's Cup, Louisiana iris 'Acadian Sky' by none other than hybridizer Joe Musacchia (R. 2017). Congratulations!

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.

Don't miss the entire line up of the 2018 Convention Award Winners, on pages 2 and 3.

Our friend, Kelly Norris received an award from the American Horticultural Society, take a look on page 9.

News from the Novelty Iris Society, Species Iris Society and others can be found on "Section Happenings," on page 12. 

News on the AIS Foundation's Ackerman Essay Winners were announced, and you can find the announcement on page 17.

Memories in writing and images of the 2018 New Orleans National Convention extensively covered in this issue on pages 20 — 26. 

Notes and images from the combined Tall Bearded Iris Society and Region 13 Spring iris tour are covered on pages 27 — 31, then on 34 — 35.

We also had an Aril Convention this year, held in Las Cruces, New Mexico beautifully covered on pages 36 — 47.

And, last but not least a very informative article called, 'Winning the Borer War," on pages 48 and 49.

Not a member of The American Iris Society? Please see our website for information about becoming one:

There's a lot more to see and read in this edition of IRISES, either in digital or print formats.

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Next Generation: Starting PCI Seeds

Kathleen Sayce, August 2018

With fall approaching, Iris seeds are ripening in the Northern Hemisphere, and seed exchanges are getting ready to distribute fresh seeds this coming winter. 

Seeds got away! Use organza bags to hold seeds until you can gather them.

Late summer is a good time to review both well-tested methods to start PCI seeds and known pitfalls that will definitely limit success. 

PCIs have tiny rhizomes and cannot be successfully shipped live around the world; shipping seed is the only way to share this iris group outside the US at this time. 

Pacifica Iris seeds naturally disperse from pods during mid to late summer. When fall rains begin in their natural growing area, those seeds start soaking up moisture, then germinate in winter to early spring. 

Nearly ready to harvest, one more week and the seeds in these Iris douglasiana x I. chrysophylla pods will be ripe and ready to harvest.

If you live on the West Coast of North America in zone 6 or warmer climates, you can put seeds in flats outside and let the weather work on the seeds directly.  Fresh seeds often germinate quickly. Older seeds may need two or three years to decide to grow. Seeds may stay viable for five to seven years. 

If you live elsewhere, where winters are colder, drier, or hotter, then a little creativity is needed. 

Cool wet winter conditions can be replicated by using a refrigerator or toilet tank to provide cold soaking. 

In the fridge, change the water daily. Use small plastic bags for each seed lot, and a small mesh strainer to catch the seeds. Turn them out into the strainer, rinse them under the tap in fresh cold water and also rinse out the bag. Use a spoon to tuck the seeds back into each bag. 

In a toilet tank, seeds go into mesh bags, and regular flushing of the tank provides clean cold water. 

Either way, let the seeds soak for 30 days, then take them out and plant in flats outside.

Pitfalls to avoid include: 
  Use warm water to soak seeds.
  Hold seeds in a location that is too dry. 
  Hold seeds where temperatures stay too warm. 
  Hold seeds where temperatures get too cold—generally colder than zone 6 or 7—but note that some species do well when held under a thick layer of snow over winter. 
  Use a soil mix that is heavy, drains poorly, and or is alkaline.
  Use containers that let roots heat up when sunny. 
Collectively, these iris seeds will decide that too dry, too warm (or hot), too cold, too wet, or too alkaline means ‘do not grow.’

Not shown:  the mesh cover for this flat, which kept the seeds well protected; ten seeds were planted, nine germinated, and eight are thriving.
As seeds germinate, they become tasty snacks for birds and rodents. Protect them! Hardware cloth covers over flats work wonders. 

When I started growing Pacifica Iris from seed, I thought I was getting old seed lots, or had the wrong soil mixtures. Nope, none of that:  I had persistent, sneaky, determined seed thieves, including voles, squirrels, jays and crows. 

All these tips, and more, can be found on SPCNI’s website at

Payne Medal 2018

The American Iris Society
The Payne Medal 2018
'Kimono Silk'

'Kimono Silk'--image by Brock Heilman

'Kimono Silk' (Bob Bauer and John Coble, R. 2008). Falls white, central dusting of bright blue between the white rays, yellow signal; style arms pure white, crests same. 'Lake Effect' X 'Frosted Pyramid'.

This medal is restricted to Japanese irises (JI). It is named in honor of W. Arlie Payne (1881-1971). W. Arlie Payne was at first interested in peonies, but in the late 1920's, he "discovered" Japanese irises. He started hybridizing Japanese in irises in 1932. Over the next three and a half decades, he raised many thousands of seedlings. One of the most exceptional aspects of his breeding program was that it was developed in the early years using only six cultivars of the Edo type. Payne took line breeding to a new level of intensity. The American Iris Society awarded Arlie Payne its coveted Hybridizers Medal in 1964. When he died at the age of 90, in 1971, he was universally revered as the world's premier breeder of Japanese irises

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

Monday, August 27, 2018

Eric Nies Medal 2018

The American Iris Society
The Eric Nies Medal 2018
‘Lemon Chiffon Pie’

'Lemon Chiffon Pie'--image by Jan Lauritzen

'Lemon Chiffon Pie' (Anna and David Cadd, R. 2006). Creamy yellow self; large gold signal blending to cream; ruffled. 'Media Luz' X 'Candle Lace'. Cadd's Beehive 2006. Honorable Mention 2010; Award of Merit 2014.

This medal is restricted to spuria irises. It is named in honor of Eric Nies (1884-1952). Eric Nies was born in Saugatuck, Michigan, but soon after Nies moved to California, he became interested in irises of all types. He obtained his first spuria irises from Jennett Dean, who operated one of the first iris specialist nurseries in the U.S. Spurias were his special interest. His first cross was with I. orientalis with 'Monspur’ He interbred seedlings from this cross, and in the second generation there was a virtual explosion of color: blue, lavender, brown, bronze and cream. During his lifetime, Nies was recognized as the foremost breeder of spuria irises in the world. Marion Walker took over his seedlings and breeding lines after he died in 1952.

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

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Morgan-Wood Medal 2018

The American Iris Society
The Morgan-Wood Medal 2018
'Miss Apple'

This medal is restricted to Siberian irises. It is named in honor of F. Cleveland Morgan (1882-1962) and Ira E. Wood (1903-1977). F. Cleveland Morgan was a pioneer Canadian breeder of Siberian irises and a founding member of AIS. Some of his magnificent cultivars still enhance gardens around the globe. Three of his best known irises are 'Caezar,' 'Caezar's Brother' and ‘Tropic Night’. Ira E. Wood, hybridized Siberian irises, but he introduced only one cultivar 'Ong's Hat.' He also served as a director of AIS and as its second vice president.

'Miss Apple'--image by Brock Heilman

Miss Apple' (Marty Schafer & Jan Sacks, 2009). Standards medium red blended with yellow; style arms medium red, some violet; falls deep, rich red blended with yellow, signal showy warm yellow (RHS 13B/C), dark widely spaced veins; slight sweet fragrance. 'Hot Sketch' sibling. Joe Pye Weed 2009. Honorable Mention 2012. Award of Merit 2014.

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

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Mary Swords DeBallion Medal 2018

The American Iris Society
The Mary Swords DeBaillon Medal 2018
'Deja Voodoo'

This medal is restricted to Louisiana (LA) irises. It is named in honor of Mary Swords DeBaillon (1888-1940). When Mary DeBaillon realized how varied Louisiana irises were and what lovely garden plants they were, she amassed the largest collection of Louisiana irises in the world. She was tireless in promoting these irises as good garden plants and in encouraging any who would listen to grow them. She gained considerable fame as a naturalist and native plant collector.

'Deja Voodoo'--image by Patrick O'Connor

'Deja Voodoo' (Patrick O'Connor, R. 2011) Seedling 08-11. LA, 32 (81 cm), Midseason bloom. Standards, falls and style arms deep purple; bright yellow arrowhead signal; lightly ruffled. 'German Coast' X 'Henry Rowlan'.

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

Friday, August 24, 2018

Mitchell Medal 2018

The American Iris Society
The Sydney B. Mitchell Medal 2018

'Pacific Tapestry'--image by Terry Aitken

'Pacific Tapestry' (J. Terry Aitken, R. 2010). Standards purple veined darker; style arms purple; falls yellow underlay, network of brown veins interspersed with brown speckling that radiates to rim; velvety. 'Bar Code' X unknown. Salmon Creek 2010. Award of Merit 2015.

This medal is restricted to Pacific Coast Native (PCN) irises. It is named in honor of Sydney B. Mitchell (1878-1951). Prof. Sydney Mitchell was an educator. He became Acting Librarian at the University of California during WW I, and later founded and became first director of the Graduate School of Librarianship at that university. He was also one of the organizers of the American Iris Society. Tom Craig wrote this of him: "Sydney looked upon plant breeding as a long term international effort in which individuals from all over the world should co-operate and add generation after generation to a real human achievement. He made me feel a real part of this and more particularly a part of a special work started by William Mohr and carried on by himself. Sydney generously gave flowers and plants of seedling for further encouragement with this work."

Mitchell was also interested in the native irises of the West Coast, and promoted them at every opportunity. He took great pride in the plantings of PCNs in his own garden. He had a large collection of various forms of I. innominata and I. douglasiana.

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

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Randolph-Perry Medal 2018

The American Iris Society
The Randolph-Perry Medal 2018

 'Take-No-Sato'--image by Brock Heilman

'Take-No-Sato' (Hiroshi Shimizu by Carol Warner, R. 2008) SPEC-X (Pseudata); 45" (114 cm), Midseason bloom. Standards white brushed and veined red violet, white rim, small; style arms and Falls white veined red violet; signal deep yellow surrounded by deep red-violet eyelash markings. Translation: "Village of Bamboo". Honorable Mention 2013. Award of Merit 2015.

This medal is restricted to interspecies irises (SPEC-X). It is named in honor of Dr. L. F. Randolph (1894-1980) and Amos Perry (1871-1953).

Dr. L. F. Randolph, or "Fitz" as he was affectionately called by his many friends and associates, Dr. Randolph was chairman of the AIS Scientific Committee from 1945 to 1956. The work he and his students Jyotirmay Mitra and Katherine Heinig did on iris chromosomes produced many published monographs and provide the basis of our scientific understanding of the genus. He conducted a number of extensive iris species collection expeditions and brought back new species and many new forms of other iris species, especially of I pumila.

Amos Perry was born into a family of English nurserymen. Perry was one of the first hybridizers to use the tetraploid irises 'Amas,' I trojana, I. mesopotamica and I cypriana. He introduced scores of new bearded cultivars, but he was more interested in Siberian irises and iris species. He probably created more new hybrid interspecies irises than any other iris breeder. His new hybrid irises often had names that indicated their species parentage, such as 'Chrysogana' (I. chrysographes x I. bulleyana); 'Tebract' (I tenax x I. bracteata); 'Longsib' (I. longipetala x I. siberica); and 'Chrysowigi' (I. chrysographes x I hartwegi.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Founders of SIGNA Medal 2018

The American Iris Society

This medal is restricted to species irises (SPEC) and is named to honor the founding members of the Species Iris Group of North American (SIGNA).

'Wildwood Willie'--image by Will Plotner

'Wildwood Willie' ( Michael Iler by Will Plotner, R. 2007) A seeding of I. milesii. Standards white veined and striped lavender; style arms dark lavender in center, white edges, dark lavender split tips, few white and lavender hairs on crest; falls white veined dark lavender and purple, red purple at end with thin white edge. Wildwood Gardens 2007. Honorable Mention 2011, Award of Merit 2014.

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 21, 2018

Mohr Medal 2018

The American Iris Society

'Sri Lanka'--image by Jeanette Graham

‘SRI LANKA’ (T.Johnson ‘10). Sri Lanka has many excellent traits including strong growth and clumps loaded with stalks having 2 branches and up to 6 buds. White standards have prominent, strong gold midribs and edges that curl back slightly to reveal yellow styles. Slightly recurved light greenish yellow falls have diffuse mid gold spots encircling soft yellow to tangerine beards.

This medal is restricted to irises of one-quarter or more aril content that do not meet the more restrictive requirements of the Clarence G. White Medal.

It is named in honor of William A. Mohr (1871-1923). About ten years before his death, Mohr began working with irises. He obtained the tetraploid Asiatic species, as well as regelia and oncocyclus irises, and communicated with other iris hybridizers such as Ellen Sturtevant and Samuel Stillman Berry. The two greatest achievements of William Mohr's hybridizing programs are probably his plicatas and his innovative and beautiful arilbreds. His great plicatas are `Los Angeles' and the iris that won the first American Dykes Medal, `San Francisco.' Mohr's most important arilbred iris is the magnificent `William Mohr.'

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

Monday, August 20, 2018

CG White Medal 2018

The American Iris Society

'Byzantine Ruby'--image by Lowell Baumuck

'Byzantine Ruby' (Lowell Baumunk, R. 2009). Standards and style arms lavender lightly veined darker; Falls. lavender, slightly more red than standards, 1½" bright maroon-red signal, darker near diffuse yellow beards. Honorable Mention 2012. Award of Merit 2015.

Since 1993, the Clarence G. White memorial medal has been awarded to the best arilbred iris with 1/2 or more aril ancestry. When Clarence G. White began his work with aril irises, little was known about the complexity of iris genetics. White assembled the largest collection of aril irises in the world, and conducted thousands of breeding experiments to obtain viable, fertile seedlings. One of his goals was to develop strong, pure Oncocylus hybrids.

The entire list of winners can be found at, the AIS Encyclopedia and later in the AIS Bulletin, IRISES. Pictures can be found at

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The 2018 Caparne-Welch Medal

The American Iris Society
The Caparne-Welch Medal 2018

'Kayla's Song'--image by Virginia Spoon

'Kayla's Song' (Donald Spoon, R. 2008). Standards lavender blue (RHS 92B); style arms same edged tan, darker at midrib; falls lavender blue, plum violet (77A) spot, darker (79B) veins; beards light lavender-blue tipped yellow orange (23A) deep in throat; slightly ruffled; slight spicy fragrance. 'Crown Of Snow' X 'My Kayla'. Winterberry 2009. Award of Merit 2015.

This medal is restricted to miniature dwarf bearded (MDB) irises. It is named in honor of William John Caparne (1855-1940) and Walter Welch (1887-1980). Caparne worked extensively breeding various dwarf iris species and was the first iris hybridizer to concentrate on smaller irises. Most of the dwarf iris cultivars grown in gardens in the first quarter of the 20th century were products of Caparne's hybridizing efforts. Walter Welch was the founder of the Dwarf Iris Society. After moving to Middlebury, Indiana, he met Paul Cook and began hybridizing irises. He shared Cook's enthusiasm for dwarf irises, and set out to develop new forms for the garden.

The World of Irises blog will be posting once a day the other 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

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Williamson-White Medal 2018

The American Iris Society
The 2018 Williamson-White Medal
'Holiday In Mexico'

'Holiday In Mexico'--image by Riley Probst

'Holiday In Mexico' (Riley Probst, R. 2011) has an early midseason bloom period. Standards and style arms bright yellow; falls flared, white ground veined bright red-purple extending to 1/8"yellow edge; beards white, yellow in throat; slight fragrance. 'Mini Wabash' X 'Welch's Reward'. Fleur de Lis 2012.

This medal is restricted to miniature tall bearded (MTB) irises. It is named in honor of E. B. Williamson (1877-1933), his daughter Mary Williamson (1909-1987) and Alice White (1886-1969). Although others had introduced irises that fit into the miniature tall bearded iris class before Williamson, he and his daughter were the first to breed them as cultivars in a distinctive class of irises. They were apparently byproducts of breeding for tall bearded irises. In the early 1950's, Alice White of Hemet, California began a crusade to gain recognition of the assets of these wonderful smaller irises. She organized table iris robins and wrote many articles for the AIS Bulletin and gardening magazines promoting their virtues.

The World of Irises blog will be posting once a day the other 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

Friday, August 17, 2018

2018 Cook-Douglas Medal Winner

 The American Iris Society
Announces the
2018 Cook-Douglas Medal Winner
‘My Cher’

This medal is restricted to standard dwarf bearded (SDB) irises. It is named in honor of Paul Cook (1891-1963) and Geddes Douglas (1902-1993). Paul Cook's work with dwarf irises was truly pioneering. His early breeding of dwarf irises led to a series of I. arenaria hybrids. He was the first to use the true I. pumila in his breeding programs, and this resulted in the introduction of the first of the great stud irises in the standard dwarf class. Geddes Douglas was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1902. Douglas's historically most important hybridizing achievements were with dwarf irises. Working with stock from Paul Cook, Douglas's crosses of I pumila with tall bearded irises created the race of irises that came to be known as 'lilliputs.'

'My Cher'--image by Paul Black

'My Cher' (Paul Black, R. 2011) flowers in the midseason to late bloom. Standards mid brassy old gold, subtle grey white textured veins, base light grey violet, darker along midrib; style arms warm white, mid yellow crests, falls large white luminata patch blending to mid violet blue becoming darker toward edge, narrow brassy old gold blended band; beards orange in throat, light orange in middle, light orange yellow at ends, hairs based white, white dart at end of beard; slight spicy fragrance. 'Trust In Dreams' X 'Astro'.

The World of Irises blog will be posting once a day the other 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

Thursday, August 16, 2018

2018 Sass Medal Winner

 The American Iris Society
Announces the
2018 Sass Medal Winner
'Cat In The Hat'

This medal is restricted to intermediate bearded (IB) irises. It is named in honor of Hans Sass (1868-1949) and Jacob Sass (1872-1945). Both of the Sass brothers bred all types of irises that would grow in Nebraska, but their early fame as hybridizers came for their work producing intermediate bearded irises. Crossing dwarf irises with tall bearded irises, they were the first American breeders to develop many new colors and forms in the intermediate class. They saw the great advantage of intermediate bearded irises on the windy prairie, and the value of a type of iris that filled out the bloom season between the early dwarf irises and the later tall bearded irises. 

'Cat In The Hat'--image by Paul Black

'Cat In The Hat' (Paul Black, R. 2009) is a late midseason to very late blooming IB. Standards medium raspberry, overall network of darker veins; style arms medium pinkish-raspberry; falls cream, very wide medium raspberry plicata band covering 2/3 of petal, medium raspberry plicata lines and dots over center 1/3 and wide stripe from end of beard to 2/3 of way down center, variable amount of markings on center; beards orange, white at end; ruffled; slight musky fragrance. Introduced by Mid-America in 2009, it won an Honorable Mention 2011 and an Award of Merit 2014.

The World of Irises blog will be posting once a day the other 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

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.