Monday, January 21, 2019

Greetings from Down Under

By Melissa and Bailey Schiller

Today marks the day that we publish our first post for the American Iris Society blog. We would like to thank the editors for offering us this opportunity to be part of the blogging team all the way from Down Under!

Smokin Heights Spring 2016
We are Melissa and Bailey Schiller, mother and son owners of Smokin Heights Nursery. We specialise in bearded iris, with a further interest in hybridizing novelties. Melissa started collecting iris about 25 years ago after acquiring 5 iris from her grandmother. The iris virus soon took a hold and it became an obsession for Melissa. She soon discovered Tempo Two Nursery and started to increase her collection.  Every Spring she would open the garden to the public and offer excess varieties for sale.

Barry, Lesley and Heidi Blyth soon became mentors to what Melissa wanted to grow and use in her own garden and to achieve in her hybridizing goals.

Bailey at the age of 13 watched on while Melissa dabbled in the iris field with replant and hybridizing, and just like that Bailey took the tweezers from Melissa’s hand and started doing his own crosses.

Bailey and Barry Blyth back in  Spring 2013 at Tempo Two
The Spring of 2013 Barry invited us to Tempo Two. This was a quick day trip with a bored dad and husband in tow. We remember being so overwhelmed with the view in front of us. Being allowed into Barry’s seedling field was a soul fulfilling experience…..frantically we rushed around doing so many crosses with the little time we had. On this our first trip Barry spent only a little time with us as the Barn was open with people everywhere. Barry, Lesley and Heidi were flat out. We even met Tim Blyth this day too near the end of our visit. This is where Bailey and his photographic memory was first recognized. A very useful tool but can get annoying when he gets going. Bailey has the ability to read the pedigree of iris and remember it, as well as where it is positioned in the garden. A very useful tool for everyone who spends time with him in the iris field! This visit we met with Roland Dejoux and also Kirk Hansen.

In the spring of 2014 we were invited again to Tempo Two. We spent several extremely busy days hybridizing and spending special time with Barry, Lesley and Heidi Blyth. We were also privileged to meet and begin our friendship with Thomas Johnson and Kirk Hansen. WOW.

Thomas Johnson and Bailey in Spring 2014 at Tempo Two
This particular year Barry spent a lot of time with Bailey discussing the iris with a focal point on genetics. Over the next few months any questions that Bailey had he would email Barry. Barry and Bailey discussed everything iris related. Seedling pictures were exchanged and more discussion ensued. Bailey would offer ideas to Barry and vice versa. I think Barry got the idea pretty quickly that Bailey’s style of hybridizing was much like his own. Have a go with this to that and who knows what you will get! This rule of thumb applies to the Blyth genetics where Barry’s lines are criss crossed and then crossed together. Does that make sense?

The mentoring continues to this day but now has branched out to include Thomas Johnson, Paul Black, and Keith Keppel. We love the frivolity and guidance we receive from these gentlemen in the iris field.

We would like to finish off the blog with a couple seedlings and just a brief overview of our hybridising goals which will be continued in our next installment.

F74-1: (Chaos Theory X Fiasco)
Bailey is a lover of all things weird and whacky, and this shows in his hybridising. With a particular focus and interest in breeding novelties. F74-1 (pictured above) was his favourite seedling to have its maiden bloom in Spring 2018. Coming from two 6-falled (flat) parents is this consistently flat iris. Bailey has been working on flat iris for a few years now and this is the best to bloom thus far.

F50-4: (Blyth A117-1: involved pedigree X Boston Cream)
If you look closely at the photo of  F50-4 you will notice some white colour breaks on the falls. Very interesting to see the plicata pattern and broken colour pattern in the same bloom, neither one dominating the other. We definitely plan on exploring this further!

In our next blog we will delve deeper into our hybridizing and show everyone what we have been working on and where we would like to go with our breeding lines.

Editors' Note: Barry Blyth, along with Graeme Grosvenor and John Taylor, are the best known to the rest of the world of the Australian iris hybridizers. For many years, Mr. Blyth operated Tempo Two, but two years ago, he retired. His introductions are now listed at Mid America Gardens in Salem, Oregon. Thomas Johnson and Kirk Hansen run the business. Please note that we leave UK spelling of English words alone.

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