Sunday, March 31, 2019

IRISES: The Bulletin of the AIS - Spring 2019 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 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 has been mailed via the U.S. Post Office. On the cover, a beautiful iris reticulata covered in snow as it awakens from a cold season.

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.

In this issue...

A wonderful read about A Few Irises in China, by Panayoti Kelaidis, on pages 16 through 18. Oh, so many lovely images of Iris chrysographes!

On pages 20 through 22, a reprint from our blog posts called, A New Iris World, on iris hybridizers in Eastern Europe by Sylvain Ruaud from France. 

On pages 23 through 25, yet another reprint from our blog posts, this time A View from Russian on Gypsy Lord and Children, by Sergey Stroganov. 

Ready for photography tips? Find them on the article by Neil Houghton called Job it Out, on pages 26 and 27.

And Maryann Schicker talks about Iris Identification Made Easy and Enjoyable, on pages 28 and 29.

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!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Diversity of Color in Louisiana Irises - White irises

by Ron Killingsworth

"The name Iris is derived from a Greek word meaning "rainbow" and is a fitting name for this beautiful family of flowers." (The Louisiana Iris - The History and Culture of Five Native American Species and their Hybrids, an official publication of the Society for Louisiana Irises.)

The pigments of the iris petals create the brilliant colors of irises.  There are many articles and books written on this subject, so feel free to "google" it and learn as much as you desire.  Our discussion today is simply about the wide range of colors to be found in this group of irises.

The color range of Louisiana irises had been greatly expanded by more than 75 years of hybridizing.

This time we will look at the wide variety of shapes and sizes in white Louisiana irises.  White irises must have good substance in order to withstand "washing out" in the hot Louisiana sun.  There are still quite a few white Louisiana irises to be found in the native habitat, especially in south Louisiana, and most likely in the species i.giganticaerulea.

In other postings we discussed other flower colors to be found in Louisiana irises.  Today we look at some of the white Louisiana irises.  Again, different people see color in different ways so you may not find all these irises to be what you consider as "white". Without further discussion, let us jump right into examining some fine examples of white Louisiana irises.
'Acadian Miss' by Charles Arny, 1980.
This is one of the first Louisiana irises to exhibit some ruffling on the edges.  The very first iris to show ruffling was 'Charlie's Michele' (Arny 1969) which was a rose colored iris.  'Charlie's Michele' was the pod parent of 'Clara Goula' (Arny 1975) and the ruffling is quite nice on 'Clara Goula'.  'Clara Goula' was the pollen parent for 'Acadian Miss' and passed some of the ruffling on toe this iris. It is distinguished for other white irises by the ruffling and the bold green style arms.

'Circe Miss' by M. D. Faith 2005
'Circe Miss' resembles 'Acadian Miss' but there is a difference in the two irises.  This one does not have as much ruffling and the signals are somewhat different.

'Clara Goula'
This is not a great picture of 'Clara Goula' and again you can see the resemblance of the progeny.

'Cotton Plantation' by Mary Dunn 1994
This is an example of a bloom that has recently opened.  Below is an example of blooms that are a few days old and you can see how the petals re-curve somewhat in the picture below.

'Cotton Plantation'
If you have even been in a cotton field just before picking time, the cotton bolls do resemble this iris.

'Danza' by J. C. Taylor 1986
This iris tends to be more "light yellow" when first opened but fades to a pleasing white that can stand up to hot weather.

'Dural White Butterfly' by J. C. Taylor 1989
This is one of the "famous" white irises and it has been used in many hybridizing attempts/successes.  It is registered as "White self", no further description.  Again you can see the characteristics of the parents back to 'Charlie's Michele'.

'Her Highness' by Levingston 1957
This is a collected i.giganticaerulea alba and is one of my favorite white irises in the old open form.  We have a huge patch of this iris and it puts on quite a show every year.  It won the Mary Swords DeBallion Award in 1959, the highest award most Louisiana irises will ever win.

'Ice Angel' by A. Faggard 1988
Registered as "white, diamond dusted icy blue" and a great description of this iris, another of my favorites.  When it first opens, the area near the style arms dust in fact have a dusted icy look.  The pinkish blush also sets it apart for other white irises.

'Ice Magic' by J. C. Taylor 1991
A lot of Taylor's white irises have 'Helen Naish' (J. C. Taylor 1979) as one of the parents (pollen parent in this case).  'Helen Naish' has 'Clara Goula' as the pod parent.

'Inez Conger' (Charles Arny, 1973)
The real Inez Conger lived in Arcadia, LA, and raised many irises back in the 1950-70 time frame.  Her son, Sidney Conger, hybridized many Louisiana irises.  This one is registered as "white self, large orange signal" as if you paid the registration fee based on the number of words in the description!

'Lime and Soda' by Peter Jackson 2010
It is registered as "stands and falls soft lemon".  Perhaps this is a picture of a bloom a few days old and has faded to a pleasing white with a yellow blush.  I bet you could trace the parentage back to one of the famous white irises.

'Longue Vue' by Dorman Haymon 1999
Dorman named this iris for Longue Vue Home and Gardens in New Orleans.  It has 'Dural White Butterfly' for the pollen parent.  This is one of the most well know white Louisiana irises.

'Longue Vue'
Another nice picture of 'Longue Vue'.

'Marie Dolores' by Dorman Haymon 1986
Another fine example of a white Louisiana iris, this one with cream colored style arms and nice signals.  The registration says it has "pronounced sweet fragrance" but I have seldom found a Louisiana iris with fragrance.  I must check it out next year if I can simply remember to do so!

'Miranda Leigh' by Rusty Ostheimer McSparrin 2001
A very nice white iris that won the Caillet Cup in 2009.  It grows pretty short for me but really puts on a show during bloom season.

'Monument' by Mary Dunn 1977
The pod parent is 'Charlie's Michele' and the pollen parent is 'Ila Nunn' (Arny 1967), a pretty light yellow, registered as white, which I assume pleasingly fades to white.

'Starlite Starbrite' by Marvin Granger 1985
No, I did not misspell the name.  Marvin hybridized quite a few of the "cartwheel" form and this is by far one of my favorites.  It will win you a nice ribbon on the show table. It has all falls and no stands.

"Sylvarena' by Jeff Weeks 2010
A very nice iris that will catch you eye during bloom season.  It has 'Exquisite Lady' (A. Owen, 1986) as the pod and pollen parents.  'Exquisite Lady' has a silver rim (halo) on the stands and falls but I see that did not get passed to the progeny.

'Texas Toast' by Joe Mertzweiller, registered by Marie Caillet in 2005 after Joe's death.  It is a tetraploid registered as "cream" but fading to white.

To learn more about Louisiana irises, visit their website here. 
To learn more about all irises, visit the American Iris Society

Monday, March 18, 2019

Eastern Europe: A New Iris World

By Sylvain Ruaud

Until the 1990s the world of iris was limited to Western Europe, North America, and the two major islands of Oceania. At that time, iris lovers in these countries were not interested in the rest of the world, and the belief was that the rest of the world was not interested in irises. At least that's what was commonly accepted. It all changed due to the Florence International Competition in Italy, when the existence of iris interest in other parts of the globe became known.

Two major events opened the eyes of the western world, that there were irises elsewhere, and especially behind the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain.

In 1985, a variety called 'Libon' (Smid, unregistered) triumphed in Florence. This elegant variegata won over 'Cameo Wine' (Blyth, 1982) and 'Fort Apache' (Schreiner, 1982). These were irises from the great American-Australian tradition, that were accustomed to winning the awards. The second event was the victory in 1995 of 'Ikar' (Volfovitch-Moler, 1995), a variety from Uzbekistan, a country whose very existence was not known to everyone, and winning it did, in a competition that included  'Classic Look' (Schreiner, 1992) and 'Goldkist' (P. Black, 1993). At that point, iris growers knew that there was something new happening in Eastern Europe.

In the Soviet Union

In Eastern Europe, iris culture is determined by climatic conditions. In the southern areas, it is the summer heat that is not suitable for large iris (TB); in the northern states, it is the cold and wet winters that are unfavorably to good growth. The suitable area for growing irises extends roughly between the 41st and 56th parallels. This is why, for this article, I will focus on five states: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia.

Iris ‘'Libon' is from the Czech Republic. In the 1980s the problem for those who wanted to try iris hybridization was to obtain broodstock for interesting crosses. In an economy completely in shambles, it was necessary to be cunning and, most of the time, to get the rhizomes secretly, without telling others how it was obtained. This is how 'Libon' was produced, its creator Wojtech Smid made the crossing Crinkled Gem X Amigo's Guitar, two varieties dating to 1964.

At the same time a well-known scientist in the field of botany and horticulture, Milan Blazek, who practiced hybridization himself and took advantage of his contacts abroad also helped by bringing back some plants. All this was improvised, and it is quite surprising that W. Smid managed to send some varieties to Florence.

Before the collapse of the Soviet bloc, elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the iris world was non-existent. Except, it must be pointed out, in the USSR itself, where Professor Rodionenko had acquired a world-wide reputation in botany and specifically in iris botany. Some daring individuals tried to hybridize with means as limited as those available to the Czech hybrizers, and for no other purpose than to indulge themselves. For example, only after 1990 was it announced that Vitali Gordodelov, a former Red Army officer in the Caucasus in Stavropol, or Irina Driaghina of Moscow, were creating new irises.

The freedom found

The dismemberment of the Soviet Union was the occasion for the emergence of a large number of new iris hybridizers. In the Czech Republic, for example, where there has always been a nucleus of hybridizers, they were immediately organized and they even created their catalogs including the western irises they had obtained, and many skilled and inspired horticulturists appeared: Josef and Jiri Dudek, Pavel Nejedlo, and Zdenek Seidl.

'Modre Pondeli' (Seidl, 1997
These four very good hybridizers made themselves known beyond the borders of their country, as soon as they could export their production. The situation in neighboring Slovakia was about the same. But only one breeder managed to conquer the western world: Ladislaw Muska. As soon as he was able to acquire modern varieties he embarked on a highly developed hybridization program. His varieties appeared in France in the late 1990s and, moreover, have distinguished themselves in competitions organized very quickly in Eastern Europe and Russia.

'Brekeke' (Muska, 1996)
In Poland, the movement was launched by a former actor and director, Lech Komarnicki. Living in the north-west of the country, he encountered major setbacks with his irises when they were  destroyed by frost. But these difficulties did not dampened his enthusiasm and he has become an inescapable element of irisdom in his country and neighboring countries.

In Ukraine, an exceptional person was at the origin of the movement: Nina Miroshnichenko, wife of an officer of the Red Army, garrisoned in the east of the country, with rudimentary means, undertook a remarkable hybridization work. She was quickly joined by a nurseryman, Alexandr Trotskiy, whose varieties quickly joined the international level.

Sergei Loktev, extravagant and passionate character, launched the movement in Russia. He abandoned all other activities to focus on hybridization and created in twenty years nearly 800 new irises of all categories! At the same time he organized the Russian Iris Society, which  became one of his most important achievements. Many hybridizers followed his example, and thus Russia became one of the countries with the highest number of new varieties.

'Feodosiya' (Loktev, 2011)
Modern times

Today the countries of Eastern Europe and Russia constitute major centers of iris collections in the world. Some young hybridizers have become admired personalities for the quality and originality of their introductions. This is the case, in Slovakia, of Anton Mego, a hybridizer that has become known in the United States since his iris 'Slovak Prince' (2002) received a Wister Medal in 2009. A distinction as prestigious and as difficult to receive, which is a true testament to his talent.

In Poland Robert Piatek, has hybridized irises since the early 2000s, has done considerable work but unfortunately, is still poorly known outside his country. Other Polish hybridizers have followed suit. Several Ukrainian breeders, benefiting from more favorable climatic conditions, have created irises that are not yet sufficiently known elsewhere than in Ukraine. They are Igor Khorosh and Svetlana Yakovchuk. Both, with seemingly interesting varieties, seek to make themselves known abroad.

The world of iris in Russia is experiencing a real explosion. Three or four names rise above the lot. As Olga Riabykh, Vladimir Osipenko, Viktor Kolesnikov, Marina Volovik, who are among the best known. However, it seems that these hybridizers have difficulty marketing their products outside their country of origin. Some of the issues could be due to the current state of international political conflicts.

'Grinoy Dozhd' (Riabykh, 2015)
Some other breeders also deserve to be recognized: Izidor Golob, in Slovenia, who works quietly in his small country; Laimonis Zakis in Lithuania, a maverick, who creates irises comparable to those elsewhere in the world, but refuses to register them and does not intend to make himself known outside his home.

Some examples:

'Fioletovy Nizkorosly' (Driaghina, 1996)

'Solovinaya Noch' (Miroshnichenko, not registered)

'Horské Oko' (Mego,2015)

'Etsitu' (Piatek, 2015)

'Sertse Okeanu'(Khorosh, 2007)

By spreading throughout Eastern Europe, the cultivation of irises has entered a new field. We can only rejoice at this expansion. But it must be said that irises still have many parts of the globe to conquer.

Editor's Note: Sylvain Ruaud is a well known iris authority in Europe, keeping up with iris news and events in that part of the world. He writes about gardens and irises on his French blog  Irisenlige  and this is his second posts for us. In future posts, he will continue to update us about the world of irises in Europe. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Well of Zamzam and Another Side of the Spuria Named Wadi Zem Zem

By Anna Cadd

You never know what you will learn in your lifetime! After posting the original article in the Spuria News and AIS Blog about the Spuria iris named Wadi Zem Zem, AIS-past president Jim Morris mentioned that maybe my suggestion of the name Wadi Zem Zem has the different source. This is a most fascinating story!

Spuria iris 'Wadi ZemZem'

Wadi Zem Zem was registered by Carl Milliken in 1943 and introduced in 1945 with a short description in his 1945 catalog: "WADI ZEM ZEM (Milliken) - A clear cream-colored spuria,

remarkably large in size and of excellent- shape. The rounded spreading falls are two inches or more in width, the standards are erect and open. Height 4 feet. Stock is very limited. $7.50."

Carl Milliken re-introduced this Spuria one more time in 1953 as seen in his catalogue, with a photo of Wadi Zem Zem on the front cover and two drawings of Arabs; one drinking from a spring and the other sitting on a horse looking at the ravine. Under the drinking Arab the name Wadi Zem Zem
with reference to page 19.

Page 19 of the catalogue contains another description of Wadi Zem Zem between 18 different Spurias: "WADI ZEM ZEM (Milliken) A beautiful large cream colored Spuria. The rounded spreading falls are two inches or more in width. The standards are erect and open. We think this is the finest Spuria. 4 ft. See illustration at the top of page, as well as on the front cover. $2.50."

(Note the price change from $7.50 in 1945 to $2.50 in 1953. The customer would also be able to buy the "BUTTERFLY COLLECTION: 'Azure Dawn' or 'Mt. Wilson', 'Gold Nugget' or 'Monniere', 'Pastoral Russet', 'Flame Saugatuck' or 'Fifth Symphony', 'Wadi Zem Zem' or 'Two Opals'; 6 plants, one of a kind. Be sure to send $5 00 when indicate your selections!").
Carl Milliken 

It is interesting to look at page two of the 1953 Milliken catalogue: "This year we have devoted our front cover to the loveliest of all Spuria Iris, the incomparable 'Wadi Zem Zem'. The photograph itself shows 'Wadi Zem Zem' growing in the group and demonstrates well the stately height of the plants and flower stalks compared with the normal bearded iris plants in the foreground.

Milliken Gardens catalog

When we named this fine flower we selected a locality in the Levant whence its ancestors might well have come, and our artist has composed this scene for you. A wadi, as you know, is a dry wash or ravine in the terminology of North Africa and Asia Minor. But Zem Zem is not normally a part of our knowledge. It is a spring at Mecca, which Mohammedans believe was created by Allah, to slake the thirst of Ishmael and Hagar when they were driven into the wilderness by Abraham.

Wadi Zem Zem is the first and only Spuria Iris to receive an Award of Merit from the American Iris Society; it has had most flattering attention in magazine articles recently, as well. Its fame is worldwide and we have even made shipments to Africa where it far surpasses the indigenous varieties. For further information and the close-up view of the bloom, please turn to page 19."

Milliken Garden catalog description

In the fall of 2018 when I was writing my first article about the Spuria Wadi Zem Zem, I didn't know about Carl Milliken’s catalogues from 1945 and 1953, where he really introduced Wadi Zem Zem to wider distribution. Milliken in his catalogue (on page 2) points to a different source of the name, but a Google search reveals that the name of the Holy Spring is Zamzam (pronounced it Zemzem).

The main purpose of my first article was to show that Wadi Zem Zem is in the pedigree of most introduced Spuria varieties, and the name fascinated me enough that I assumed a different line of thought for the origin of the name. There is the confusion regarding the name, which probably confused Mr. Milliken and me equally. As I wrote in my previous article, there is a geographical location with the name of Wadi Zem Zem (Uadi Zemzem). It is a wadi (ravine) in Libya and at an elevation of 26 meters above sea level at 31°24'0" N and 15°16'60" E. This location was made famous because of the British soldier Keith Douglas. He wrote the small book "Alamein to Zem Zem", which is a military memoir of the Western Desert campaign of World War II. El Alamein is a small town in Egypt on the Mediterranean Sea, 66 miles from Alexandria and 149 miles from Cairo. Zem Zem is in Libya and where the story ends.

I thought that maybe Mr. Milliken heard about the battle at Wadi Zem Zem and the young British poet-soldier, who sought to write about the sacrifices of soldiers from all nations and named his new Spuria to pay tribute to those who fought evil. But apparently I was wrong.

British soldier Keith Douglas

The problem is that as Milliken wrote in his 1953 catalogue: "It is a spring at Mecca, which Mohammedans believe was created by Allah, to slake the thirst of Ishmael and Hagar when they were driven into the wilderness by Abraham."

An internet search reveals: "The Well of Zamzam is a well located within the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 66 ft east of the Kabah, the holiest place in Islam. According to Islamic mythology, it is a miraculously generated source of water from God, which sprang thousands of years ago when Ibrahim's infant Ishmael was left with his mother Hajar in the desert. She was desperately seeking water but she could not find any, as Mecca is located in a hot dry valley with few sources of water. Getting thirstier by the second, the infant Ishmael scraped the land with his feet, where suddenly water sprang out."

The correct name of the wells is Zamzam. The wells are located in the hot dry valley and not the ravine - wadi in Lybia. Wadi Zem Zem in Libya is located 2200 miles from wells in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Interesting, that two different locations share a very similar name. We will probably never know where Milliken learned about this place and if his intention was to memorialize the holy wells in Mecca or, as I assumed, to memorialize the battlefield in Libya. I was wrong with my assumption of the origin of the name, but it was Mr. Milliken who named his famous Spuria with the wrong name location! But on the other hand, we tend to underestimate the "old folks," especially when they talk about seasonal water ravines and Holy Springs in one breath!

The mystery behind this name probably will never be solved. It was fun learning all this information and perhaps some readers will also like the additional information!

Note: This article first appeared on the Spring issue of Spuria News. Published with permission from the Spuria Iris Society.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Irises vs. Mother Nature

By Bonnie J Nichols (Dallas, Texas)

There is always a standard joke in Texas:  “If you don’t like the weather – just wait a minute and it will drastically change.”  I really wish that statement was a joke; however, gardening in Texas (particularly iris gardening) is a challenge for us.

By RC Designer from Flickr

Our big challenge is that our weather has so many fluctuations, the irises remain in a confused state.  I hear iris gardeners from other states say “this has or has not been a normal iris bloom year”.   I’m not sure what “normal” for us is.

Gardening in Texas (and maybe throughout the south) issues include:
·       We do not encourage iris re-bloom because we have two choices.  If we continue to water the irises when the soil gets dry, we encourage bacterial rot because of our high humidity.  If we do not water in the summer when there is zero rain in July and August, we discourage re-bloom.
·       The second problem we face is in winter is that our ground does not freeze or have a constant cold temperature.  For instance, we experience 60-70 degree days and 30-40 degree days in January and February that bring early iris stalks that should not come until April. 

The second problem is what I would like to focus on in this article.  As I am writing, our weather forecast for the next three days is highs of mid-30 degrees and lows of 15-20 degrees.  We have early stalks on IBs and some TBs that as of tonight will be history.  We know we will lose more stalks that have not emerged from the foliage.  I have tried in years past to cover my irises with freeze cloth.  If anything, I made the situation worse because the freeze cloth kept the cold air in place.  Other iris beds that did not have the freeze cloth did better because there was air circulation. 

As dedicated iris growers as we all are……….you must look at the positive side.  The SDBs and aril breds will probably still bloom once we get to our last freeze date which is typically the third week in March.  If the TB season is a bust, the Louisiana and spuria bloom (which is much later) will be good.  Once this week of low temperatures passes, we are diligent about cutting out frozen stalks to discourage rot when the temperatures warm up.

One last note about spring and irises.  When the crocus bloom we fertilize our irises in Texas.  Crocus bloom is typically around Valentine Day.  When you apply granular fertilizer (we use 8-8-8), use caution and do not broadcast into the iris leaves.  When the rains come, the undiluted fertilizer will encourage rot.