Monday, June 24, 2019

The French Iris That Conquered the United States

By Sylvain Ruaud

We — almost — do not need to introduce iris 'Condottiere' (Jean Cayeux 1978) to the American public, certainly the most used French iris in hybridization around the world. It comes from the crossing 'Falbala' X ('Triton' x sowing 6507A). It displays a big flower in two tones of blue-mauve, with a red mint beard. The beard comes from one of its parents, 'Falbala' (Cayeux 1978), who carries it from its grandparents, 'Christmas Time' (Schreiner 1966), and great grandparent, 'Arctic Flame' '(Fay 1960). As for the blue-purple hue, it comes from both 'Falbala' and 'Triton' (Julander 1962), one of its 'grandparents'. Richard Cayeux, in his book The Iris, a Royal Flower explains that "Condottiere" results from "the use of 'Emma Cook' and 'Whole Cloth' for the amoena character and rose-tangerine beard transferred on blue (the pink variety being 'Tahiti Sunrise')."

'Condottiere"--image by Brock Heilman

One of the attributes of 'Condottiere' is to transmit to its descendants its two essential characteristics: the amoena model (white petals, blue sepals), and the mandarin beard. In France, the Cayeux family has extensively used 'Condottiere' in its crosses. Not only in their search for varieties "blue-white-red", but also to obtain neglectas or two-colored with red beards ('Beatrice Cherbuy' -1987 -, 'Bengal Fire' -1989 -, 'Tourbillon' -1990 - , 'Virevolte' -1990 -, 'Hortense C.' -1993 -, 'Val De Loire' -1998 -, 'Volute' -1996 -) as well as other varieties such as the unclassifiable 'Sixtine C.' -1994-, 'Starlette Rose' -1996- or 'Aliz├ęs' -1987- which did not inherit the red beard, but are certainly part of the success stories of the 1980s.

'Sixtine C'--image by Cayeux
Proof that 'Condottiere' is a leading variety has been the outstanding success it has had in the U.S. There are more than seventy varieties from its first generation. A total of eighteen U.S. hybridizers used 'Condottiere'. Let's take a tour of the main ones.

Monty Byers

Monty is without a doubt the most active of its users. He recorded eighteen of his descendants all produced from the crossing ‘Sky Hooks’ X ‘Condottiere’, which we regret not to have an image. Two varieties differ somewhat: 'Imagine That' (1989) and 'Spirit' (1986). 'Magic Kingdom' (1988) and 'Mauvelous' (1987) are among those who have had abundant offspring, notably by Tom Burseen, but the two champions of the series are 'Conjuration '(1988) ('Sky Hooks' x 'Condottiere') X 'Alpine Castle' and 'Mesmerizer' (1990) ('Sky Hooks' x' Condottiere ') X ‘Branching Out ', both honored with a Dykes Medal. These varieties add to the qualities of 'Condottiere' spurs from 'Sky Hooks'.

'Conjuration"--image by Brock Heilman
'Mesmerizer"--image by Brock Heilman
Fred Kerr

He first made crosses ('Peach Picottee' X 'Condottiere') and ('Gypsy Woman' X 'Condottiere') from which he obtained the majority of ten registered varieties. Perhaps the most successful of these is 'Age of Innocence' (1994) (Edith Wolford X Condottiere).


They often used the crossing ('Firewater' X 'Condottiere') and produced seven new irises including the pink variety 'Sentimental Rose' (2000), the variegata 'Mexican Holiday' (2004) and the surprising 'Rum is the Reason' (2017).

'Rum is the Reason'
Stan Dexter

Is the author of two crossings that brought him a lot of success: ('Leda's Lover' X 'Condottiere') and ('American Beauty' X 'Condottiere'). This resulted in five registered varieties whose distribution has remained fairly confidential.

Donald Spoon

Recorded four varieties whose pedigree have 'Condottiere'. The crossings are a little different from each other but they include several times 'Clear Day' and 'Ringo'. The amoenas 'Carrie Winter' (2011) and 'Star Lord' (2015), who are cousins, have an undeniable family likeness.

'Carrie Winter' 
Let us also mention the crossing ('Condottiere' x 'Night Edition') used by Tom Burseen four times and especially for the 'broken colors 'Holy Kosmoly' (2000). Sydney DuBose for 'Dream Machine' (1989), a red-bearded lilac; Ben Hager for 'Lark Ascending' (1996), in shades of white; Chuck Chapman with 'Artist's Palette' (2000), purple with sepals bordered with brown and his cousin 'Sargeant Preston' (2000).

'Artist's Palette'--image by Brock Heilman
A few varieties have turned tricolor, which are dear to the Cayeux family in France. This is the case of George Shoop who proposed 'French Connection' (1987) in reference to the work of his friend Jean Cayeux, or 'Regal Affair' (1989). Don Nebeker, with 'Delightsum' (1997) ventured on the same path.

With so many potential parents, the descendants are necessarily very numerous, which is why it is no exaggeration to say that 'Condottiere' has conquered America! It is a pride for the Cayeux family and the French hybridizers in general.

The World of Irises is the official blog of The American Iris Society. Now in its 99th year, The American Iris Society exists to promote all types of irises. If you wish to comment on a post, you can do so at the end of the page and the author or the editors will reply. If you wish to learn more about The American Iris Society, follow the link.

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