Monday, October 28, 2019

On the Road Again: The Keppel Garden

By Bryce Williamson

My second stop on the 2019 tour of iris gardens in Oregon and Washington was the garden of Keith Keppel in Salem. For many years, Keith Keppel’s garden in Stockton was a must visit destination. With his retirement from the US post office, Keith made the huge move to Salem, Oregon. While he was in California, it was easy to visit the garden several times during bloom season, but it is not so easy now with the added distance. The last few years I have made it up to Oregon—part of this On the Road Again saga—and I especially was interested in seeing his progress with plicatas. In addition to that work, Keith has spent a lot of time and energy creating endless variations of dark top irises.

Considering that Keith still does all his work, he remains spry and I cannot believe the energy he has to maintain his acreage--I looked at the work involved and was ready for a nap. 

The last two years, I have made a beeline to the plicatas to see what is new and different.
Kepple 12-015-A
Keppel 13-16-E
Brass Lamp brings the dark top patterning into a new color range.
'Brass Lamp'
And taking dark tops into a totally different color range:
Fashion Event 2020
Other seedlings of interest:

Keppel 13-51-A

Keppel 13-54-A
Remare L-22-B
Keppel 12-41-G
Named varieties that I liked:

'Clean Energy'
I did not expect to like 'Dancing on Ice' and it is subtle, but has lots of personality.
'Dancing on Ice'
This was the first time to see Thomas Johnson's iris with the amazing shoulder colors.
Oddly, there has been a lack of good neglectas of late and 'Major Issue' is bold and has huge, crowd pleasing flowers.
'Major Issue'
'Ocean Liner'
'Sugar High'
Barry Blyth's 'Flauntress'
After a too short visit to the Keppel garden, it was On the Road Again, again in a shortcut that Kevin Vaughn provided to the Vaughn and Lauer gardens south of Salem.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Iris in Indiana: E.B. and Mary Williamson

by Jean Richter

Edward Bruce Williamson was born in 1877 on Marion, Indiana. His father Lent A. Williamson and an uncle founded the Wells County Bank in Bluffton, Indiana in 1888, where his father was president until 1918. His mother was Dorothea Kellerman Williamson. Bruce, as he was known to family and friends, graduated from Ohio State University in 1897, and then worked as Assistant Curator of Insects (his academic specialty) at the Carnegie Museum. He also taught high school science, and published numerous scientific articles on dragonflies, upon which (in addition to damselflies) he was a world-class authority.

He married Anna Tribolet in 1902, and the following year began working in his father's bank, first as a cashier, and then succeeding his father as president in 1918. The Williamsons had three foster daughters, Dorothea, Jane, and Mary.

E.B. Williamson (as he was known professionally), started growing irises soon after he married and obtained his home and garden in Bluffton. He began corresponding with J.N. Gerard regarding hybridizing irises, who gave him the rather astonishing advice that so many people had been breeding tall bearded iris that their potential for improvement was probably exhausted! At Gerard's suggestion, Williamson began breeding aril irises, probably the most difficult type of iris to grow in Indiana. Despite the difficulty, he was able to produce successful crosses with Iris susiana and Iris korolkowii. After a number of years, Morrison abandoned his hybridizing program with arils and gave his entire collection to hybridizer B.Y. Morrison. Charles Gersdorff, for many years the American Iris Society registrar, was impressed with some of Williamson's korolkowii hybrids and introduced them. Unfortunately, none are known to be extant today.

Williamson had a very unorthodox hybridizing method, gathering pollen from multiple cultivars, mixing the pollen in small pillboxes, and then applying the pollen to the flowers of iris  he thought would be good parents. He was assisted in this by his daughters Mary and Jane, and he sometimes also hired local schoolchildren to assist if he had particularly large numbers of flowers to hybridize.

This method produced unique seedlings of bearded iris, but was not successful with beardless iris, as usually bees had pollinated the flowers before he could get to them. One instance in which he did not use mixed pollen in a cross was one between Louisiana iris species Iris fulva and what is now called Iris brevicaulis. The resulting variety 'Dorothea Williamson' (named after his mother) was one of the first Louisiana iris hybrids, and the first bred by an American. 'Dorothea Williamson' (or its close relations) now grows semi-wild in many areas of the U.S., including places where native Louisiana iris are not found (such as the eastern seaboard).

When E.B. Williamson began to sell iris in 1918, he established a nursery named Longfield Iris Farm (named after the name of his father's house in Bluffton). Two years later he entered into a partnership with hybridizer Paul Cook, who would later become one of the world's most distinguished hybridizers himself.

E.B. Williamson's fame as an iris hybridizer came not from aril or Louisiana iris, however, but from a tall bearded iris that radically changed course of iris development in the U.S. He made many crosses of the collected tall bearded iris 'Amas.' Of all these crosses only a few yielded pods, and only one contained a seed - the largest bearded iris seed he had ever seen. From this seed grew the plant he introduced as 'Lent A. Williamson' after his father in 1918. This iris was one of the first tetraploid iris (four sets of chromosones) produced in the U.S., and an important advancement (nearly all modern tall bearded iris are tetraploid). Many hybridizers used this iris to create their own tetraploid iris, leading to it being called the "great progenitor."

'Lent A. Williamson' (1918)
photo by Mary Hess

Williamson himself used 'Lent A. Williamson' to produce the important iris 'Dolly Madison,' which can be found in the background of a myriad of modern iris.

'Dolly Madison' (1927)
photo by Mary Hess

Below are some other excellent iris Williamson introduced during the 1920s.

'Cinnabar' (1928)
photo by Mary Hess

'Gay Hussar' (1925) originally listed as IB, now BB
photo by Mary Hess

'Rhea' (1928) pentaploid (5 sets of chromosones)!
photo by Mary Hess

While working at the bank and in his iris fields, Williamson continued to do research on dragonflies and damselflies. He named an astounding 14 new genera and 92 new dragonfly species. His contributions to entomology were recognized by having a new genus of dragonfly named Williamsonia in his honor. He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in 1928, and his bank failed in early 1929 (just before the Great Crash). Since his university position required his presence in Michigan, his daughters Mary and Jane took over the operation of Longfield Iris Farm.

E.B. Williamson was elected to the AIS board of directors in 1926, and elected vice president in 1928, a position he held until his death in 1933 after a brief illness. Longfield Iris Farm continued to introduce iris after his death. One of the best of these later introductions is 'Amigo,' a handsome and vigorous iris.

'Amigo' (1933)
photo by Mary Hess

Mary Williamson was born in 1909, and died in Bluffton in 1987. In the course of managing Longfield Iris Farm after her father died, she named, registered, and introduced a fabulous white and purple iris that became a classic almost immediately: 'Wabash.' When it won the Dykes Medal in 1940 it was already one of the most popular iris in the U.S. and Canada, and is still a very popular iris today.

'Wabash' (1936)
photo by Mary Hess

The matter of the true originator of 'Wabash' (E.B. or Mary Williamson) had been a matter of some controversy over the years. However, when she wrote a history of Longfield Iris Farm, Mary named herself as its hybridizer, and when the British Iris Society awarded the Dykes Medal for 'Wabash,' it also identified her as the originator. Subsequent research has fairly unequivocally proved that Mary Williamson was the originator of 'Wabash,' and one the first women hybridizers to win the Dykes Medal.

Another of Mary's important achievements was the popularization of miniature tall bearded iris, or "table irises" as they were known at the time. While her father referred to these smaller, more delicate iris as "runts," Mary saw their potential. E.B. allowed only a few of these iris to be introduced during his lifetime, and Mary continued working with them and introduced a number of others in the 1930s and 1940s. Alice White was another major advocate of these iris, and led a campaign within the AIS to have them recognized as a distinct class. The exacting standards for this new class, now called miniature tall bearded iris, were written by White using measurements provided by Mary Williamson. The Williamson-White Medal is awarded by the AIS annually to the best miniature tall bearded iris. While the award was named for E.B Williamson and Alice White, it is perhaps more appropriate to honor Mary Williamson who did so much to popularize these iris rather than her father.

The Williamsons both had a profound effect on the development of iris in the U.S., from E.B. Williamson's breakthroughs with Louisiana iris and tall bearded iris, to Mary's Dykes Medal winner and her popularization of miniature tall bearded iris.

I am greatly indebted to the material found in Clarence Mahan's wonderful book Classic Irises and the Men and Women Who Created Them, as well as to Mary Hess for the use of her beautiful photographs.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Dykes Medals in New Zealand

By Maggie Asplet

The New Zealand Dykes Medal can be awarded every second year by the British Iris Society on the recommendation of the New Zealand Iris Society.
This medal is awarded also in the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia.  The Australasian Dykes Medal was first instituted in 1985 and allowed a medal to be awarded to New Zealand and Australian irises in successive years.  However the process of sending iris out of the country to be tested in Australia proved unworkable and as a result in 1992 the New Zealand Dykes Trial Garden system was set up.

 Frances Love holding her Dykes Medal
Picture thanks to Piki Carroll

Frances Love won the first New Zealand Dykes Medal in 1995 for the Siberian iris ‘Emma Ripeka’.  This iris is registered as 91 cm (36”) in height, with a mid-season bloom (October/November in NZ).  Standards are medium blue, style arms are sky blue and the falls are dark blue.  This is a seedling crossed with self.
It would take another 10 years before another Dykes Medal was awarded in New Zealand.

Iris 'Salute D'Amour'
Shirley Spicer first registered her iris “Salute D’Amour”, a Tall Bearded iris in 2001, and was awarded the New Zealand Dykes Medal in 2005.
This iris is described as being 84 cm (33’) in height and late season flowering (November in NZ).  The standards are light pink blush, styles arms soft coral pink and the falls are warm pink blush with soft white haft marking and a coral beard. This iris has a sweet fragrance.  Parentage is ‘Elysian Fields’ X ‘Flirtation Waltz’.
Seven years later the third Dykes Medal was awarded.

Iris 'Norma of Irwell'
Having registered his first iris in 1969, Ron Busch would have to wait until 2012 to be awarded his Dykes Medal for ‘Norma of Irwell’.
‘Norma of Irwell’ is a Tall Bearded iris first registered in 2008 and named after his wife.  It is described as being 86 cm (34”) in height, with late midseason flowering (Late October/early November).  The standards and style arms are deep purple and the falls deep violet-purple with white around the beard.  Beards are bronze tipped violet.
Finally, our fourth Dykes Medal was awarded just two years later in 2014.

Alison Nicoll holding a stem of Iris 'Atavus'
‘Atavus’ a Tall Bearded Iris bred by our very own President, Alison Nicoll, was awarded the Dykes Medal, at our Convention in Hamilton (2014).
Originally registered in 2006, ‘Atavus’ is 72 cm (28”) tall, a mid season flowering iris.  It is cream flushed lilac in the centre, style arms creams and lilac, the falls are strongly washed violet, has tan hafts and border; the beard is red.  This iris is flared with slight spicy fragrance.  Parentage is ‘Prince George’ X ‘Outrageous Fortune’.

How does our Dykes Medal System work in New Zealand?
Eligibility - Any New Zealand bred iris is to be eligible for testing.  Each enter is allocated a number, which is it knows as for the duration of the trial period.
Iris which have won the Begg Shield, McLachlan Trophy or the Lucy Delany Memorial Award should be sent to the Sykes Test Garden.
Entry – To enter plants for assessment send 1 preferably 2 rhizomes to each Dykes Test Garden.  No more than three different iris per breeder will be permitted in one cycle.
Judging – In the first year the iris will be allowed to settle and will not be judged.  In the following two seasons they will be judged by a panel of three judges which must include a senior judge, co-opted by the Director of each garden.  This may require several visits over the bloom season.
A copy of the judging papers is sent by each Test Garden Director at the end of each season’s judging to the Test Garden Co-ordinator for collating.  The average of the two seasons judging of each trail plant will be used to determine its performance in each of the Test Gardens.  The co-ordinator will then average the best two results from the three test gardens to determine the final number of points of each plant.
Growers will be given the results of their iris from the first year of judging on application to the co-ordinator.  Points are not published.
An iris which receives 70 points is eligible for an Honourable Mention; 75 points for an Award of Merit.
A Dykes Medal winner should receive 80 points or more.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Louisiana Iris Names - Where did the hybridizer find that name?

By Ron Killingsworth and Patrick O'Connor

Where, oh where, did that name originate?

Iris names have always intrigued me.  Some names are easy to figure out.  Others defy reason.

Another interesting subject is people's names.  Where in the world did the parents get the name they stuck on that poor child?  Have you often wondered that?  That subject could quickly get me into trouble, so I will refrain from writing about the origins of people's names.

I am limiting my discussion of iris names to only Louisiana iris names.  There is much that could be said about the names of other species of irises.

'Adell Tingle'

It is only fair that I start with some names I have “stuck” on irises.  My first attempt to name an iris was a beautiful light lavender iris, that although registered by my sister, was named by me.  ‘Adell Tingle” (Hutchins, R 2006) was named for my Aunt Adell.  She loved all native plants and when we started growing Louisiana irises, she spent many days with us admiring the irises.  Her legacy as a native plant lover lives on each time I see 'Adell Tingle' growing in someone’s garden.

'Roberta Rowell'

My second iris was a lovely yellow iris and I named ‘Roberta Rowell’ (Killingsworth, R 2007) for my mother, Roberta Rowell Killingsworth, the sister of Adell Rowell Tingle.  While mother was never much of a gardener, she did love the huge beds of Louisiana irises we have and often rode the golf cart through the irises, many times knocking the irises over in the process.  Both sisters have gone to be with the Lord.

'Poogie Peets'

I think naming an iris for a person is a great way to remember them.  However, the iris I named that draws the most questions is ‘Poogie Peets’ (Killingsworth, R 2007), a light-yellow iris with green style arms that always looks like a yellow plate.  Our first grandchild was raised in our home until she was several years old.  We called her our “poogie”.  When she was small and walking, she did not like to be left alone, so when you went into a room and closed the door, she would stick her feet under the door and say, “Grampaw, can you see my peets?,” (her word for feet).  Thus, the name.  It is not an exceptional iris by “judging standards” and I have never introduced it; however, I will always cherish it because of the love I have for Lauren Payne, my first grandchild.

'Peaches in Wine' with Mary Swords DeBaillon Medal
Heather Pryor of Australia named an iris ‘Peaches in Wine’ (Pryor, H 1997) and said she used that name because it looked like peaches and wine.  A beautiful peach and red iris that won the  Mary Swords DeBaillon Medal (MSDM) in 2006, the highest award within Louisiana irises.

'Hush Money'
 ‘Hush Money’ (Dunn, Mary 1998) is one of my all-time favorite irises.  It grows shorter but still produces plenty of bud positions.  The coloring is fantastic.  Why Mary named it 'Hush Money' is not known to me, but I love the name!

'Plum Pleasing'
‘Plum Pleasing’ (Strawn, K 1993) is a very “plum looking” iris, a self, with tiny yellow signals, making it plum pleasing to anyone looking at it.

Dorman Haymon and his iris 'Longue Vue'
‘Longue Vue’ (Haymon, D 1999), a beautiful and well know white iris with a pale silver overlay, was named for Longue Vue House and Gardens.  Longue Vue is a must see if you are in New Orleans, especially in early April during the iris bloom season.  Caroline Dormon designed the Louisiana iris beds at Longue Vue and the Greater New Orleans Iris Society has increased the number of irises there and helps maintain the beds.

'Marie Dolores'
‘Marie Dolores’ (Haymon, D 1986) is a beautiful white (some think it is the “best” white Louisiana iris) named for a Mother Superior at Carmelite Covent in Lafayette, LA.

'Miss Gertie's Bonnet'
‘Miss Gertie’s Bonnet’ (Haymon, D 1999) is one of my favorite irises.  The picture does not do it justice.  It was named for Dorman Haymon’s mother -- really for the hat she wore when working in the garden.  What a great way to remember her!

'Empress Josephine'
‘Empress Josephine’ (Haymon, D 1989), a beautiful darker red violet with flashy signals, was named for Josephine Shanks.  Josephine has been actively working with and growing Louisiana irises for many years.  Dorman wanted to name an iris for her, but someone beat him to the name.  So, he asked Josephine what he could name it and she told him her mother was often called “Empress” or “Empic”, so the iris wound up being named for her and her mother.

‘Cala’ (Betzer, Ron 2008) is a beauty, cream and yellow, that Ron had to move with him, as a seedling, when he moved from CA to LA.  So, can you figure out the name?

‘Red Velvet Elvis’ (Vaughn, K 1996) was named by Kevin, who lived in Mississippi at the time, because of the many places he saw pictures of Elvis Presley painted on red velvet.  He was advised NOT to name an iris with such a name, but hey, it won the MSDM in 2005!

'Geaux Tigers'

‘Geaux Tigers’ (Vaughn, K 2009) (pronounced Go Tigers) could only be named for the LSU tigers (football).  It certainly has the LSU colors, purple and gold.

'Bayou Tiger'

‘Bayou Tiger’ (Strawn, K 1993) is another iris that must be named for the LSU tigers.  A beautiful purple and gold iris that is wanted by every LSU fan who visits the gardens here.

'Roar of the Tiger'

‘Roar of the Tiger’ (Wolford, Harry 2009) is another beautiful iris named for the LSU tigers.

'Great White Hope'

‘Great White Hope’ (Haymon, Dorman 1999) is NOT white.  This iris has raised many questions – why that name?  It has nothing to do with the color of the iris but does had to do with color.  It was named for a boxer. To learn more, go here.

'Donna Wolford'
‘Donna Wolford’ (Pryor, Heather 2004) was named for Donna Wolford, a retired school teacher and wife of Harry Wolford, both very active members of the Society for Louisiana Irises.  A beautiful iris with such eye-catching halos and scalloped edges.  Here is a picture of Donna and Heather.

Heather Pryor (left) the hybridizer with Donna Wolford, the namesake.

'C'est Si Bon'

‘C’est Si Bon’ (Taylor, John 1983) is, of course, very French (meaning ‘it is so good!”) and appropriate for a Louisiana iris because of the French influence in the southern part of that state.  It was, however, named by John Taylor of Australia!

"Circe Queen'

‘Circe Queen’ (Faith, M.D. 2006), along with several others, were named in part for the town M.D. Faith lived in, Searcy, AR.  Searcy is pronounced “Circe”.


‘Atchafalaya’ (Campbell, F 1998) (pronounced Augh chaf a lie ya – kinda like a big sneeze) is of course named for the huge Atchafalaya Basin in south Louisiana. It is a beautiful dark red violet in the cartwheel form.  It won an honorable mention and an Award of Merit.

'Big Charity'
‘Big Charity’ (O’Connor, Patrick 2005) is the popular name of a public hospital first opened in 1736 in New Orleans and destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina.  It provided care for anyone regardless of ability to pay.  It is not certain if this hospital will be re-built. To learn more, go here.

Pat O’Connor loves to name his irises after streets, bridges, waterways and things “New Orleans”.  After all, he lives in Metairie, next to New Orleans. He wrote an article for the “Fleur de Lis”, the publication of the Society for Louisiana Irises, back in 2005 about iris names.  I re-read it a few days ago and it led me to write this “blog”.  Pat agreed to share authorship since a lot of it is in his original article.

Some of Pat’s irises are ‘Prytania’, ‘Tchoupitoulas’ and ‘Frenchmen Street’, which are all names of streets in New Orleans.  You are on your own in pronouncing Tchoupitoulas and I am glad I don’t live on that street!  To learn more about some of these streets, go here.   He also named irises for ‘Gentilly’ and ‘Faubourg-St. John’ which are old neighborhoods in New Orleans.  Both flooded during hurricane Katrina with up to ten feet of water on some streets.  So, let’s look at some specific irises that Pat has named for things found in or near New Orleans.

‘Bywater’ (O’Connor, P 2005), a pale blue iris was named for an old neighborhood in New Orleans that is down river from the French Quarter just as you enter the Ninth Ward (which was almost destroyed by Katrina).

‘Nottoway’ (O’Connor, P 2005) is the white namesake of a big white plantation house upriver from New Orleans.

'Early On'
‘Early On’ (O’Connor, P 2005) is a “big early blooming thing” according to Pat.

'Highland Road'
‘Highland Road’ (O’Connor, P 2005) is “a red iris named for a picturesque road in Baton Rouge that hugs the high ground along what was the natural limit of the Mississippi flood plain before the levees were built.”

'Monkey Hill'
‘Monkey Hill’ (O’Connor, P 2005) is “a medium height red named for a huge mound of soil at Audubon Park built up so that the children of New Orleans would have some notion of what the word “mountain” might mean,” living in a city that is below sea level!

Lastly, ‘Storyville’ (O’Connor, P 2005) is “named for a famous red-light district in New Orleans dating from 1896 to 1917.  Storyville was of historical and architectural importance, with extensive documentation of life there and great local interest.  The iris is red, of course!”

Some possible iris names Pat rejected from Katrina were ‘FEMA’, ‘Katrina’ and ‘Corps of Engineers.”

To learn more about Louisiana irises, go here..

To learn more about other irises, go here..

To learn more about New Orleans, go here.

To learn more about the damage from Katrina and the re-building, go here.