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.


  1. Do you have a New Zealand or Australian Iris Society? Do members have any input and can they buy the rhizomes while the introductions are being evaluated in the test gardens? Just wondering . . . Thanks!

  2. Yes, there is the New Zealand Iris Society and also a Society in Australia.
    No, members do not have any input into the results, that is done by a panel of judges and rhizomes in grown in more than one part of the country.
    If hybridisers have their rhizomes for sale during this process, then yes you can purchase them.
    Hope this helps - Maggie


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