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.

1 comment:

  1. I can Answer the Hush Money question. Mary used the name at my suggestion since it was a quiet, yet assured iris that brought up ideas of "under the table payoffs". My Bay View Gardens introduced it.


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