Monday, February 17, 2020

Treasures found while attending Convention in New Zealand

By Maggie Asplet

I have been attending our Conventions here in New Zealand since 2008 and have always taken the opportunity to make sure I either meet new people, or see new things.  Basically, just to have an awesome experience.

2019 did not disappoint.  Although not entirely relating to irises, it is about people with a passion and some of the real treasures you meet in life.

Arriving in Timaru on Friday 15 November with plenty of time prior to the opening of our Convention in the evening, Kerry (member from our Gisborne group and first time attendee) and I set off walking to find a supermarket and also find where our venue was for the evening festivities.   Easy part was venue found, only a 5 minutes walk.  

That sorted, we continued in what we thought was the correct direction to find a supermarket.  Starting to doubt ourselves we stopped a nice young man who had just picked up his son from school.  After a short discussion as to where the supermarket was, he asked why we were visiting.

The very proud vege gardener 

And his young son, the budding new gardener

Well, that was the wrong thing to do (for him) as he got an ear full about our addiction and having contracted the iris virus.  From this, we learnt that this nice young man and his son also had a virus - that of growing vegetables.  He said "do you want to come and see my place? It is just around the corner."  We took the opportunity to do this and then spent the next hour in his garden and looking at what you can go on the small 1,000 - 1,200 sq meter section.

All this work is in the hope that he will hold onto his title of being the best vege grower in the South Canterbury area.

As you can see, most of the back yard is covered with garden

As you can see, every space is used - lettuce growing so can be picked just as you want it

It is fair to say that this family has a virus, it maybe different from ours, but you never know because our paths crossed, maybe they will just more interest in our passion.  Oh, and we never did find the supermarket, we decided we didn't have time for that and went back to our lovely motel.

Our second treasure is actually a member of the NZ Iris Society, Michael Midgley.  He made the mistake of sitting at the back of the bus, and any of you who know me, know that is exactly where I like to sit.  So, Kerry and I got to spend two days in conversation with Michael as we traveled around the tour gardens. An absolute wealth of knowledge.

One of Michael's passions is alpine plants and growing them.  At the conclusion of the convention our trusted convention conveyor, Marilyn Rathgen  took a few of us on a 1 1/2 hour drive to his house, across some of the most beautiful country to finally end up at Lake Tekepo, the home of Michael.

Beautiful view of Lake Tekapo

And the view from Michael's house

The convention guest speakers, Gary White and Andi Rivarola were part of this rather special group to experience something just so beautiful.  The knowledge shared, the passion very noticeable and created the desire to go home and try and create a miniature alpine garden.  Still in the process of thought only ... got the tub in place but nothing done to it yet.

The group braving the weather - from left - Kerry Smith (Gisborne) Michael Midgley, Wendy Davies (Gisborne), Andy Rivarola (Frozen), Marilyn Rathgen (our tour guide) and Gary White (busy taking photos) me on the other side of this photo

Alpine Garden and how the rocks are arranged - these rocks are from the area

The plants do have name tags, just buried in the garden

Last view of the alpine garden

That evening was spent sitting around the dinner table sharing a meal, glass of wine, and plenty of talk.  Just brilliant.

I was lucky enough to bring home a couple of little alpine plants that Micheal carefully dug up - some Iris maritima and Iris sintenisii, both of which I am very pleased to say are growing and will be transplanted to my alpine garden.

Michael has registered two irises in the past - Iris 'Merel' a Siberian registered in 2000 and SPEC-X sibtosa, Iris 'tailormade tekapo'.  This was registered in 2014 after having won the Begg Shield (A NZ award) in 2013.

Iris 'Tailormade tekapo'

I would like to encourage anyone that is reading this, if you have not attended an iris convention, then you are missing out.  You just never know what you might come across.  Perhaps you will meet one of our iris treasurers.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Iris Society of Australia National Convention hosted by the South Australian Iris Society

By Mel Schiller

The National Iris Convention for Australia is going to be hosted by the South Australian Iris Society on the 22nd to the 27th of October this year!

We are hoping that you all have your sights clearly set on coming to South Australia to visit our wonderful historic homes and gardens in and around Adelaide.

The lovely Mt. Lofty Botanic Gardens will be a delight to visit and the Mt. Lofty Summit will provide a local platter lunch with panoramic views over Adelaide.

Cleland Wildlife Park will showcase Australian Marsupials such as Kangaroos, Koalas, Wallabies and Wombats, along with Dingoes, Snakes and Reptiles, and maybe an Echidna. Many of the animals can be fed by hand and petted.

Accomodation will be at the Arkaba Hotel with a variety of activities and free time throughout the 5 days of convention.

The South Australian Iris Society Show is the largest Iris Show in Australia.  This year Bailey can take credit for producing the Convention Iris Mid North Star. A lovely strong lemon scented Emma Cook patterned iris which will be for sale at the show.

Mid North Star (B Schiller 2020)
An enlightening trip up North on the bus to visit Smokin Heights and Roots ‘N’Leaves will show our visitors our wonderful country side. There is every possibility of viewing Kangaroo’s, wombats and many Eagles in their natural habitat and as an added bonus of viewing Iris in these gardens!

Travelling through the picturesque Adelaide Hills to the Jacobs house to view the Trial Garden of the South Australian Iris Society you may even have the pleasure of seeing a koala or two and plenty of native birds in their natural habitat. Other gardens will be viewed throughout this day also, David Barrington and his Pacific Cost Iris. Colleen Modra grows a selection of natives, heritage tomatoes and Iris and Frosty Flats which is a lovely lush herbaceous garden full of over 800 roses as well as many flowering bulbs and plants.

We look forward to our visitors from overseas coming to South Australia for a fun filled 5 days of gardening fun!

Monday, February 3, 2020


By Sylvain Ruaud

Italian iris hybridizers have in recent years done more interesting work, which is also the case for French hybridizers. Augusto Bianco gradually elevated his business to the rank of the most important in Europe, and has distinguished himself several times in major competitions. People like Luigi Mostosi, Roberto Marucchi, Lorena Montanari and Tiziano Dotto have been joined by young people eager to find their place in the sun. At the commercial level, several new specialized nurseries have opened up these last few years, which shows the growing appetite of Italians for iris. We will try to explain how Italy procured its current place in the world of irises.
'Mew Pizzica"--image by Augusto Bianco
At first, that is to say in the years after the second world war, Italy created a place quite original. Whilst elsewhere in the world hybridizers were becoming aware of the need to register their varieties via AIS, in Italy it wasn’t the case. Hybridization was the prerogative of some great aristocrats who saw it as a hobby that could enhance the beauty of their gardens. Their creations were hard to come by and they did not see the need to formalize their introductions via registration, so it was an activity much more for fun than scientific or even commercial. They were few, these gardeners who practiced hybridization. The first was Mary Senni, a lady of American descent who married Count Giulio Senni in 1907 and who, in the 30s to 50s, played a prominent role in public dissemination of information on the progress of iris hybridization in Europe and the United States through the articles she published in the Journal Il Giardino Fiorito. Countess Senni was in close contact with the most important breeders of the time, so that in 1931 a variety was dedicated to her by the French breeder Millet. She practiced hybridization in her Roman garden and her own varieties were favorably received by connoisseurs.

Later, several other ladies followed suit. Starting with Gina Sgaravitti. She made herself known with 'Beghina' which could be found in many European gardens. Of Venetian origin, her marriage with Teresio Sgaravitti brought her to Rome where she had to look after a large garden. Over the years, the garden became a sort of nursery, with even a catalog exclusively devoted to iris. Flaminia Goretti, wife of George Specht, dedicated her life to iris and it is thanks to her, in large part, that the Florence Iris Garden, the International Competition and the Italian Iris Society was created. Nita Radicati, wife of Stross, took part in the creation of Iris Garden of Florence and directed the Review "Il Giardino Fiorito". Together with her friend G.G. Bellia, she is behind the creation of the San Bernardino di Trana Experimental Garden, near Turin, which has since become the Giardino Botanico Rea, houses a superb collection of historical irises and has just been rehabilitated. Those who are interested in literature may know the Italian writer Italo Calvino, whose story "The Baron Perched" has toured the world. Many people do not know that his mother, Eva Mameli Calvino, made her name in the field of botany and, in particular, in the field of irises. During the 30s - 50s she devoted a large number of articles to them in the Journal Il Giardino Fiorito. She also experimented with hybridization, even sending many of her new seedlings to the new Florence Competition she helped launch. These ladies have remained very little known outside the small circle of Italian iridophiles, and this situation is largely due to the fact that, until recently, hybridization was, in Italy, considered a hobby, practiced by intellectuals and others in high society.

To make the connection between the beginning of iris hybridization and the modern period, I only see Giuseppe Giovanni Bellia, a Turinese iris lover, and a part time hybridizer. His unregistered introductions were spread from the 1960s to the 1980s with varieties that remained confidential and only present in some precious Italian collections.
The emergence of Augusto Bianco, occurred in the early 1990s when we see iris hybridization taking off.

Nevertheless, Italian varieties have long been reserved for hobbiest for their country of origin. They had trouble making themselves known beyond the Alps. My garden has for a long time been proud to have many new Bianco irises, acquired through friendly exchanges. Many of these irises were never recorded due to all kinds of reasons (fragile plants, flowers without much interest, colors fading rapidly in the sun...), but after this period the most successful iris then had a European destiny, even global. The triumph of 'Vento di Maggio' (2011) at the Florence competition in 2013 is the culmination of an already long career for Bianco, marked by solid and elegant varieties.
'Vento di Maggio'--image by Augusto Bianco
The awakening of Italy was first manifested in 1999 when 'Settimo Cielo' (V. Romoli, 1999) took the lead over the American iris 'Swingtown' in the Florentine competition.

Several other breeders have also made themselves known by collecting additional awards in the Florence competition.

Here is the list, from 1996 to 2003:

                      Antonella Affortunati : 'Samuele' ; 'Bagnolo' ; 'Battiloro' ; 'Capoliveri'
                      Mauro Bertuzzi : 'Nebbia di Romagna' ; 'Recondita Armonia' (2) ; 'Fiore di Maggio' ; 'Macedonia' ; 'Notte di Lugo' ; 'Anemico'
                      Tiziano Dotto : 'Egeo'
                      Stefano Gigli : 'San Giovanni' ; 'Castelfranco' ; 'Viola di Nuovo' ; 'Ale Viola' (2) ; 'Amico Mio' ; 'Barbablu' ; 'Tramonto' ; 'Vinaccia'
                      Roberto Marucchi : 'Libarna' ; 'Sorriso di Alice' ; 'Cheyenne my Dog' (2); 'Mattinata Fiorentina'
                      Lorena Montanari : 'Valeria Romoli' ; 'Fratello Sole' ; 'Ballerina Silhouette'
                      Luigi Mostosi : 'Citta di Bergamo' ; 'Traffic Light’
                      Stefano Paolin : 'Vymarna'
                      Valeria Romoli : 'Buongiorno Aprile' ; 'Verde Luna' ; 'Celeste Aïda' ; 'Zefiro Rosa'; 'Agrodolce' ; 'Luna Rossa'
                      Leonardo Urbinati : 'Montefiore'
                      S. Volani : 'Tabarro'
'Ballet Silhouette'--image by Christina Cosi
Since 2003, Italian breeders have expanded in numbers and established themselves well in the competition for the Fiorino d'Or

  • Mauro Bertuzzi (see above) : 'Tenue Tenerezza' ; 'Aria di Maggio'
  • Angelo Bolchi : 'Lingua di Drago' ; 'Voglio Tempo'
  •  Davide Dalla Libera : seedling DAL 758-4/7 ; seedling DAL 08-4/2 ; 'Spicy Violet' ; 'Red Surge'
  • Tiziano Dotto (see above) : 'Sara' ; 'Esabella' ; 'Baba Jaga' ; 'Almast'
  • Angelo Garanzini : 'Pietra Focaia' ; 'Anima Cara' (3) ; 'Rubizzo' ; 'Anima Triste'
  •  Simone Luconi : 'Lucomone I°' ; 'Donella G.'
  • Roberto Marucchi (see above) : seedling U 39-1
  •  Lorena Montanari (see above) : seedling 7/06 A ; 'Come un Uragano' ; 'La Vita e' Bella' ; 'Buon Compleano' ; 'Il Canto delle Sirene'
  •  Valeria Negri : 'Notte Profumata'
  •  Stefano Paolin (see above) : 'Canto del Cherubino'

For a long time, confined to their Florentine competition, the Italian breeders have only recently tried to make themselves known internationally, and their irises have been brilliantly represented elsewhere in Europe. This is how Angelo Garanzini's 'Cielo Alto' ranked second in Paris in 2015.

The long list above proves that in Italy, now, irises have reached an important level. And this is confirmed by the fact that several new nurseries have opened recently, which shows that it is not only professionals (or semi-professionals), but that the general public is also interested.
Nevertheless, it remains a good idea to suggest that all hybridizers take systematic registration of new varieties to heart, as many of the ones mentioned here have still remained in anonymity.

(1) See my previous column.

(2) Varieties receiving an additional award (1996/2012):

1997 = 'Piero Bargellini'
1998 = 'Te alla Pesca'
2000 = 'Rosa Vanitosa'
2001 = 'Marcel Hayat'
2003 = 'Bianca Micheletta';
2004 = 'Dolce Acqua'; 'Dragone'
2005 = 'Tango Bond'
2009 = 'Certosino'; 'Ci Sei';
2011 = 'Tenebroso'; 'Sahariana'

Subsequently the following varieties have been awarded:

2017 = 'Tropical Delizia'; 'Campo di Marte'; 'Rosso di Sera'
2018 = 'Mille Tre'; 'Mille Due'; 'Valdarno'; 'Long Play'.
'Long Play'--image by Augusto Bianco
(3) Winner of the "Premio Firenze"

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