Monday, February 24, 2020

Some Louisiana Irises

By Ron Killingsworth

Louisiana Iris 'Adell Tingle'

The real Adell Tingle surrounded by the
irises that she loved
Adell Tingle’ (Hutchins, B 2006 LA) was the first iris we produced from hybridizing.  It was named for my mother’s sister, Aunt Adell.  Adell attended many Louisiana iris conventions and was an expert on plants native to Louisiana.  

Clump of Louisiana Iris 'Her Highness'
This picture shows a large clump of ‘Her Highness” (Levingston 1957 LA) growing near a pond we use to raise crawfish.  ‘Her Highness’ is a collected i.giganticaerulea, one of the species of Louisiana irises.

Louisiana Iris 'Fringed Gold' and others near Koi Pond
We grow Louisiana irises in dug beds, raised beds, along the edge of the lake, around the edge of ponds and mixed in with other plants.  These irises (mostly ‘Fringed Gold’ (Shepard, DL 1992 LA) are growing near the Koi pond and are watched over by two large long legged cranes. The home of my sister, Bobbie Ann (a nutritionist), and brother-in-law, Stan, is in the background.  Stan was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but when they retired (a gastroenterologist) he wanted a “southern plantation home”.  We could find the home and we could find the location, but never could find both together.  They finally bought 21 acres on Caddo Lake and built the double gallery home you see in the background.  We all call it the “Big House”.

Louisiana iris 'Fringed Gold'
 This is a closer view of ‘Fringed Gold’, one of my favorite Louisiana irises.

Iris.nelsonii - one of the species of Louisiana irises
One of the species of Louisiana iris is i.nelsonii.  This is a clump of that species growing in an area we call the “deer meadow”.

Louisiana irises growing in edge of "Crawfish Pond"
Louisiana irises love water!  These are some of my seedlings (irises grown from seeds that resulted from hybridizing two irises) that I did not think worthy of further development and planted around the edge of a pond in which we grow crawfish. Every year when they bloom I wonder why I “threw them out”.

Dutch Irises

We also grow Dutch irises, Spuria irises, 
i.pseudacorus, i.virginica and a lot of native plants.  This picture is of a purple Dutch iris in bloom.

Here in NW Louisiana we seldom have snow but are often “blessed” with freezing rain.  Next to my house is a large patch of bamboo.  Sue fights it each year as it tries to expand into her flower beds and yard.  This picture shows ice covered bamboo blocking the road to my house.

Ice covered bamboo
Seed pod from State Flower of Louisiana
Louisiana irises are the official wildflower of the State of Louisiana.  The state flower is shared with several other southern states.  I won’t tell you what the state flower is, but see if you can identify this seed pod from the state flower of Louisiana.

"Naked Ladies" -- Lycoris radiata
Spring around here is full of blooming flowers.    We also have many flowers that bloom in late fall. These fall bloomers are commonly called “naked ladies”, “surprise lilies”, “magic lilies”, “spider lilies”, etc.  The official name is Lycoris and those in this picture, the red ones, are Lycoris radiata.

Spuria irises growing between fruit trees
These are Spuria irises growing among fruit trees.

Louisiana irises in dug beds
This is a nice view of about 100 beds of Louisiana irises located near Caddo Lake and of course irrigated from the lake.

Irises and "hardy glads"
This is a view of a massive planting in what once was a part of our vegetable garden in front of my house, looking toward the Big House.  You can see the purple martin bird houses in the background and to the far left background you can see the top of the green house.

Louisiana irises in "deer meadow"
The bed of irises on the right are mostly species Louisianas and the irises on the left are mostly tetraploid Louisiana irises.  The “creek” in the background is a “water feature” and flows over several small dams and back into Caddo Lake.

Louisiana irises with Caddo Lake in background
Here is another view of Louisiana irises growing in beds with Caddo Lake and bald cypress trees in the background.

 This picture shows several different tetraploid Louisiana irises (mostly named “Professor fill in the blank”) with Caddo Lake and bald cypress trees in the background.

Mass planting of Louisiana irises in front of my house
 This is another view of a massive planting of irises in front of my house.  The Big House is in the background and purple martin "hotels" background on left.

Green house and irises
Here you see the green house, near the Koi pond, with Louisiana irises in the foreground.  The large rocks are sand stone and will be used to create a “water feature” on the side of the Koi pond.

Another group of irises near the pier.

 That’s my house in the background.  You can compare the home of a retired doctor with my home, the home of a retired US Army officer). It is very “southern” with large porches front and rear.  It is cedar sided and up on piers (off the ground).  Never build a house with a basement in Louisiana unless you want a swimming pool under your home!  ‘Hope and Glory’ (Sloan, R 2008 LA) is the iris in the middle, the tall one.

Here is another view of my home and to the right, near the tree covered with English ivy, are some of Sue’s old species Tall Bearded irises.  Since the Louisiana irises are blooming in this picture, the TB’s have probably already bloomed out.

Louisiana irises growing on edge of Caddo Lake
Louisiana irises like water.  Did I mention that?  That does not mean they will not grow with other plants, just don’t grow them with your cacti!  These irises are growing on the edge of Caddo Lake.

This is a view of Louisiana irises in the foreground with i.pseudacorus growing in the background.  The pier leads out to the boat house.

Pictured is another group of Louisiana irises, probably ‘Longue Vue’ (Haymon, D 1999 LA), with the lake and cypress trees in far background.

This pretty view shows Caddo Lake in the very back, the crawfish pond in the middle and a large group of Louisiana irises in the front.  You can see another long iris bed in the left back side of the picture.

Mixed poppies growing with Louisiana irises
 Louisiana irises grow well with other plants.  This pictures shows a large group of various poppies growing in the edge of the iris beds.

This is another view of the irises over by the Koi pond.  They seem to be happy here judging from the size of the bloom stems.  The bridge used to go across to an island in the pond but the Koi undermined the soil around the island until it became too small for the bridge to reach the island.

 The irises in the middle are several of Stan’s tetraploid seedlings.  The large marble fish is a recent addition to the Koi pond and actually “spits” water when working.  The Big House is seen in the background.

It is easy to take pictures when you have so many beautiful things to photograph.  It is hard to find an space around here in which Louisiana irises do NOT grow.

A different but pretty view of the irises with Caddo Lake in the background.

This is the third pond, the catfish pond, with irises growing around the edge.  In the background is a large planting of “Professors”, many of the tetraploid Louisiana irises named by Joe Mertzweiller, who produced many of the first Louisiana iris tetraploids and named them for his professor friends at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

I told you Louisiana irises grow well with other plants. These are mixed in with various trees and blooming shrubs.

Just a pretty picture of irises.  I can’t recall the name of this iris.  With over 500 varieties of Louisiana irises, it is difficult to recognize all of them.

"Old Cherokee" Rose blossom
Sue grows a lot of roses.  She has a pretty impressive collection of antique roses.  This one is “Old Cherokee” and has the most beautiful bloom in the spring.  It is a climbing rose and when the petals fall off, they cover the ground like snow.  I think the bloom resembles the bloom of the dogwood tree.

Louisiana iris 'Our Friend Harry' in middle
 I had to have at least one of my irises in these pictures.  This picture of ‘Our Friend Harry’ (Killingsworth, R 2011 LA) was taken by the Koi pond.  I don’t recall the name of the iris on the right.

"Pink Cascade" peach tree
 My sister has planted many different fruit trees around the property.  ‘Pink Cascade’ is one of the varieties of peach tree that produces a beautiful bloom in the spring.

Large poppy blossoms
 We also have quite a few of these large poppies that return each year.  This is the “pink one” and we have another one the same size, but a double, and a more purple one.  We obtained the seeds for these from Marie Caillet of Little Elm, TX.  Marie is no longer with us but each time we see these poppies in the Spring, we are reminded of how much we miss her!

Louisiana iris 'Professor Marta Marie' - a tetraploid
‘Professor Marta Marie’ (Mertzweiller, J 1990 LA) is one of the tetraploid Louisiana irises.  Professor Mertzweiller named most of this first crop of his tetraploid irises for his fellow professors and workers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.  This one was named for Marta Marie Caillet, who worked and taught in the same department.

The older form of the Louisiana irises remains a favorite to me.  I really like it when the “stands” stand up and the “falls” fall down.  This form is common in the species.  I can’t recall the name of this one but it resembles ‘Dorothea K. Williamson’ (Williamson, E 1918 LA), a cross between i.fulva and i.brevicaulis.

Louisiana iris 'Red Velvet Elvis'
Kevin Vaughn of Salem, OR, lived most of his life in MS and is a well known “weed scientist”.  He hybridized this iris, ‘Red Velvet Elvis’ (Vaughn, K 1996 LA) which won the Mary Swords DeBaillion Medal (MSDM) in 2005.  The MSDM is the highest award for a Louisiana Iris and is awarded by votes from the official American Iris Society (AIS) ballot voted by AIS judges each year.  This was taken by the Koi pond.

As I said previously, we seldom get snow here in NW LA but last year it snowed twice.  This picture, however, was taken after a really heavy sleet storm in February 2015.  The commercial nursery is located on property that was once a summer camp for underprivileged children run by the YMCA.  The cabins in the background were once two girls cabins and two boys cabins.  They are now used for different purposes. You can see the purple martin “hotel” in the right center.  This is the vegetable garden with massive plantings of Louisiana irises to the left.

Spring bloom is always a wonderful time of the year and this shows blooming shrubs and trees in front of the Big House.

My wife, Sue has her own collection of flowers and roses.  This shows some of her roses beside the house with several old species Tall Bearded irises getting ready to bloom.

"Naked Ladies" have a very interesting blossom
 The “surprise lilies” or “naked ladies” are really amazing flowers.  They put out a bloom stalk and bloom and then later the foliage appears.  This close up picture shows the details of the amazing bloom.
Tall Bearded iris 'Royal Invitation'
This part of the country does not lend itself to growing Tall Bearded irises.  It is simply too hot and we have too much rain to please this species of irises.  Sue does manage to grow quite a few Tall Bearded irises by covering the beds with raised plastic sheets during the spring downpours.  This is a picture of ‘Royal Invitation’ (Nichols, H 2009 TB).

Louisiana Iris 'Kristi G'
‘Kristi G’ (Mertzweiller, J 1985 LA) is one of the best “garden” irises we grow.  It is very hardy and has tremendous increase each year.

Sometimes an iris will get an extra burst of growth and stick its head up out of the clump.  This one caught my eye and I just thought it made a nice picture.  There are many beautiful yellow Louisiana irises but I failed to note the name of this one.

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.