Monday, July 27, 2020

To Brighten Your Day

By Melissa Schiller

Ahhhh yellow iris. Our love hate relationship continues. 

Of course this is just our personal opinion.  Talking from experiencing garden visitors to Smokin Heights many people either like the colour yellow or they strongly do not. We personally do not like the colour yellow. In saying that we do not strive to hybridize yellow; however, we have had numerous nice seedlings pop up. We know that to make a good iris it needs many things. Branching, stem proportion, buds, growth habits just to name a few attributes. We aren't that silly to pass a good iris seedling up just based on colour alone.

We also find that showing yellow iris is also extremely hard purely on the manicure of the iris for the show bench. Bugs leave all sorts of dirty damage to the bloom that can be extremely hard to clean, which for us is time consuming as we bench many iris. 

Photography can also be difficult because yellow is such a clean bright colour. It is not as easy to hide or camouflage damage like rips, holes and dirty marks from bugs as it is the darker coloured iris.
If the photo is not taken in the first day of the bloom opening the edges of the petals tend to go off colour hence the colour is slightly off not depicting the bloom at its best!

Last season we noticed which yellows were the most popular at Smokin Heights here we go:

'Irish Jester' (Blyth 2019)
Coming in at number eight is 'Irish Jester,' hybridized by Barry Blyth and introduced in 2019. This variety is a stellar grower and puts on a gorgeous display. We especially like the butterfly pattern on the haft area, a pattern that has only recently appeared in TB's.

'Woven Sunlight; (Blyth 2015)
Next up is 'Woven Sunlight,' hybridized by Barry Blyth and introduced in 2015. We have used this variety in hybridizing and is a very good parent for plicatas and luminata-plicatas.

'Only A Dream' (Blyth 2019)
In at number six is 'Only A Dream,' another hybridized by Barry Blyth an introduced in 2019. A very unusual shade of yellow makes this variety standout. It also has great stems and bloom habits.

'Bamboo Shadows' (Keppel 06)
Number five is 'Bamboo Shadows,' hybridized by Keith Keppel and introduced in 2006. We love the unusual tone of this variety, very unique. Great growth habits and stems; what else would you expect from the master Keith Keppel!

'Endless Sunshine; (Blyth 15)
Beginning the top four with 'Endless Sunshine,' hybridized by Barry Blyth and introduced in 2015. This variety has been very popular in Australia, the photo really doesn't do it justice. It's very bright and can be noticed from some distance away.

'Smart Money; (Ghio 10)
Coming in third is 'Smart Money,' hybridized by Joe Ghio and introduced in 2010. Beautiful pattern and nice clean colours, its only let down is its stems which we find aren't nicely spaced.

'Mac 'n' Cheese' (Johnson 16)
In second place is 'Mac 'n' Cheese,' hybridized by Thomas Johnson and introduced in 2016. We love everything about this Iris except for its slow growth habits. It may have even won top spot if it grew better.

'Sun Shine In' (Keppel 10)
And first place goes to 'Sun Shine In,' hybridized by Keith Keppel and introduced in 2010. Chosen for its beautiful clear colour and amazing form. It also has consistent show stems and is a fast and easy grower. We recommend this variety highly if you are looking for a new yellow Iris to add to your garden.

These placings are based on Smokin Heights personal opinion on how the plants perform when grown in our garden.

What are some of your favourite yellow hybrids? We would love to know!

We sincerely hope you are keeping well in these challenging times. We love seeing all the garden and iris photos from around the world on Facebook. Social Media is keeping us all in touch with each other and enables us to share our passion. Keep up the great work!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Hybridizing with Iris reichenbachii

by Tom Waters

Four years ago, I wrote a blog post here titled “The Untapped Potential of Iris reichenbachii”. At that time, I could comment on the use of I. reichenbachii in median breeding only as a promising theoretical possibility. Now, however, I have some solid results from my own hybridizing work to share.

As mentioned in the earlier post, I. reichenbachii exists in both diploid and tetraploid forms. The diploid forms can be used with diploid MTBs, while the tetraploid forms are compatible with TBs, BBs, and tetraploid MTBs. It was the tetraploid grouping that I was interested in, so my first priority was to acquire tetraploid forms of I. reichenbachii. Alas, none of the plants or seeds available commercially or through seed exchanges have been identified as either diploid or tetraploid, so I had to make this determination myself. Not being equipped to make chromosome counts, this meant making test crosses and patiently waiting for the results.

Happily, it turns out that the tetraploid forms are not uncommon. The first two reichenbachii forms I started crossing with both turned out to be tetraploid. One is a yellow form, a collection from Mt. Vikos in Greece. The second is actually a group of plants of unknown origin I raised from seed obtained from a collector in Czechia. Most of these are violet.
I. reichenbachii ex Mt. Vikos, Greece
Waters T009-02, purple tetraploid I. reichenbachii

Waters T051-01,
I. aphylla X I. reichenbachii ex Mt. Vikos
I have three fertile tetraploid seedlings now. The yellow Mt. Vikos form gave me seedlings with I. aphylla and with the tetraploid median plicata ‘Saucy’ (Craig, 1998, IB). One of the violet forms gave me a seedling with the tetraploid median ‘Night Mood’ (L. Markham, 2003, SPEC-X). All three of the seedlings fall in the SDB height range and have the slender stems of I. reichenbachii. None are any competition for the modern, ruffled, dramatically colored median hybrids being produced these days; rather, their value is in further breeding. Because these plants are so small and dainty, they can be used to add these qualities to tetraploid MTB or BB breeding programs. So the next step is to cross these seedlings with the best modern BBs and tetraploid MTBs. It would be nice to have all the color patterns, form, and substance the modern BBs have to offer, but in a line of plants that was consistently small and delicate. This project is already well underway, as I have hundreds of seeds from using these seedlings over the past two years.

Waters T059-02,
Saucy X I. reichenbachii ex Mt. Vikos
Waters T060-01,
Night Mood X T009-02

A second project using I. reichenbachii is directed toward producing dainty MDBs. Most modern MDBs are produced by accident - they are just seedlings from SDB crosses that fall below the 8-inch height limit. These MDBs can be very lovely in terms of flower form and color pattern, but they can easily grow out of class, and often lack the daintiness and early bloom that one hopes for in a true miniature dwarf.

SDBs are the result of crossing TBs with the dwarf species I. pumila. What if one used I. reichenbachii instead of TBs? The result should plants fully fertile with SDBs and modern MDBs, but much smaller. I have three seedlings so far (more on the way) from crossing the Mt. Vikos reichenbachii with the I. pumila cultivar ‘Royal Wonder’ (Coleman, 2013, MDB). One is purple, the other two are yellow. All our about 5 inches tall, with one or two terminal buds. They bloom earlier, overlapping the pumilas and the first MDBs. They are indeed fertile with SDBs and with MDBs from SDB breeding. Once again, the value of these seedlings is not in competing with the showiest modern hybrids, but in further breeding, where they can be expected to produce a line of consistently dainty and early-blooming MDBs. Again, this project is on its way forward, with many seeds from using these seedlings with modern MDBs and SDBs.
Waters S026-01,
I. reichenbachii ex Mt. Vikos X Royal Wonder
Waters S026-02,
I. reichenbachii ex Mt. Vikos X Royal Wonder

These projects using I. reichenbachii are not for the impatient; they are multi-generation endeavors. Yet, there is something uniquely satisfying in breaking new ground.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Classroom Iris Program: Virtual Iris Show

Something different this Monday and for the first time, we have a post with an imbedded video. Enjoy.

This Virtual Iris Show was put together by Churchill School of St. Louis County, MO.  The School has a Classroom Iris Program (CIP) sponsored by the Kirkwood Iris Society of Kirkwood, MO.  Credit goes to Jean Morris, Region 18 Youth Director, Janet Kieffer, Teacher/Tutor, Mary Brotherton, and Ellen Knubley of Churchill.

Monday, July 6, 2020

On the Road Again: Aitken’s Salmon Creek

By Bryce Williamson

At this time of year, I should have just returned from my annual Oregon/Washington trip to the iris gardens, but this year, sadly, is not normal. I am writing, instead, about my trips in 2018 and 2019 and the focus is Aitken’s Salmon Creek.

M. Smith 14-16E

Terry Aitkens showing me some of Siberian seedlings from a different bloodline.
A lilac that was almost a small tree.
Ah, if they would only grow in California...
In 2018 I was scheduled to meet my sister, her oldest daughter and family for dinner, so I went to Aitken’s last, but in 2019 I went there first since I thought I had shorted the garden the previous year. I always enjoy this garden not only for the irises—and a wide range of irises are gown there—but also for all the other flowering plant materials including Terry’s orchids.

Many of us wonder about the next generation of American hybridizers, so I was delighted to learn that Markie Smith’s grandson is now hybridizing and introducing irises.

Here are some irises and some other plants from the last two year’s visits.

Aitken 14-T-ZZA
'Black Cherry Blast'
'Cabbage Patch'
'Catching Fire'
'Soul Mate'
'Sunny Morning'
'Unconditional Love'
Some Siberians were looking good too:

'Judy, Judy, Judy'
'Lemon Blush'
'Simon Says'