Monday, October 26, 2020

On the Road Again: Mt. Pleasant Iris Farm

By Bryce Williamson 

Taking my leave of Aitken’s Salmon Creek, I decided to head back to Highway 14 and up the Columbia River gorge to my next and final stop of the 2019 iris trek to Oregon and Washington. While looking for a good lunch spot, I drove into several of the little towns around the Columbia, found them charming, quaint, and full of interesting small shops, promising to myself that on a less pressured trip I would take time to explore. In one of those little towns, I found busy, ethnic eatery. Looking back, I cannot help but wonder if they will still be in business if and when this horrible Corona 19 pandemic ends?

After getting back on the road, I knew that when Highway 14 narrows from four lanes to two that I was getting close to Mt. Pleasant Iris Farm. Cutting to the left across the highway into the driveway, I waved to Dale, busy mowing grass, I parked as I always do, by the barn, and I first stopped to admire the changes to the nearby pond, and then went down to the garden.

The 2018 trip was highlighted by two things. I enjoyed the large clump of my ‘Jesse’s Song’ integrated into a border. I had saved the image for later use in The American Iris Society’s photo contest, but it did not place.

The second, and more exciting part of the 2019 trip was to see the new iris species ‘Azure Blue’.

Chad, in a recent exchange of emails, reports 'Azure Blue' is alive and that he was able to get seed from it this year, seed that is now planted. I don’t know where Chad Harris gets all his energy to maintain such a large garden, but it is always a treat to visit. One of these days, I will even get to the garden for Japanese iris bloom.

Because the garden is further north and located in an unusual climate pocket along the river, the tall bearded irises tend to bloom later in this garden.

'Belle Fille' 

'Blinded by the Light'

Siberian 'Pretty Polly'

Siberian 'Ships Are Sailing'

'Bingo Marker' MTB

Siberian 'Concord Crush'

'Wishes Granted'

After viewing irises, Chad, Dale, and I sat on the patio and had time for pleasant exchange of ideas and information. Dale is a county official and his insight into dynamics of the area was interesting.

As we were talking, I mentioned that since I had never driven all the way up to Bonneville Dam and that was on the agenda since I was staying at the Best Western Columbia River Inn. That in turn lead to their recommendation that I go back to the Washington side of the river to the town of Stevenson for dinner at a Mexican cantina, El Rio. To get back and forth between Washington and Oregon, it is necessary to cross the Bridge of the Gods.

Bridge of the Gods

But their strongest recommendation was that the next morning I should drive back to Portland Airport on the Oregon side of the gorge on Columbia River Highway Scenic Highway and stop and see the various waterfalls. I took their recommendations to heart and the following images are from that morning’s drive.

Vista House on the scenic highway

Little did I know when I flew home making plans for another trip in 2020, a trip that was not going to happen in these troubled times. I am cautiously hopeful that I will be able to visit next year.




Monday, October 19, 2020

Where The Wild irises Are—A New Wild Lawn

by Kathleen Sayce

Inspiration can come from unexpected directions. Last spring a friend—who lives up a valley about an hour away—sent me photos of irises flowering in the fields around her home. She was looking for plant identification, which I was pleased to supply—these are wild Iris tenax, growing in northeast Pacific County, Washington. Curiously, there are no herbarium specimens for this species in this county, but they grow wild by the thousands here all the same. 

Why was I looking for inspiration? A group of volunteers (horticulturists and ecologists) put together a planting plan for the new headquarters landscape at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, which is also in Pacific County. 

To the left, Iris tenax growing wild in a pasture, Willapa Valley, photo by Megan Martin.

This is a summer-dry climate, so getting the plants off to the right start is critical, and fall planting is the first step. 

The property has irrigation water available; a storm last week added a couple of inches of rain while putting out wildfires to the east in the Cascades, and ending the dry season. Site access was held up by delays in road rebuilding for several weeks—the new road is finally going in right now, about four weeks later than planned. 

These delays mean that instead of including images of the newly planted and seeded wild lawn, we have images of plants ready to place, and local wild Iris tenax from the nearby valley— the inspiration for this new landscape. 

To the right, a few dozen I. tenax clumps in a pasture, photo by Megan Martin.

The design goal is all native plants, low maintenance, with low watering needs, in a visually pleasing layout. Shrub borders and trees were easy to design, but the wild lawn needed a focus. Armed with new images of fields of irises and other wildflowers among grasses, we had the inspiration we needed. 

The site is being prepared right now for planting. We will plant numerous wildflowers, with an emphasis on irises, including I. tenax, I. douglasiana and a few hybrids, along with yarrow, field checkermallow, goldenrod, pearly everlasting, Douglas aster, and other perennials. Chocolate lilies, camas and Columbia lily are some of the bulbs that are native to this area.  The grass matrix will be a mix of low growing fescues, including red and Roemer’s fescues. 

Above, I. tenax growing with daisies, bracken-fern and grasses in a pasture, photo by Megan Martin. 

The wild lawn will be mown once a year, in fall, and after the first year, will not be watered in summer. Fall mowing means we will be able to collect and spread seed on the site to continue to distribute irises around the wild lawn, which covers more than 20,000 square feet. The budget did not have room for the 1000s of plants we needed, so we will start with a few hundred iris, and spread their seeds around to expand the planting. 

Above, a few pots of iris, freshly planted last spring, photo by Kelly Rupp.

There will be some spot management of blackberries and other woody perennials as the lawn settles into its new configuration, on what was formerly a farm homestead surrounded by coastal forest at the south end of Willapa Bay, Pacific County, Washington. We expect it to take about three years to settle in. 

Looking upslope at the wild lawn along the view corridor--the iris+fescue area will be near the building. Photo by Todd Wiegardt. 

Check back next year for an update on this wild lawn.

Photos for this blog were contributed by Megan Martin, Kelly Rupp and Todd Wiegardt. 


Monday, October 12, 2020

What is your favorite Louisiana Iris?

by Ron Killingsworth

When friends visit us during the bloom season for Louisiana irises, they are usually amazed at the diversity of the color and size of the flowers on Louisiana irises. After viewing thousands of irises in bloom, they never fail to ask, “Which is your favorite?”. Discounting my own introductions, it is hard to pick just one “favorite” Louisiana iris, when there are so many beautiful ones to choose from.

'Hush Money' (Mary Dunn 1998)

So, I will share some of my favorites with you. Maybe not the most favorite, but in the top ten, would be ‘Hush Money’ (Mary Dunn 98). ‘Hush Money’ won an honorable mention from the American Iris Society (AIS) in 2002. Registered as “stands cream with blue cast; falls cream, raised gold line signal” and “height 36”) does not completely describe this iris. It usually has style arms that are yellow at the top and green toward the bottom of the styles.  It has some ruffling on the falls.  The stands tend to stand up and the falls tend to have a graceful curving down to them. The foliage is never much taller than 36” and the flower is always in the right size for foliage that of that height.  The “blue cast” is very notable.  It is just a lovely small flowered iris. And, you have to love the name!

'Bajazzo' (Mary Dunn 1980)

Mary Dunn, of California, is no longer with us but she had a very productive career of hybridizing Louisiana irises.  She registered 128 Louisiana irises and won the Mary Swords Debaillion Award for ‘Monument’ (Mary Dunn 1977) in 1984.  She also won the Mary Swords Debaillion Medal (MSDM) for ‘Bajazzo’, ‘Rhett’, ‘Bayou Mystique’ and ‘Extraordinaire’. (By the way, she also registered ‘Scarlett’ so Rhett would not be lonely.) ‘Bayou Mystique’ (Mary Dunn 1988) just happens to also be one of my favorites. 

'Splitter Splatter' (D. R. Grieves 2004)

‘Splitter Splatter’ (D.R. Grieves 2004) is also one of my favorites. D. R. Grieves is a native of Kalamunda, West Australia, but interestingly, to my knowledge, was never a member of the Society for Louisiana Irises (SLI).  He probably belongs to some of the Australian iris organizations. Grieves registered 19 Louisiana irises from 2004 to present. I have never seen any of his other irises and ‘Splitter Splatter’, according to SLI records, has never been introduced in the USA. This one would probably be of interest to members of the Novelty Iris Society

'Heather Pryor' (John C. Taylor 1993)

 ‘Heather Pryor’ (John C. Taylor 1993) is also in my top ten favorites. Mr. Taylor spent a lot of time describing the iris when he registered it and the description is dead on.  It is a great garden iris and stands out in a crowd of blossoms.  The pastel colors really make it different along with the green style arms.  Taylor, of Sydney, Australia, registered 201 Louisiana irises.  The person Heather Pryor, of Australia, has also hybridized many beautiful Louisiana irises. With 153 Louisiana irises registered by 2019, she won the Mary Swords Debaillion Medal in 2004 and 2006 for ‘Peaches in Wine’ (97) and ‘Hot and Spicy’ (95) and her husband, Bernard, won the MSDM in 2016 for his ‘Blue Mountain Mist’ (2006).

'Dark Dude' (Ron Betzer 2010)

 ‘Dark Dude’ (Ron Betzer 2010) is probably my “darkest” favorite.  In fact, it is the darkest Louisiana irises I have grown and/or seen in person.  ‘Dark Dude’ won the MSDM in 2019, much deserved.  Its pod parent is ‘Bout Midnight’ (Mary Dunn 1988) (there is another Mary Dunn iris!) had been my darkest iris until Ron produced ‘Dark Dude’.

'Bout Midnight' (Mary Dunn 1988)

'Geisha Eyes' (Charles Arny 1987)

‘Geisha Eyes’ (Charles Arny 1987), an oldie but goodie is also in my top ten.  What an appropriate name! I was stationed in Okinawa for 18 months and passed through Japan several times.  Can not say I ever looked into a geisha’s eyes, but this iris has lovely “eyes”. The signal on all petals really make it stand out and it is a pleasing violet blue that holds the colors over many days.  It won an Honorable Mention in 1996 and an Award of Merit in 1999 but never progressed into the larger awards. It is of interest of me that the pod parent ‘Acadian Miss’ (Charles Arny 1980) is a beautiful white iris with green style arms while the pollen parent is ‘Valera’ (Charles Arny 1980), registered as apricot buff (and both of ‘Valera’s  parents are redish in color).  You never know what you are going to get when you cross two irises! Oh, those recessive genes!

Well, we could go on and on but that should be enough to hold your interest for at least a few minutes. Stay Safe and Stay Home. We will get over this mess.

Monday, October 5, 2020


By Sylvain Reuad

To name an iris after a real person (I think it is the same for other flowers) one must follow special rules. As part of the process, it is necessary to attach to the registration request a signed consent of the named person when she or he is alive. It was less formal in the 1920s and 1930s, and hybridizers of the time did not hesitate to pay homage to some notable or some friend or acquaintance, in particular as a gallantry to a lady! Just in the list of varieties registered by Ferdinand Cayeux, I noted 22 names of varieties dedicated to one particular lady. His colleagues Denis and Millet followed the same policy and several of their varieties bear the name of a lady of their time; they are either a few members of their family, or the wives or daughters of notables to whom they wish to pay homage. The only exception was Philippe Vilmorin, perhaps to stand out from competitors!

A large number of these varieties can still be found in specialized gardens and in the collections of a few individuals who are passionate about historic irises.

Starting with the selections of Jean-Nicolas Lémon, otherwise known as Lémon fils (son). One of the very first dedicated varieties is 'Julia Grisy', an indigo plicata on a bluish white background which is described as follows in the Annals of the Société Royale d'Horticulture de Paris in 1842: "Narrow foliage, medium flowers, petals exterior (1) wide, streaked with purplish blue, largely bordered with white ”. 

Neither the person to whom it owes its name nor this flower has survived the wear of time. This is fortunately not the case of 'Madame Chéreau' (1844) which is one of the selections of JN Lémon still present in many gardens and considered the most important iris of his lines. The Bulletin of the General Circle of Horticulture of 1845 gives a delightful and time-bound description of it: “Your Commission noticed in the seedlings of Mr. Lemon charming gains; she examined them with scrupulous care; and, wishing to describe some of them to make them known to you, she found herself embarrassed over the choice to be made since all the varieties were remarkable; nevertheless forced to rule, it opted in favor of six of them, to which a serial number was applied.

The number one was a beautiful white background, bordered with blue streaks; the outer petals roughly the same color, but the streaks do not extend to the edge; it is thus trimmed with a beautiful white ribbon which gives this flower a cheerful appearance. She is worthy of a distinguished patronage, so we called her 'Madame Chéreau'... ” Lady Chéreau was none other than the wife of the director of the Royal Horticultural Society.

Among the many selections of JN Lémon there are several varieties with ladies' names, which are now forgotten: for example,' Duchesse de Nemours' (1848),' Madame 'Rousselon' (1842), 'Amélie Mairet' (1845 ) or another celebrity, 'Victoire Lemon' (ca 1845), also called 'Madame Lémon'.

A little later, around 1860 and until the end of the century, it was the Verdier family who took up the torch for the cultivation of irises. The custom of giving a variety the name of a lady is still respected, and among the dedications of the Verdier family there is a curiosity, 'Sister Superior Albert.' There also was (one iris that we only know the name and variety, that survived to the present day), called 'Madame Louesse' (1860).

There was also one of Ferdinand Cayeux's first varieties called 'Madame Blanche Pion' (1906); it is an amber yellow variety on a purple base, perhaps extinct. But other varieties less known are:

'Jacqueline Guillot' (1924), lavender blue:

'Charlotte Millet' (1927), purple:

'Geneviève Serouge' (1932), pale blue, infused with primrose yellow:

'Madame Ulman' (1936), lilac and purple:

'Anne-Marie Berthier' (1939), white:

'Marie-Rose Martin' (1939), yellow centered in pale lilac:

There is also a rather mysterious plant, which is known only by its offspring: 'Clémentine Croutel' (ca 1925) (2).

The colleagues of Ferdinand Cayeux did not stay behind on this subject. The Millet family, such as Armand, Alexandre then Lionel, were active in the interwar period. They were the creators of:

'Mady Carrière' (1905), two tones of light mauve:

'Yvonne Pelletier' (1916), light orchid pink marked with yellow on the shoulders;

'Simone Vaissière' (1921), lavender blue neglecta:

'Madame Cécile Bouscant' (1923), pink orchid; 'Germaine Perthuis' (1924), luscious purple:

but their greatest achievement is certainly the famous purplish blue 'Souvenir de Mme Gaudichau' (1914).

As for Fernand Denis, missing in 1935, the SNHF bulletin of 1935 said in his obituary chronicle about him: "In a long series of years, he tried to improve the irises of the gardens by using for his hybridizations the I. Ricardi of Palestine. “ He therefore introduced tetraploid irises to France. In the area that concerns us today, we owe him, among other things:

'Mademoiselle Schwartz' (1916), lavender blue:

'Madame Chobaut' (1916), pink plicata:

'Edith Cavell' (1921), white strongly marked with yellow on the shoulders:

'Andrée Autissier' (1921), sky blue.

Many other varieties could be mentioned bearing the name of ladies recorded during those years when French irises had the reputation of being among the most beautiful in the world. If the misfortunes of the Second World War interrupted their glory, they gradually reclaimed it from the 1960s. And the tradition of giving ladies' names has continued unabated, and has spread throughout the world.

(1) The sepals of the flower are thus designated.

(2) Two descendants of 'Clémentine Croutel' are advantageously known: 'Nêne' (1928) and 'Hélios'