Monday, April 25, 2022

BEFORE THE WAR: Irises in Ukraine

By Sylvain Ruaud

During the time of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, 1922–1991), it was difficult to share information about the cultivation of irises. In some countries, public authorities did not encourage this kind of leisure activity. A lot of energy and astuteness were required to obtain Western varieties and carry out crosses. Also, the cold continental climate of Russia is not very favorable to the culture of iris. Hybridizing irises in these conditions was not an easy task. Attempts were hardly conceivable except in the southern areas (now Ukraine and Kazakhstan), and it was in these regions where iris hybridization was practiced by some daring people.

Nina Miroshnichenko, in Jytomyr, west of Kiev, was the first of them. We do not know how she obtained the American or European varieties she used for crosses. Although Nina didn't have many, she knew how to use them. Between 1970 and 1980, we learned that Ukraine could be a land of irises. As soon as the Iron Curtain disappeared, Ukrainians enthusiastically embarked on hybridization in less favorable climatic conditions. Some Russians did exactly the same, to the point of putting their nation in the forefront for the number of creations each year. This beautiful adventure has continued since the beginning of the 21st century and Ukraine has developed closer ties to the countries of the European Union but the magnitude of contributions is not regularly discussed in the West. As the spotlight shines on the iniquity and horror of what is happening in this country, we can take a look at the culture and hybridization of irises in Ukraine and the different actors.

'Solovinaya Noch' (Miroshnichenko, ca.2007) 
Translation: Nightingale Night

 In the list of hybridizers published in the Iris Encyclopedia I found at least twelve names of Ukrainians who were active at the time of the war that concerns us all. Most of them operated around Kyiv or in the western part of Ukraine, the part most oriented towards the West.

 The oldest is certainly Alexander Trotsky, from Mikolayiv, a large city northeast of Odessa. He was succeeded by his son Mikhailo. Between them, they have registered about 70 varieties, mainly tall bearded irises, between 2000 and 2020, like the very nice soft blue 'Nebsnaya Pesnia' (2012).

'Nebsnaya Pesnia' (A. Trotsky, 2012)
Translation: Heavenly Song

 It is mainly since the independence of their country that Ukrainians have taken a passion for iridophily. Since that time, several amateurs have tried their hand at hybridization; such as the following:

Marija Konovalenko, near Kyiv, with about 30 tall bearded irises of very classical workmanship, such as 'Kniazhyi Grad' (2018).

'Kniazhyi Grad' (Konovalenko, 2018) 
Translation: Book Graduate

Gennadi Mamchenko, near Chernyiv, northeast of Kyiv, (see 'Zupyny Posmishku', 2012).

'Zupyny Posmishku' (Mamchenko, 2012)
Translation: Stop Smiling

Volodymyr Vasyliev, near Mikolayiv, (see the original 'Boginya Solntsa',2020).

'Boginya Solntsa' (Vasyliev, 2020)
Translation: Goddess of the Sun

Borys Pravdyvy, from Kyiv, rather specialized in standard dwarf bearded irises but whose tall bearded plicata 'Sharada' (2012) is one of the most appreciated varieties in his country.

'Sharada' (Pravdyvy, 2012) 
Translation: Charade

Some others became professionals, as follows:

Svitlana and Vladimir Yakovchuk live near the town of Soumy, near the Russian-Ukrainian border, one of the first to be invaded. They created a large number of varietiesincluding standard dwarf bearded, intermediate bearded, and tall beardedwhich they market themselves. For example, the yellow 'Gilka Zolota' (2010) is floriferous and well-branched and meets criteria used in the West.

'Gilka Zolota' (Yakovchuk, 2010)
Translation: Golden Christmas Tree

Alla Chernoguz, from Kyiv, has been active mainly in the field of standard dwarf bearded and tall bearded irises for about 15 years. A good example of her work is the yellow amoena 'Soniachni Klarnety' (2010). Some of the irises from this breeder are found in Western Europe.

'Soniachni Klarnety' (Chernoguz, 2010) 
Translation: Sound of Clarnett

Andrii Troshkin, breeder and producer located in the western suburbs of Kyiv. He sells his own varieties as well as the irises of his Ukrainian and foreign colleagues. His irises seem to meet the current Western criteria, such as 'Zolotoi Piedestal' (2016).
'Zolotoi Piedestal' (Troshkin, 2016)
Translation: Golden Pedestal

Evgenyi Nazarov, also from Kyiv, is a new breeder who seems to be particularly gifted as with this 'Shovkova Vual' (2020), which should however be judged "on the spot", but that is not the case.

'Shovkova Vual' (Nazarov, 2020)
Translation: Voile de Shovkova

Igor Khorosh, from Ternopil, west of Kyiv, perhaps the best known of all, because he came to France on the occasion of the "Franciris ©" competition, and is the creator of a remarkable series of varieties whose names, in English, evoke their origin, like 'Ukrainian Christmas' (2019), heavily laced like its American relative.

'Ukrainian Christmas' (Khorosh, 2019)

All of this hard work was before the current situation, which upset Ukraine, most of all, and also the whole world. We are concerned about the fate of each of the breeders mentioned. Some, who were active on the Internet at the beginning of the conflict have now fallen silent. Others continue to call for help. The world of irises is not spared from the drama and no one knows what it will be like in Ukraine when all this ends. But one thing is certain. After the Second World War, French iris growers, who had spent five years repurposing their nurseries to producing food for their fellow citizens, replanted their beloved rhizomes and recreated these flowers which also contributed to the recovery of their country. Ukraine, which knows how to resist so well, will certainly know how to bloom again.


  1. Best wishes to them!

  2. I wish to add my very best wishes and gratitude to all of you!

  3. Beautiful irises, I hope some of their work survives.

  4. Thank you for that very timely article. I hope that the Ukrainian people, including the hybridizes, can recover from this horrific war in their homeland.


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