Thursday, August 18, 2022

The American Iris Society Announces the 2022 Sass Medal Winner


The Sass Medal is restricted to intermediate bearded (IB) irises. It is named in honor of Hans Sass (1868-1949) and Jacob Sass (1872-1945). They bred irises, peonies, daylilies, lilacs, gladiolus, lilies and other garden plants. When they became charter members of the AIS, they had been breeding irises
for more than a decade. Their irises were famous for being strong growers because they used 'Amas' and I. trojana as tetraploid stud irises instead of the tender I. mesopotamica and I. cypriana.

Previous awards winners can be found at

photo by Jeanette Graham

'Apple Crisp' (Paul Black, R. 2013) Seedling #R202B. IB, 26" (66 cm), Midseason to late bloom. Standards mid gold, mid garnet wash over center, yellow-gold rim; style arms mid gold; falls mid gold, mid brown-tan veins/wash beside beards, mid yellow patch below beard, remainder heavily washed garnet in center and lighter towards mid yellow rim; beards gold; pronounced spicy fragrance. Seedling M18A: ('High Master' x seedling J212A: ('Key To Success' selfed)) X 'Love Spell'. Introduced by Mid-America Garden 2014.

The World of Irises blog will be posting classification medal winners as soon as the hybridizers are notified. The entire list of winners, including Award of Merit and Honorable Mention, will be published on the AIS website, the AIS Encyclopedia, and later in the AIS Bulletin, IRISES. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The American Iris Society Announces the 2022 Knowlton Medal Winner


The Knowlton Medal is restricted to border bearded (BB) irises. It is named in honor of Harold W. Knowlton (1888-1968) of Auburndale, Massachusetts, a tireless promoter of the border bearded class of irises. Bennett Jones wrote in The World of Irises: "Harold Knowlton was among the first to make deliberate selections of smaller plants. Two of his 1950 introductions, ‘Pearl Cup’ ... and ‘Cricket’... display the desirable features we still seek in modern border irises." Previous awards winners can be found at

photo by Jeanette Graham

 'Boy Genius' (Joseph Ghio, R. 2011) Seedling #04-44B. BB, 25" (64 cm), Very early to early bloom. Standards gold, black tint at midrib; falls almost solid mahogany black, gold dotting around beards, gold hairline edge; beards gold. Seedling 02-160: (seedling 00-98B: ('Feelings' x seedling U97-F, unknown) x 'High Master') X seedling 02-317Q: ('High Master' x seedling 00-98B). Introduced by Bay View Gardens in 2012.

The World of Irises blog will be posting classification medal winners as soon as the hybridizers are notified. The entire list of winners, including Award of Merit and Honorable Mention, will be published on the AIS website, the AIS Encyclopedia, and later in the AIS Bulletin, IRISES.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The American Iris Society Announces the 2022 Wister Medal Winners



The Wister Medal is restricted to tall bearded (TB) irises. It is named in honor of John C. Wister (1887-1982). Three medals are awarded each year. Previous awards winners can be found at

John C. Wister led the organizing meeting that created the American Iris Society and became its first president, a position he held for fourteen years. He guided the Society through its formative years. He was widely recognized as a man of rare management skills, leadership ability, and the highest ethical standards. R. S. Sturtevant wrote of him: "Probably few current members realize that the AIS started through the efforts and initiative of one man, John C. Wister...."

Tall bearded iris 'GOOD MORNING SUNSHINE'
photo by Mike Unser

'Good Morning Sunshine' (Thomas Johnson, R.2014). Seedling TD20A. TB, 33" (84 cm). Midseason to late bloom. Standards bright sunshine yellow; style arms yellow; falls violet-purple wash below beards, deep yellow thumbprint hafts and wide diffused edge; beards old gold; sweet fragrance. 'Bollywood' X 'Catwalk Queen'. Introduced by Mid-America in 2014.

Tall bearded iris 'TIJUANA TAXI'
photo by Jeanette Graham

'Tijuana Taxi' (Douglas Kanarowski, R. 2014). Seedling# 0453. TB, 41" (104 cm). Midseason bloom. Standards fiery red-orange; style arms slightly darker orange than standards; falls red-orange, darker orange centerline, wide ruby-red-wine band hairline edged mid-orange, discrete wire rim, serrated edge; beards red-tangerine; moderate ruffles; pronounced sweet and strong vanilla fragrance. Tasco seedling# 02-TB-63-22: ('Return to Sender' x 'Jaunty Dancer') X seedling# 0365: ('Typsy Gypsy' x 'Starring'). Introduced by Mariposa Iris in 2014.

Tall bearded iris 'COAL SEAMS'
photo by Bryce Williamson

'Coal Seams' (Schreiner, R. 2013). Seedling# MM 425-1. TB, 41" (104 cm), Midseason bloom. Standards dark purple (RHS 89B); falls slightly darker purple (89A); beards dark purple. 'Badlands' X seedling# GG 378-A: ('Dark Passion' x 'Thunder Spirit'). Introduced by Schreiner's Iris Gardens in 2013.

The World of Irises blog will be posting classification medal winners as soon as the hybridizers are notified. The entire list of winners, including Award of Merit and Honorable Mention, will be published on the AIS website, the AIS Encyclopedia, and later in the AIS Bulletin, IRISES.

Monday, August 15, 2022

The American Iris Society Announces the 2022 Dykes Medal Winner


First awarded in 1927, the Dykes Medal is the highest award of the American Iris Society (AIS). It is named for William Rickatson Dykes (1877-1925) and is awarded to no more than one iris per year. Irises are eligible as a Dykes medal candidate for three years following the winning of a classification medal. Only AIS registered judges may vote. Previous awards winners can be found at

Tall bearded iris 'FOOTBALL HERO' 
photo by Carl Boro

 'Football Hero' (Lynda Miller, R. 2014). Seedling# 8010A. TB, 36" (91 cm). Midseason bloom. Standards butter yellow; style arms same, accented violet; falls plum-purple, pale smoky orchid edged; beards gold; slight musky fragrance. 'Hoosier Dome' X 'Saturn'. Salmon Creek 2015.

The World of Irises blog will be posting classification medal winners as soon as the hybridizers are notified. The entire list of winners, including Award of Merit and Honorable Mention, will be published on the AIS website, the AIS Encyclopedia, and later in the AIS Bulletin, IRISES.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Finally, I got to fly away again – Mid-America Iris Garden

By Maggie Asplet

As the title says, I finally got to come back to the United States and made a visit to Mid-America Garden in Salem, Oregon. It seemed like a lifetime ago since I was there. Had it really only been in 2019? 

I was all set to return in 2020, flights booked, and then the world as we knew it came to an end...or that is what it seemed. March of 2020 had a couple of rather traumatic iris-related events. First, being told that New Zealand was going to go into lockdown due to coronavirus. Second, during the same week, MPI (our import regulator) rang to tell me they destroyed seed from my 2019 crosses by mistake. On top of the hybridizing work being gone, I didn't know when it would be possible to return.

Finally, in 2022, I got to fly away again. This trip certainly had its challenges, such as completing rapid antigen tests before I could travel. On top of this, bloom season in Salem, Oregon included rain, rain, and more rain. Somehow, I did find a way to make some crosses in between the showers.


Irises during bloom season

I scheduled my arrival earlier than usual, as I wanted to spend time hybridizing with the standard dwarf bearded irises. The first few days were spent walking up and down the rows looking at all the wonderful creations produced by Thomas Johnson, Paul Black, and Lynda Miller. Quite mind-boggling really. I'd never seen so many new varieties in one place. Before I could even begin hybridizing, I had to become familiar with what was there. And what better way than to watch a master at work. So many beautiful irises. Luckily, there were breaks in the weather to get some crosses made.

Paul Black hard at work

Now, I will share some irises that I used in my crosses. I crossed two of Paul Black's miniature tall bearded irises ('Hot Orange' and 'I'm not Timid') with each other, but the others are just examples of smaller irises that were available to “play” with. As to how successful these efforts were, I won’t know until 2024. If I’m lucky it might flower in 2023 and that is only if the cross was successful and a seed pod developed. That is the next stage, waiting to see what did or did not work.

MDB – 'Hot Orange' (Paul Black, 2019)

MDB  'I’m Not Timid' (Paul Black, 2020)

SDB – 'Dancing Around' (Thomas Johnson, 2017)

SDB – 'Believe' (Thomas Johnson, 2021)

SDB – 'Little Miss Sunshine' (Thomas Johnson, 2020)

SDB – 'Get Ready' (Thomas Johnson, 2020)

SDB – 'Pumpkins' (Lynda Miller, 2020)

Unfortunately, it was really, really very difficult to get much hybridizing done. I mean, just look at this next image. Saying it was "wet" is an understatement.

Walkways between iris rows got very soggy

Terrible weather during bloom season certainly created many challenges, such as finding something dry to put on my feet. An array of footwear was required.

Something new...

something borrowed (thanks Tim)...

... and something I usually bring with me – jandles*.

*Jandles – Inspired by footwear he had seen in Japan, businessman Morris Yock and his son Anthony began manufacturing this simple rubber footwear in their garage in 1957. The name ‘jandal’ combined the words “Japanese’ and “sandal.”  Thankfully, now I know where the name comes from.

Another wet day's occupation was counting irises. Here is Thomas walking the rows, counting and evaluating the damage from the poor weather conditions.

From my perspective, another great frustration was the lack of flowers; mainly due to the lack of warmth. It was really hard to believe that weather in Oregon was no warmer than back in New Zealand. Here you were going towards summer, while at home we were going towards winter and the temperatures were very much the same.

Irises waiting to bloom

Due to the lack of flowers in the tall bearded irises, I extended my stay with hope that they would soon come into flower. Even that was still a great challenge. Before we look at the taller irises, I would like to show you some images of the wonderful gardens at Mid-America and Sebright Gardens. Some of you may not be aware of the second business, Sebright Garden, specializing in shade plants from hostas, ferns, epimediums to fuchsias. Plenty of other plants as well.


Beautiful plantings at Sebright

Hostas and other shade-loving plants

View of Mount Jefferson from the garden

Many containers with a wonderful variety of plants

Finally, I got to see flowers on the taller irises and it was time to get hybridizing some of the "others", anything from border bearded, to arilbred, to tall bearded.

Bloom arrives in the bottom field

More irises in the house field and the seedling beds

The above image is the new seedlings for possible introduction in 2023 or 2024. So many gorgeous flowers to choose from.


I was also treated to seeing an American Killdeer Plover – nesting.

Now, here are images of some of the different ‘bigger’ irises I used. Not necessarily in the same cross.

AB – 'Lucky Roll' (Paul Black, 2022)

AB – 'Red Eye Flight' (Paul Black, 2022)

IB – 'Lumistreak' (Paul Black, 2022)

IB – 'Impressive' (Paul Black, 2022)

TB – 'Spine Tingler' (Thomas Johnson, 2022)

TB – 'Sorbet Swirl' (Keith Keppel, 2018)

TB – 'Dark Universe' (Keith Keppel, 2019)

TB – 'Rise Like a Phoenix' (Paul Black, 2017)

TB – 'So Hot' 

TB – 'Scattergram' (Lynda Miller, 2021)

One of my wet weather occupations was making Apple and Rhubarb Crumble – even some for the freezer.

I always enjoy my trips to Mid-America, as it is a time of catching up with other members of the American Iris Society. On this occasion, it was the flower show for the Oregon Trail Iris Society. Makes you feel like home and a good time to join in on a judges' training workshop, this time led by Kevin Vaughan. 

The results of some crosses that were made in 2019 at Lynda Miller's of Miller's Manor Gardens never got sent to New Zealand. This time, we decided I would take them home with me and declare them at the border when entering New Zealand – NO PROBLEM at all. So, in the future, I will be bringing seeds home with me.

Stopping to make some last crosses on the morning I left.

The field I left behind

And my last cross – just cause I could.

TB - 'Dreams and Schemes' (Barry Blyth)

TB - 'Bombshell' (Thomas Johnson, 2021)

A very special thank you to Thomas Johnson and Kirk Hansen for putting up with me; it is much appreciated. See you next year.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

IRISES: The Bulletin of the AIS - Summer 2022 Edition

 By Andi Rivarola

A warm welcome to those who are seeing IRISES, the Bulletin of The American Iris Society for the first time. If you are a member of The American Iris Society I hope you enjoy this new issue.

The Summer 2022 issue of the AIS Bulletin will be available online soon, accessible via the Emembers section of the AIS website. The print copy has been mailed via the U.S. Post Office. On the cover, arilbred iris, 'Chihuahua Night' (Howie Dash 2019, AB OGB), winner of the President's Cup at the 2022 Las Cruces Convention in New Mexico.

Note: to access this area of the website, you must have a current AIS Emembership. (AIS Emembership is separate from the normal AIS membership.) Please see the Electronic Membership Information are of the AIS website for more details.

The 2022 National Convocation of The American Iris Society was held this year in Las Cruces, New Mexico earlier in the spring. It was a very enjoyable event and we hope that you enjoy the full recap carefully displayed within this issue, including:

Convention Awards: on page 2.
Hello, AIS Newcomers!: on page 30.
The Wes and Cynthia Wilson Garden, "Iris Inspire Us": on page 38.
The Optional Tour: White Sands Missile Range, on page 40.
Scarlett Ayres Garden, on page 42.
The Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum Garden: on page 46
Thoughts of a Convention Co-Chair: on page 48.
Seen in Las Cruces: on page 82.
Favorite Guest Irises: on page 83.

Other wonderful stories in this issue:

A Tribute to Dave Niswonger by none other than Barry Blyth on page 18.

Don't miss, Section Happenings, on page 20. 

On Beginners Corner, Do Plants Have Memories?, on page 28.

The AIS Foundation Ackerman Youth Essay Winners on page 68.

And lastly, Catalogs—Online, on page 69.

There's a lot more to see and read in this edition of IRISES, either in digital or print format. 

Not a member of the American Iris Society? Please see our website for information about becoming one:

Happy Gardening!


Support the Work of The American Iris Society by Becoming a Member:

  • Annual Print Membership receives Irises, the Bulletin of The American Iris Society, published four times annually.

  • Annual E-membership receives Irises, the Bulletin of The American Iris Society, to view online

  • Participate in AIS’s bi-monthly Webinar Series featuring AIS experts from around the U.S.

  • Get connected with AIS members from around the world, via our Facebook Group Iris Lovers, and other social media channels.

  • Get to know about our lesser known irises, such as species, spuria, Louisiana, Siberian and other beardless irises.

  • Participate in the Annual convention. The next convention will be in Dallas, TX in 2023.  

  • Support AIS's mission of education, conservation, research, preserving historical archives, and outreach projects.

  • Did you know that The American Iris Society is the registration authority for all rhizomatous irises worldwide?  

  • The Iris Encyclopedia is available 24-7, 365 days a year, and filled with a wealth of iris knowledge. Stop by for a visit!

Monday, August 1, 2022

Thinking About Historic Iris Catalogs

by Bob Pries

A few nights ago, I was lying in bed while my mind conducted its own internal argument about iris catalogs. One Part of my mind said, “Have you gone nuts! There are 4,600+ catalogs embedded in the Online Library. What good are they?" The Other Part retorted, “But they document the history of irises.”

A collection of iris catalogs

The first Part replied, “No one cares about history until they are old and see that they are now a part of it. What good does it do now?" And Other Part said, “They can help with identification of older irises surviving today.”

Original description from Goos & Koenemann Catalog, 1909 (p.30)

Photo by Heather Haley

A different catalog describes this iris as having purple-based foliage 

Part said, “Okay I’ll give you that, but the descriptions they carried were often not much better than the weak historic registration information." Other-Part was now feeling rather sad. Perhaps Part was right and this is an obsessive addiction. 

I confess I love to look at all plant catalogs. Even as a 9-year-old I can remember filling out a form in Popular Gardening Magazine that listed about 100 free gardening catalogs. You could check a box and the magazine would forward your name and address to the company. I checked all the boxes and mailed the form. Soon scores of catalogs came to my door and I learned about water gardening, roses, rock gardens, and of course irises. This may have been where I first saw Lloyd Austin’s catalog and his horned irises.

An original photograph and description of the"World's First Horned Iris" is part of Lloyd Austin's 1957 Catalog.
Photo by Mike Unser

Austin’s catalog had a contest whereby if you found the 12 typos in his catalog he would send you free irises. I scoured the catalog for days but only found 11. I had my list all planned but never sent the order. At $0.50 a plant, a substantial part of my allowance would be required to meet the minimum order.

Other-Part was now thinking of reasons that a catalog archive could be useful. Each catalog is a record of what is growing in that part of the country (distributors ignored). I could envision a map with counties in green where nurseries were located. This would look like the species distribution maps I have included under USA species on the wiki.

Link to the Biota of North America Program North American Plant Maps

Individual cultivars could be mapped and one could see what hardiness zones a particular clone had thrived in. One could also map by time period, and one could see how iris nurseries moved across the  United States, their populations expanding and retreating through time.

Catalogs can also tell us the change in popularity of different classes of irises over time. Just having crudely paid attention I can say definitively that English irises were once very popular and today they can rarely be found. I remember in the late 1800s as many as 150 cultivars were available compared to about 50 tall bearded. Japanese irises seem to have held their own with usually up to 150 varieties available in many years and perhaps still so; but, of course, Japanese irises have been outpaced by TBs today.

The geographic distribution of at least early cultivars may be interesting if sorted by their species ancestry. I would bet that Iris aphylla relatives were distributed further North than I. pallida relatives. I think we sometimes forget that some early irises were not as cold-hardy and that many tall beardeds which grew well in the South did poorly in the North.

By this time my Parts were getting tired and my brain decided to sleep. I would be interested to hear why you feel it is worth assembling a catalog archive.
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