Monday, March 27, 2023

Smokin Heights Season That Was........

by Mel Schiller

Whoever would have thought that our spring would be so incredibly wet!

We had an unbelievable amount of rain. Getting good photos was a challenge in between rain, wind, and soggy-looking bloom. Living on one of the driest continents on earth, which has a fluctuation in temperature and rainfall, we are certainly not complaining! 

Every year we are faced with challenges – challenges in growing conditions, challenges in weather, challenges in pests. Challenges are a part of life. How we overcome them is how we grow on a personal and business level.

The season that was .... Braiden's death anniversary is forever in our hearts as the beginning of our iris season. My mind in particular is consumed with the loss of my child; it is a heavy burden. Each year it is something I need to allow and grow from in my heart and mind. 

The iris were late coming into bloom as the season was so cold and damp. Sunshine was hard to come by. Then WHAM!, the bloom started all at once. 

We had a hard time keeping up with photographs, hybridizing, and evaluating. Our iris field is spread out over five acres. We also had some of our last hybridizing efforts from the USA blooming in a different section of the garden.

We were able to evaluate seedlings on wet days and sunny days. This led to a lot of decisions about what to keep going for future evaluation and what to dispose of as not up to standard: poor bloom and stems, and diseased foliage, just to name a couple problems. 

The last year of evaluation for the USA seedlings

This past spring was also the year that South Australia hosted the National Iris Convention. We had a one-day show in which we benched over 150 stems, florets, and seedlings among all the different classes.

We wrapped our buds in toilet paper to protect them from the long travel to Adelaide where the iris show was held. Then we placed our entries in a big tub with dampened floral foam in the bottom and inserted the stems in the foam to hold them safe (hopefully). On the day of the show, we awoke to a foggy morning!

We were incredibly proud of ourselves for being able to supply bloom for all classes in the show. For the first time ever, we were able to provide standard dwarf, intermediate, and aril entries! We received 2nd and 3rd in the show with two of our very own hybrids: 'Dreaming Easy' and 'Zofonic Dancer.' 'Victoria Falls' grown by Jennifer, took home Champion of the Show. 

The very next day Smokin Heights hosted the National Iris Convention attendees. We awoke from our sleep throughout the night to on- and off- again torrential rain. At 7 a.m. the phones were ringing hot. Major flooding was occurring in all the areas that the tour group was supposed to visit. The group eventually made it to Smokin Heights just after a late lunch. With rain patches still occurring, the group managed a tour of Smokin Heights and the soggy field. Bailey was able to lead a tour of our seedling patch in between rain showers. 

National Iris Convention for Australia attendees!

The very next day was lovely and bright, full of hope and promise with an amazing sunrise!

The Intermediate and Dwarf Bearded irises bloomed exceptionally well this past season

Performing hybridizing was a task in itself this past season. Wet pollen and soggy stigmatic lips were a popular problem! We have managed to collect around 400 pods of hybridized iris from our field stock  – not bad considering the wet season!
Iris seeds from our hybridizing efforts

More hybridizing seeds

New,  imported irises from off the delivery truck and onto our lawn area

We looked forward to receiving our imported iris from the USA. In February, they were finally released from quarantine. Australia has incredibly strict rules for importing bearded irises into our country. Importing is not for the faint-hearted; it is a costly, time-consuming, and stressful job! But this effort is worth it for irises we would like to use genetically in our hybridizing program. 

 A small portion of the field photographed this past week

The field will not be dug and replanted this year. There is enough room for increase and growth to postpone a replant. Instead, plants will remain in place while we apply fertilizer (for nutrients) and pre-emergent herbicide (for weed control) over the next couple of months.

The following is a small selection of new varieties hybridized by Bailey and me:

Tall bearded iris 'Brave The Storm
(Inner Darkness X Black Lipstick)

Tall bearded iris 'Flash Warning'
(Secret Status X Raise Your Glass sibling)

Tall bearded iris 'Disruptor
(complex ancestry)

Tall bearded iris 'Lady Of Luxury
(complex ancestry)

Tall bearded iris 'See You In Heaven
(Seasons In The Sun X Carnival Capers) 

Standard dwarf bearded iris 'Rather Snazzy'
(Troublemaker X Stop And Stare)

The small selection of iris we registered this season withstood our unusually wet conditions superbly. Now that we have finalized business orders we can plan for our next season. We also celebrate ten years of Smokin Heights. Bailey and I are so very grateful and appreciative of our accomplishments. Every day is a blessing and we have our garden to enjoy and nurture. 

It is now time to weed the garden beds as they have been unattended for the last few months. Weeds are plentiful! Time for us to enjoy solace in our garden.

Happy Gardening 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

IRISES: The Bulletin of the AIS - Spring 2023 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 Spring 2023 issue of the AIS Bulletin is already available online, accessible via the Emembers section of the AIS website. The print copy has been mailed via the U.S. Post Office. On the cover, 'Turkish Topaz' (Lloyd Austin 1962, AR) — aril species (Regalia) hybrid, photo by Claire Schneider (California). 

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.

A gorgeous issue starts with Species are awesome! by Olga Batalov on pages 10 — 17.

A description of the AIS Tall Bearded Iris Symposium by Riley Probst, on page18.

An article called Welcome new and returning directors! on pages 19 — 21.

Bonnie Nichols introduces us to the 2023 Emeritus Judge Appointment of Robert L. "Bob" Strohman on pages 22 — 23.

The 2022 AIS Honorary Award Recipients, an article by Jody Nolin on pages 25 through 27.

A fantastic new book by Kevin Vaughn, Dwarf and Median Barded IRISES, is presented on pages 28 and 29.

Browse through pages 30 though 33 to find out more about labels and garden maps. Claire Schneider introduces us to Welcome Newcomers: Time for Labels and Maps in the Garden.

All about the artistic design in show on Dawn Boyer's article, The Evolution of the AIS Artistic Design Certificate on pages 34 through 37.

If you are a judge, you may want to read Chapter 1 Accreditation of Judges: Appointment of Artistic Design Judges, on pages 38 — 39. 

A New AIS Membership Secretary is announced on page 44. 

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


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

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

  • The Annual Full Membership receives both benefits described above.
  • Participate in AIS’s bi-monthly Webinar Series featuring AIS experts from around the U.S.
  • Get to know about our lesser known irises, such as species, spuria, Japanese, 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, March 20, 2023

Building Galleries in the Iris Encyclopedia

 By Bob Pries

Here in North Carolina, spring has taken hold it seems a bit too early. But I define spring by the redbuds being in bloom. For many years I can remember the Japanese magnolias which are often called tulips trees opening their flowers for one glorious day and then turning brown the next because there was a hard freeze that night. This year they lasted a good week. The forsythias are about to end their bloom along with the crocus, and there are daffodils everywhere. But the weatherman is now forecasting possible four nights of hard freezes. Is winter coming back?

It seems climate change is bringing spring almost a month early. The reticulata irises have bloomed. Iris fans seem like they are growing an inch each day and many hostas have already unfurled their leaves. Hopefully, they won’t be reduced to mush by the upcoming freezes. All this chaos seems much too early. I still haven’t sat back and gone through all the plant catalogs to see what I might do to enhance my gardens.

This year I am working on a project on the Iris Encyclopedia* that may help me decide on what new irises to order. My thought was, “What if I could see all the new irises in one massive image gallery?”. In January and February, I began assembling this gallery. New introductions are mostly 2022 and 2023 registrations. So, I have made galleries for those years' registrations. Of course, 2023 registrations will continue to be added throughout the year, but this year’s introductions should already have their registrations approved.

There are already about 500 irises registered for 2023 and about 1,000 for 2022. I will continue to update these galleries as registrations are added. So while not complete these galleries can show an amazing number of irises. While creating the galleries I was impressed by the miracles our hybridizers seem to be creating. Color combinations and patterns of which I have never dreamed leap out from the page. To find my playground go to

New Registrations and Yearly Image Galleries

*EDITOR'S NOTE: The American Iris Society is always looking for volunteers to help add content and pictures to the Iris Encyclopedia. If you are interested and available for projects like this, please reach out to Bob at


Monday, March 6, 2023

Video by Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative on Year's Work

by Gary Salathe

In the world of the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) the new year starts as soon as the iris bloom is finished in late April. It ends with the iris bloom the following April. We've been very busy since last April and have now wrapped up our projects as we await the iris bloom.

We made this YouTube video to show our appreciation for the help we received that allowed our "iris year" to be so productive Click here to open video 
"Thank you!" goes out to everyone that helped us achieve our goals for the year.
I recently had a chance to sit down and try to estimate how many Louisiana irises have been rescued and replanted since I started this iris odyssey. It began with the Greater New Orleans Iris Society in 2017 and then was picked up by LICI in 2020. I'm pretty sure the number is in the neighborhood of 42,000 irises. 
Enjoy the video!

Info on what LICI does can be found here.
Details for most of the projects shown in the video can be found on the LICI "News" page of their website:  Click here.
The LICI Facebook page can be found Here.