Monday, December 18, 2023

Iris that have performed well in the dry Spring in South Australia

by Mel Schiller

This past Spring at Smokin Heights was one of the driest that we've ever had. It has been a shock to our systems. We started watering the iris in September using treated water from the Murray River, which we pay to use per kilolitre. This water lacks the quality of rainwater from the sky, and I cannot possibly drink it. For me, it doesn't taste the best when compared to the rainwater I've been drinking since I was a child. 

Irises that impressed us last season, given the hot and dry spring, are as follows.

'Believe' (Johnson, 2021) 
The first time standard dwarf bearded (SDB) 'Believe' bloomed for us it did not disappoint. Ten stems on a two-year clump; you can only see half the clump in the photo. A common problem in Australia is that SDBs often bloom in the foliage because it doesn't get cold enough. This one doesn't have that problem; beautifully formed blooms open well above the foliage. 

 'Orange Peel' (Keppel, 2022)
The little SDB 'Orange Peel' only came out of quarantine at the beginning of the year and blessed us with blooms this past Spring. Probably the brightest orange iris we have grown to date, it is absolutely luminous!

 'Sky and Meadow' (Black, 2019)
Another little one, 'Sky and Meadow,' has proven to be a very good performer in our climate. In general, SDBs that we import can be unreliable when it comes to blooming each Spring. This one has bloomed every Spring without fail since it came to Australia. 

'Yoda' (Blyth, 2012)
An Australian-bred SDB that performs fantastically in our climate. It is also a fantastic parent!

'Ben David' (Fankhauser, 1989)
This arilbred (OGB) has proven to be a fantastic parent for us. It has given many seedlings in shades of dusty pink. We will be using this variety a lot more in the future to see if a true pink arilbred with a black signal can be created.

'Firefly Frenzy' (Tasco, 2017)
Probably our favourite arilbred (OGB) that we've imported to date. Stems in our garden can have up to 5 buds on a stem. Unfortunately, we think that it is infertile as we've tried making crosses with it every year but with no success.

'Oyez' (White, 1938)
The oldest iris in our collection is the arilbred OGB diploid 'Oynz.' It is a bit temperamental growth-wise and blooms every other year, but when it does decide to bloom, we don't complain. There's really nothing else quite like this iris on the market. Despite its shortcomings, we still like to grow it for its uniqueness.

'Atomic Sunset' (B. Schiller, 2020)
One of Bailey's tall bearded (TB) introductions from 2020, a super bright orange near amoena. An early bloomer that we always look forward to seeing. It is a difficult parent, but we should be seeing results from it next Spring.

'Black Friday' (Schreiner, 2020)
This TB variety decided to open on one of the few rainy days that we had this last Spring. This is a fortunate event as the Australian heat tends to burn the buds in these dark colours before they even open. It made such an impact that Mel decided to add it to her 'black' breeding line.

'Creative Confusion' (M. Sutton, 2020)
Another TB that bloomed on one of the only rainy days throughout Spring. We have been waiting for this one to bloom since we imported it and boy, it did not disappoint! We tried doing as many crosses with it as possible, hopefully we get some good results.

'Spiral Galaxy' (Ghio, 2012)
This TB is one of those varieties that will always have a home in our garden. An intensely bright yellow; it is like a beacon, drawing you in from afar. 

'Zofonic Dancer' (M. Schiller, 2022)
One of Mel's introductions from last year bloomed from the end of July until the end of October. We couldn't believe how many stems it kept sending up. It had rebloomed once before, but not to this extent. It looked amazing in full bloom!

As this blog post has been written we have thankfully experienced a very wet weekend 36 mm (102 points) so far over the past two days. The air is fresh the lawns and iris are green and refreshed. A good rain fixes our hearts and minds. It shows a new lease on life. The Kookaburra's laugh from the tree tops is contagious! 

We wish you all a blessed and safe Christmas with your family and friends. Enjoy the time together and make memories to cherish we know all too well, life is too short. <3  

Happy gardening and for our friends experiencing winter.....keep warm and enjoy our photo's from Down Under. XX

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Using Species in MDB Breeding, Part 3: Iris reichenbachii x Iris pumila

by Tom Waters

This is the conclusion of a three-part posting describing projects with miniature dwarf bearded (MDB) and standard dwarf bearded (SDB) irises. The first and second installments were posted in July and October 2023. 

My goal for this hybridizing project is to produce a true-breeding line of MDBs that belong to the same fertile family as the SDBs and MDBs from SDB breeding. In theory, using species and species hybrids that are compatible with SDBs will circumvent the tall bearded ancestry that can lead to larger, out-of-class plants. The earlier installments cover the use of Iris lutescens and of a hybrid of Iris aphylla x I. pumila. 

The current post describes work with seedlings from I. reichenbachii x I. pumila. This third avenue of work is, to me, the most exciting and promising. However, I got started with it a bit later than the first two approaches, so it is less far along.

I. reichenbachii is a species native to the Balkan peninsula. It comes in both diploid and tetraploid forms. (The tetraploid species I. balkana is considered a synonym of I. reichenbachii.) Plants typically have very slender stems topped with two buds, ranging in height from about 6 inches to about 12 inches. Flowers are either yellow in color or some blend of violet, brown, and gray. This species is probably best known as a parent of Paul Cook’s famousProgenitor (R. 1951), which introduced the dominant bicolor pattern into tall bearded irises.

The tetraploid forms of the species belong to the same fertile family as TBs and I. aphylla. Hence crossing it with I. pumila ought to produce plants compatible with SDBs, just like the aphylla x pumila cross described in part 2.

tetraploid I. reichenbachii ex Mt. Vikos, Greece

I have raised a number of these (cross S026) from crossing a yellow tetraploid I. reichenbachii from Mt. Vikos, Greece, with I. pumila Royal Wonder (Coleman, 2013). About half the seedlings are yellow and half are purple. They are all about 5 inches tall, with one or two dainty flowers per stalk. Because I. reichenbachii is so much smaller and daintier than I. aphylla, I believe these plants have even greater potential to produce consistently small and dainty MDBs. I have made as many crosses with them as possible. So far, they are not cooperating as pod parents, although they produce plenty of fertile pollen.

I. reichenbachii X 'Royal Wonder'
I. reichenbachii X 'Royal Wonder'


I am eagerly awaiting bloom in 2024 of seedlings from Miniseries (Keppel, 2011) X S026-02. Still in the pipeline are crosses of the S026 seedlings with Arson (Keppel, 2016, SDB), Come and Get It (Black, 2013, SDB), Dollop of Cream’ (Black, 2006), Oh Grow Up (Miller, 2018), Pearly Whites (Black, 2014), Self Evident (Hager, 1997), Tasty Treat(Johnson, 2020, SDB), and Pirate’s Apprentice (Hager, 2003). 

Multi-generational breeding projects like this one require patience and a certain amount of faith in the theory behind them. It can be a long slog with little immediate gratification. But it can also be very satisfying to pursue curiosity about paths not taken before and to learn as one goes. For me, this type of undertaking matches well with my limited space and my penchant for careful planning. Perhaps in a few more years, the groundwork described in these three posts will yield something worthy of being grown in gardens or meriting the attention of other hybridizers. Until then, the learning itself is a fine reward.