Monday, January 8, 2024

Top Ten Iris Posts of 2023

by Heather Haley

As the new year begins, hybridizers are starting to announce their newest iris introductions. This makes me eager to return to garden activities and prepare for adventures to come. It is also a time for reflection. I am pleased to share the top ten most-viewed World of Irises blog posts of 2023.

Arilbred iris 'Perry Dyer'
Photo by Jeanette Graham

In tenth place, is the announcement of the 2023 William Mohr Medal Winner. The winner, arilbred iris 'Perry Dyer', was hybridized by Paul Black and introduced by Mid-America Garden in 2017. Other awards for this iris include an Honorable Mention in 2019, the Walther Cup in 2019, Favorite Guest Iris in 2019, Award of Merit in 2021, the Franklin Cook Cup in 2022, and Favorite Guest Iris in 2022. The iris is named for the late Perry Dyer, a well-known hybridizer from Oklahoma who was also involved in AIS activities during his youth. I had the pleasure of viewing this iris in New Mexico during the 2023 AIS National Convention in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The clump was impressive and memorable.

A rescued iris blooming at Nature Conservancy's boardwalk in Grand Isle, Louisiana 
Photo by Paul Christiansen

In ninth place, Gary Salathe shares the bittersweet rescue story of irises growing roadside on a property changing hands in Louisiana. Gary, like many others, had been admiring the irises that bloomed each spring at this location. Volunteers from the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) orchestrated efforts to dig and replant what they could before the irises became too damaged to survive.

An impressive clump of rescued Louisiana irises
Photo by Gary Salathe

In eighth place, Gary Salathe shares how Louisiana irises provide services to benefit the surrounding ecosystem. Gary describes Louisiana irises as "consuming huge amounts of overabundant nutrients found within the swamp water, humus soil, and muck that comes from decaying matter." Although I have long known Louisiana irises to be heavy feeders that appreciate soil amended with manure, I never thought of their potential to remove excess fertilizer in a water system. The potential for using irises to mitigate environmental damage is both beautiful and fascinating. 
Right to left: 'Black Lipstick', 'Royston Rubies', and 'Chihuahuan Desert'
Photos by Jeanette Graham, Mid America Garden, and Howie Dash 

In seventh place is the announcement of the three winners of the John C. Wister Medal for 2023. I inherited one of these tall bearded cultivars from my mother, Alleah, when she downsized. A second was purchased shortly thereafter, and the last joined our garden this fall.  All are beautiful, and I look forward to enjoying their bloom for many years to come. 

Filling livestock troughs with layers of soil and compost.

In sixth place is a piece by Jeff Bennett that describes preparing beardless iris beds at Dry Creek Garden in Union City, California. This garden is an oasis of nature and beauty about an hour south of where I grew up in California. Jeff has been hard at work as the official Gardener, and if you find yourself anywhere near the East Bay Regional Park District, consider stopping by to visit the Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park. If you happen to arrive during iris bloom season, you are in for a treat. 

Heather Haley with her mother Alleah, and husband Chris, exhibiting the family's unusual "crop" at the Spring Ag Fest in Pittsboro, North Carolina

In fifth place, Alleah and I describe our strategies for creating an ideal environment for irises using affordable and sustainably sourced potting soil. Peat moss is frequently used in commercial potting mixes, but I'm starting to see coconut coir products while shopping in niche garden centers. So far, I have not spotted any potting mix containing rice hulls. 

Iris container garden

In fourth place, Doug Chyz shares his experience and advice for growing irises in containers. This is a highly useful skill for any iris grower. If you grow irises long enough, you will receive an iris, have limited time, and have absolutely no idea where you will plant it. If your iris needs a temporary home for resale, a 1-gal pot will do. However, like Doug, I prefer 3-gal pots and have about 225 purchases of rhizomes acclimating to life in North Carolina this way. 

'Indecisive' (P. Black, 2023)

In third place, Mel Schiller shares memories and pictures of a visit to Tom Johnson and Kirk Hansen at Mid-America Garden. Mel photographed and described several of the 2023 introductions she saw there, including 'Indecisive', a tall bearded iris with variegated foliage. It is a sibling of 'Pie In the Sky' (2021), another variegated novelty iris introduced by Paul Black. The siblings are children of his iris 'Variegated Wonder' (2014). 

In second place, Andi Rivarola shared a preview of the Winter 2023 edition of IRISES: The Bulletin of the American Iris Society (AIS). Receiving IRISES is one of the many benefits of AIS membership, and it is published quarterly. Wonderful, full-color images are dispersed throughout, as well as articles that describe the activities of the AIS, growing and hybridizing different types of irises, reviews of show gardens, awards of top irises, people in the iris world, information about conventions, iris shows and administration the organization. Visit the AIS website to see the index of all issues, and the AIS library (1920-2018) or e-member service area (2019-current) to read what interests you.

Tall bearded iris 'DON'T DOUBT DALTON' 
Photo by Jeanette Graham

In first place, is the announcement of the 2023 American Dykes Medal. The winner, 'Don't Doubt Dalton' is a tall bearded iris with horns/spoons and broken color, hybridized by Tom Burseen and introduced in 2015. Other awards for this iris include an Honorable Mention in 2017, Award of Merit in 2019, John C. Wister Medal in 2021, and Favorite Guest at the 2023 AIS national convention. For those outside the iris community, I often describe irises awarded the Dykes Medal as winning the "Miss America of Iris." Thank you to all who maintain accreditation as AIS judges, dutifully evaluate irises growing in the garden, and cast your votes.  I, like my mother and grandmother before me, am now an AIS judge and will vote my first official ballot later this year. Until then, join me in celebrating American Dykes Medal Winner 'Don't Doubt Dalton' as the 2024 Iris of the Year

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