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Re: CULT: HYB: Good Irises

Neil, Linda, and Ahner make some very interesting points and I would like to comment on 2 of them.


First; I realize that it is almost impossible to rate an iris as to how it grows. An example was the wonderful Siberian Silver Illusion I can remember seeing a huge glorious row of it in Dale Johnsons garden. Even though many of us shared exactly the same climate and in many cases were only a few miles away, it seemed no one could get it to grow as well or even sometimes survive as it did in his garden. It is still perplexing because he never did anything special. In other parts of the country some people had quite good success. 

            This example would prove to many that it is impossible to really say much about growth. But I feel this is not a useful argument and would propose one try anyway. Years ago AIS had test gardens around the country. There still is the Loomis Test Garden. I suggest that this is still a useful idea. The Cornell Plantations produced the Austin Sands evaluations that have served as history descriptions of the irises of there time. Even if one needs take growability with a grain of salt I think the resulting written, published reports from test gardens have proved valuable.


Second: I think additional information can be acquired for sectional registries. Everyone knows my campaign for photos but a more controversial thought is why not have the registrant explain why he registered the cultivar. Sometimes it is because of it growing much better than a similar variety. So far I have been somewhat a chicken when it comes to trying to gather this information for checklists on which I am presently working. Nonetheless the thought has crossed my mind and I have explored it with some hybridizers. I do think some would relish the opportunity to explain themselves.  One of the great problems with this effort is that although all the AIS sections seem willing the major group the TBs have chosen not to be cooperative with anything they perceive as an AIS proposal. It will be up to the auxiliary groups to lead the way.

ChatOWhitehall@aol.com wrote:In a message dated 8/24/05 9:51:35 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Tmilchh@aol.com 

<< We need to get irises that grow and flourish and don't die or rot. I had 
a hard year. >>

I don't think we should expect miracles from anyone, but I think we can 
certainly encourage greater sensitivity to these issues, and some changes where 
change might be most easily effected, since so many folks don't seem happy, and 
not all of them are complaining because they enjoy doing so. Here is one idea:

There is, I suggest, no shame whatsoever in an originator putting forth a 
lovely new iris and stating candidly that it is something of which s/he is very 
proud, but it is probably not suitable for gardens north of Boston, or is 
likely to prove disappointing in maritime areas, or whatever. None of the things 
will grow at the South Pole, and why would a reasonable person expect them to 
grow equally well everywhere? Modern irises are genetically complex, and highly 
bred, and very individualistic, and everywhere is a mighty large place.

Nurserymen just keeping their ears open and being forthright about a new 
cultivar might be a real good thing because then people could make more informed 
purchasing decisions. Perennial plant catalogs have always included puffery, 
but there was a time when they featured more useful horticultural information, 
even gruff candor, "... a good shorter iris; clear blue and fragrant; somewhat 
inclined to lean or rot in wet conditions; fully as handsome as Ishgabibble, 
not that that is any great shakes." 

You knew just what you were getting. If it rotted out in a real wet summer 
you shook your head and concluded your nurseryman had told you the truth, not 
that he had witheld useful information so you had an unexpected mess to deal 
with, a hole at the front of the blue border, and two bucks down the drain, as it 

I think if everyone --hybridizers, nurserymen, gardeners, and the people 
voting for prestigeous AIS awards--- was a little more discriminating, a little 
more pragmatic, a little more thoughtful, a little more oriented to quality over 
quantity, a little more inclined to communicate responsibly so useful 
information flowed freely and good decisions could be made at all levels, the whole 
picture might brighten. 

I'm not naive about some people being weak where money or glory is involved, 
or others being careless gardeners or having unrealistic expectations. I 
figure those factors will be with us always, but I don't think they have to be 

Sorry to hear about your garden this year; Annette; that is so demoralizing. 
Plant a mess of tulips this fall. They are cheap and come with canned blooms 
so that if the squirrels don't get desperate and eat them you are practically 
guaranteed some cheerful color in the spring, even if, in the south, tulips are 
good only for one spring. 


Anner Whitehead
Richmond VA USA

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