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RE HYB: Trial Gardens

Rita, you ask a question that intrigues me, and I have given the question
much thought....How do I go about evaluating a seedling?

You said, "...what kind of form do they use for evaluating their own
seedlings?  They must all use something unless their memory is better than
the average bear!"

I've never used a form, nor have I used that point system outlined in the
*Handbook for Judges and Show Officials."  That doesn't mean I think less of
the form--I just respond more globally to a seedling than I do looking
closely at the *Handbook's* formal categories.

It is only in the second phase of re-selection that I pay special attention
to the separate aspects given in the *Handbook* in a more formal, but not
written, way.

My initial selection of seedlings approach the new one looking for qualities
I would call *character* and *presence.*   I look for something that draws
my attention vividly.

Form, clarity of color, presentation of the stalk in terms of proportion of
bloom to distribution on the stalk, bud counts and so on are part of what I
look for *after* the qualities of "presence" and "character" have captured
my attention.

Sometimes I save--and use--a seedling that shows promise of moving toward
the kind of presence and character I'm looking for, even though it itself
may not have the qualities to the degree I'm hoping to find.  I might even
name, and distribute, a very promising breeder even if it lacks perfection
in every point-countable aspect.

In selecting parents from the named irises purchased or acquired in trade, I
certainly look at the matters of vitality, growability, ancestry--especially
important, as the qualities in the grandparents often are apparent in the
seedling rows--qualities in the stalk, such as height and distribution of
the branching, bud counts, how the variety progresses through the bloom
season in presenting its colors, quality of the foliage, all important
whether the variety does or does not have a high impact in the "presence"
and "character" dimension.

No iris is ever perfect.  I do try never to cross two varieties with the
same faults, but sometimes that is all that is open that promises forward
movement toward my goal.  I rarely end up keeping the results, so as my
energy grows less and the work more difficult, I make fewer but much more
highly selective crosses.

Far too many of the irises I have bought have not pleased me when I saw them
in the flesh.  Yet on occasion I get very happy surprises.  I also have
developed a fondness for certain family lines--an example of which are those
coming from Merle Roberts' SHOPTALK, an iris I happen to like very much.
Another benchmark breeder (in my not at all humble opinion) is Keith
Keppel's FOGBOUND, an opinion I share with several others.  I have seen some
remarkable seedlings from it, not all having been "dark tops."  Fogbound has
many qualities that show in its offspring that are not in that direction at

An evaluation of Fogbound on a form one might ask others to use may or may
not come off too good.  I recall "Walta's" reaction to the variety.  It did
not please him at all, about which he was quite upfront and frank.  I admire
that.  I just didn't happen to agree with him in this particular case.  I
react to that form, finish and subtle flow of delicate tints through the
heart of the flower as exquisitely beautiful.  The fact that it has proved
to be a phenomenal parent is an added plus.

This kind of intuitive and very personal "I like it!" kind of selection
filter is one impossible to pin down to what I could put on a standardized
form that would be useful to anyone else.  It is far to intimate, intuitive
and elusive to capture in a form.

Char, I'll be most interested in seeing your MSWord-based form when you have
it up to your evaluation stage.  If you would find it helpful, given what I
have said above, I might offer perhaps some aid in your project.  Or, it is
possible, anything I might offer may be of no help at all.  Who knows?

In addition, the whole question of growability, the horticultural qualities
that make the seedling a performer suitable for the market can't be
evaluated in just one or two seasons or in just one or two locations.

We've been looking at this question on Iris-talk over the past few weeks in
a number of related and spin-off threads for good reason.  The issue is very
important and deserves high ranking in any future AIS *Handbook* considering
the state of horticultural qualities in many of our high award winners--as
witness the often raised problems associated with growing and blooming EDITH
WOLFORD, beautiful as she is, nonetheless very difficult to grow for a large
number of people.

That should never be true of a Dykes Medal winner in my estimation, an
opinion I think I share with a great many other people.

It may take several evaluations over a period of years and perhaps some
trials out with a few friends willing to be frank before a larger
distribution of a seedling might begin.

There were a few times in the past I was too hasty and I don't intend *ever*
to make that kind of mistake again.  I'd rather miss the marketable rage of
the moment than put out a dud.  I have to trust the evaluations of others.
If a paper form can help, great!

Neil Mogensen  z 7  Reg 4  western NC mountains

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