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landscape irises

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: landscape irises
  • From: "J. Griffin Crump" <jgcrump@erols.com>
  • Date: Sun, 14 Dec 1997 17:48:22 -0700 (MST)

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Friends -- I have no idea whether this will work. I forwarded some of
your queries re landscape irises to Don and Ginny Spoon of Winterberry
Garden, offering to forward their reply to you all. Ginny sent me a
forwarded copy of Don's reply after their first transmission was shot
down by a cybergoblin. I find that I can't forward a forward. So, I am
attempting to send the forward as an attachment. (Are you still with
Here goes, and we will see whether man is able to find a way around

Griff Crump, along the tidal Potomac near Mount Vernon, VA 

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>From - Sun Dec 14 19:53:41 1997
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From: VSpoon <VSpoon@aol.com>
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Griff, I am forwarding this to you again because the last time I sent it I got
your name backwards and the mailer daemon sent it back.  One thing Don didn't
mention in his response to the landscape question was that all the irises he
introduced as landscapers were grown under very adverse conditions in a plot
of land in Acokeek,MD where he lined out his seedlings while he was at
Georgetown.  They were overgrown with weeds and never sprayed or watered.  I
do not know how many more landscapers we will have to introduce in the future
since we have no weeds here (in Cross Junction) to speak of.  We still do not
spray or give extra water, except to the rebloomers.  We have brought back
several hundred more clumps from Acokeek to evaluate but they have not bloomed
here yet (because of the bad spring last year).  There are quite a few
seedlings we brought from the garden of Dr. Nearpass which may pass the test.
His irises were grown under the worst conditions imaginable until Don dug them
and replanted them here.  Even Charlie said that he had some people do studies
there on iris borer as the population was the most they had ever seen in a
garden.  The only iris we introduced as a landscaper that may not be entirely
up to par might be Oriental Design.  It is not as rugged as the others but it
has an unusual coloration that can mosty be appreciated in a mass planting.
The intense pink color is a bright fuchsia and it has white rays below the
beards which make it eclectic in a landscape.  It is the most intense pink we
have seen.  We sent everyone who ordered the landscape collection a rhizome of
our Dazzling Lora.  It is an earlier introduction which would also be worthy
to be called a landscape iris.  Also of note is the fact that in most, if not
all of the landscapers, is a rebloomer in the genetic background.  The
rebloomer is usually one which reblooms in zone 8 or 9.


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From: VSpoon <VSpoon@aol.com>
Return-path: <VSpoon@aol.com>
To: VIRGINIA@calc.vet.uga.edu
Cc: wam2@Ra.MsState.Edu, Henryanner@aol.com, telp@rt66.com, gjcrump@erols.com,
	VSpoon@aol.com, CEMahan@aol.com
Subject: landscape iris hybridizing goals
Date: Sat, 13 Dec 1997 21:18:04 EST
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Hello friends,  I am no longer on the iris-L but received your forwarded
inquiries about our landscape irises.  Don replies (I typed).

The development of landscape irises is a departure from the previous selection
processes for bearded irises.  The emphasis is to select cultivars that have
the traits that can allow them to grow like the flags in grandmaw's garden,
yet have the beauty of the modern bearded irises.  Overly-tall stalks, which
might be suitable for the showbench, are excluded first.  From a positive
point of view, a landscape iris should be: winter hardy, disease resistant,
and vigorous in their growth, but not so that they overgrow and harm the
clump.  The flower should give a maximum show of color in the landscape in the
spring for at least two weeks. Ideally, a landscape iris should also be a
dependable rebloomer. It is esential that if it reblooms, it retains the trait
of shutting down stalk formation in early fall in response to day length to
prevent production of stalks that will freeze in winter and cause rotting. 

 Another trait which is highly desirable is for the flowers to retract cleanly
after blooming, negating the need for deadheading. A desirable trait found in
bearded iris species is the clean abscission of the stalks which is very rare
in modern bearded iris cultivars. The AIS judges in 1997, selected as their
Dykes Medal winner, an iris that we would consider a candidate, a breeder for
landscape irises.  Thornbird, forms a wonderful garden clump.  From the point
of view of a judge, it has 7 or less buds, rather narrow falls, somewhat open
standards, and a color scheme that in description wouldn't say beautiful.  But
Thornbird, by any other name, in a garden or in a landscape, is beautiful.  To
improve Thornbird in selection to make it a better landscape iris, it needs
sturdier, shorter stalks.  In our description of landscape iris, we say
flowers of good quality, which Thornbird is, meaning that Thornbird is not a
flower to compete with Dusky Challenger, or any other truly beautiful
cultivar.  The clincher in this new breeding program is that the features that
are selected for, are all of more improtance than being a show bench flower.
This means that as currently written, the judges handbook has no instructions
to judges for judging a landscape iris.  We believe that someday there will be
a major award, an equivalent of the Dykes, for the year's best landscape iris.
As hybridizers, we are evaluating about 50 different seedlings from a cross of
Immortality x Thornbird and are presently making sibling crosses.

A landscape iris should present a healthy, disease free foliage that will
enhance the landscape design.  One feature we have selected for is a trait
common to the rebloomers, and that is much better retention of their foliage
under drought conditions as well as early rapid growth in the spring that can
tolerate spells of freezing temperatures, and fall foliage that will hold up
against early fall freezes. Our selection process begins with the green
foliage and its vigorous root system, and not the beauty of flower.  The goal
is to retain all the strengths of the landscape iris and improve the quality
of the flower.  We measure the level of beauty of the bearded iris cultivar of
how it competes with the very best cultivars available.  We believe the
landscape irises we have selected have very beautiful ruffled flowers with
modern form and good branching, and could compete on the show bench, but that
was not our intention in our selection process.

Thank you for your interest in our hybridizing goals.

Best for the holidays.

Don and Ginny Spoon



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