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AR: Popularity, or lack thereof

From: Sharon McAllister <73372.1745@compuserve.com>

Dorothy Willott wrote:
It appears that you are not having a problem growing arils and arilbreds,
we have had a lot of difficulty with them.  Only the last two years of 
drought has been good to them.  In the past many, many rotted even though
gave them a raised bed with a lot of sand and gravel in it.  In Region Six 
garden tours we have seen hardly any and even at the AIS convention there 
have been few.  Are aril hybridizers sending guests to the conventions?  Or

have they sent them only to have them die or behave poorly.

Last question first:  

The main factor is bloom season.  Most aril/arilbred bloom is over by
convention time because conventions are scheduled for peak TB bloom -- so
even the most spectacular performance of this type of iris is lost for
convention guests.  We could pose the same question regarding medians and
Japanese, and get essentially the same answer.  The iris season is long and
TBs are the most popular, so this is understandable -- but it does hamper
our ability to introduce new growers to the other types.  The same problem
crops up with local shows.  Without a separate show, it's almost impossible
to attract enough local growers to put on a separate show.....   

Of course, nature does sometimes play tricks on us.  I heard TB fanciers
refer to the 1980 Tulsa Convention as a "bud convention" -- but many of us
enjoyed the median and arilbred displays.  The bloom season was delayed
that year, so much so that few TBs were even showing color.  Much of the
bloom they did have was because in-region hybridizers of medians and
arilbreds had contributed guest iris, with no realistic expectation that
convention guests would see them.  I was ASI's NL editor at the time, and
my practice had been to reserve a small space to acknowledge new members. 
We had a surprisingly large influx of new members that summer -- some of
whom wrote about seeing arilbreds for the first time at the Tulsa
convention.  So, YES -- Convention exposure works -- but you can't count on
getting it.

With arilbreds, another factor is gardenability -- which is a relatively
recent development.  When I started hybridizing, the accepted practice was
to dig and divide them every year.  Some hybridizers [Danielson, Flanagan,
Hunt, & Peterson come immediately to mind] were selecting for
gardenability.  I decided to make that my primary goal:  ABs that could not
only be grown alongside TBs but left in place as long as their companions. 

Back then, in my naivete, I asked several established hybridizers about
sending guest iris to conventions. 

The unanimous advice was:  DON'T do it.  

The reason:  convention rules preclude the annual division needed for
arilbreds to perform at their best.

The only exception suggested:  if there are arilbred growers involved in
putting on the convention,  you know that they are involved in the care of
the gardens, and want them to see your selections even though bloom will be
over by the time the convention itself takes place.

All of which brings us back to the question of gardenability. Dorothy said
that  "in the past many, many rotted even though we gave them a raised bed
with a lot of sand and gravel in it".  

This has been the favored cultural practice in areas that have both heavy
soil and significant summer rainfall -- but the cultivars that need annual
division under the best of conditions also need annual division under
special conditions.  

My first question:  had they already rotted when dug after being in the
ground no more than one year?  If that's the case, it may be that certain
types can't be grown in your area even with improved drainage.  But if rot
didn't appear until the second year, I must tell you that some of those
with the tight growth habits prevalent years ago were known to rot under
even ideal conditions if left in place longer than one year.  
My second question concerns the control TBs grown under the same
conditions:  did they thrive for the entire period?  rot?  dwindle away? 
If gardenable ones like Danielson's GENETIC ARTIST and GENETIC LEADER or
Hunt's ESTHER, THE QUEEN don't survive -- their performance should be
compared to that of TBs rather than older ABs.  

Dorothy continued:

>  There were several good varieties eligible for the Clarence G. 
White Medal and I voted for the one that we are able to grow and cross
Queen Sheba.  Some interesting seedlings came from crossing Queen Sheba

QUEEN SHEBA is one of the newer, more gardenable types.  As a general rule,
those with maternal lines tracing back to reglia species or TBs have more
open growth habits.  The trick is in getting flowers with aril
characteristics on this type of plant.  QUEEN SHEBA not only has TB
cytoplasm, but has an ancestry dominated by gardenable cultivars from
Danielson, Flanagan, Hunt & Peterson.  

The arilbred world is in a period of transition, with a higher percentage
of today's introductions having open growth habits -- but it's also a time
of confusion.  There are still many of the older type in commerce and a
newcomer who plants one of these among TBs expecting to leave it in place
for several years is destined for disappointment.  As is the one who gets a
cultivar bred to resist summer dormancy, but yanks it out of the ground
immediately after bloom and doesn't replant it until after frost.

The question is whether we can help people thru the pitfalls to find what
works for them....

Sharon McAllister

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