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Strong Stalks and well-substanced flowers

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: Strong Stalks and well-substanced flowers
  • From: greer holland <irisdude@flash.net>
  • Date: Sun, 2 Feb 1997 18:18:57 -0700 (MST)

CEMahan@aol.com wrote:

> ... hybridizer who has taken up this agenda is Paul Black.  After
> previously going for the big and glamorous, Paul became convinced that
> smaller, well-substanced  flowers and stronger stalks are goals to be
> pursued...and he is doing just this..... 

Greer Holland replies:

Yes, Clarence, Paul Black's goals are as you described.  The reasoning
behind these goals may not be obvious to all of those on the list.  

Hybridizing in central Oklahoma forces one to deal with some difficult
conditions brought on by our weather.  Spring winds here average 15-25
mph with gusts to 35 mph.  It isn't unusual for these winds to blow day
and night during bloom season.  Parts of Texas and Kansas have similar
windy conditions.  While these gulf winds bring warmth to the states
north and east of us, we have to deal with their effect on irises.  
The two things the wind affects most are weak stalks and poor flower

A large flower on a tall, weak stalk will not perform here as it might
in other places.  The wind will simply batter the stalk into
submission.  Had Victoria Falls been hybridized here, it probably would
have made it quickly to the compost bin.  Irises with weak stalks show
their bad trait here in the seedling beds and Paul is able to cull them
early in his selection process.

Strong winds, as you know, can give a withered or even shredded
appearance to flowers with poor substance.  Only those with the best
substance stand out after the flowers have been open for a while in our
warm, sometimes dessicating winds.  Once again, seedling selection
becomes somewhat easier because the fault shows itself early in the
selection process.

I think this is a form of "automatic selection" brought on by our
climate.  I'm not trying to downplay Paul's keen eye for a quality
garden plant.  He intentionally selects irises with strong stalks, good
substance and gardenability.  I'm saying that our weather conditions
during bloom make it a little easier to spot the seedlings (and
introductions) with poor stalks and poor flower substance.  He is then
free to select the "best of the best" seedlings from those that didn't
pass the climate muster.  Their gardenability can be assessed in later

I will suggest SIGHS AND WHISPERS (Black '90) as an example of a great
garden iris with strong stalks and well-substanced flowers.   It won the
Primo Firenze Gold Medal AND Best Branched variety in the world
competition in Italy '94 (all plants were point-scored in the garden). 
It also received the second most votes for AM in 1995.  It is icy white
with falls blending to a wide violet blue band.  Stunning in a clump. 

Greer Holland
central Oklahoma, USDA Zone 7, 35" of rain last year

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