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Debby Rairdon Article -- long

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: Debby Rairdon Article -- long
  • From: Rick Tasco/Roger Duncan <randrcv@sierratel.com>
  • Date: Thu, 13 Feb 1997 16:00:31 -0700 (MST)

As promised earlier today, here is the article:

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>From Plants Alive magazine, August 1978, page 25:

IRISES ADD MAJESTY

MRS. KUNTZ'S PRIZE-WINNING VARIETY

by J.D.Foraker

Talk about beginner's luck.  On her first attempt at breeding iris, Lois
Kuntz created the Debby Rairdon variety which later won the highest
award in irisdom.

Housewife, mother of two, grandmother of ten--Mrs. Kuntz had belonged to
the American Iris Society for years.  After reading in one of its
publications how simple hybridizing was, she went out and randomly
crossed two iris, "For the fun of it.  It sure is simple."

Twenty seedlings resulted from her cross.  When they bloomed, "They were
a kind of muddy, ugly pink, most of them.  I just threw them away."

The last seedling to bloom looked different.  Very slow to open, it
finally unfolded into a yellow and cream-white bloom.  Mrs. Kuntz
thought, "This is kind of nice.  I guess I'll keep that one."  It had
exceptionally good substance (thickness and strength).  "Rain and wind
would hit it; ity just stood there.  Still, I had no idea it would
someday be a prize-winner.  I just thought it was a nice iris."

Friends spread the word about her lovely iris with the wonderful
substance.  A dealer-grower named Mrs. Noyd, now retired, came to see
the beauty.  "Now, that iris ought to be introduced into commerce," she
proclaimed.

Mrs. Kuntz knew nothing about introducing flowers, so she gave Mrs. Noyd
some rhizomes.  Mrs. Noyd planted them in her garden.  Delighted with
the variety's performance, she introduced it through official American
Iris Society channels, sending rhizomes to test gardens all over the
United States.

Mrs. Noyd informed Mrs. Kuntz, "It's got to have a name."  She provided
Mrs. Kuntz with the address of the registrar.

Mrs. Kuntz's grandaughter Debby, who was about eight years old at the
time, had already asked her grandmother what she intended to name her
creation.  "Well, I guess we'll call it Debby," decided Mrs. Kuntz. 
Debby was thrilled.

But when Mrs. Kuntz wrote the registrar, he replied that it couldn't be
called 'Debby" because they already had a 'Debby'.  'Miss Debby' was
also rejected.

"I couldn't very well change the name at that point.  Debby'd have been
so disappointed.  Finally, I thought to put her last name on it.  They
accepted that."

Each year from 650 to 850 new iris varieties are registered with the
American Iris Society's registrar.  Many are the products of amateurs
like Mrs. Kuntz.  Only a handful possess the qualities needed to be sold
nationally.  Mrs. Noyd received good reports about Debby Rairdon as it
moved up the iris ladder.  Debby first got honorable mention from the
American Iris Society in 1966.  In 1968, Mrs. Noyd called to inform Mrs.
Kuntz her iris was one of 12 to receive the national Award of Merit. 
Mrs. Kuntz was underdtandably surprised.  It is from these 12 irises
that one Dykes winner (the top award for irises) is chosen each year. 
Judges from across the country voted Debby Rairdon top iris of the year
1971.  Mrs. Kuntz said, "When it won the Dykes, I about fell over."

Mrs. Kuntz's iris is in the company of other Dykes medalists like
Skywatch of 1970, which was created by a retired aircraft engineer, and
Babbling Brook of 1972 which was hybridized by a postal supervisor and
iris hobbyist.  Other fabulous iris that have won this top honot include
New Moon, Pink Taffeta, Shipshape, and Kilt Lilt.

There was no presentation ceremony for Mrs. Kuntz.  "I had a letter
telling me I'd won and they told me to watch for the medal.  The medal
came through the mail from England."

Mrs. Kuntz once met an iris nurseryman who puts out catalogs.  "He said
out of thousands of seedlings they may keep maybe four to observe.  Most
of them they throw away."  She still can't believe that out of only 20
seedlings she discovered such a prize as her Debby Rairdon.

One nursery catalog's description (Gilbert H. Wild and Son Inc's
catalog) reads as follows:  "(Kuntz, 1965).  Early Midseason.  34-inch. 
Form ofthis fine white and cream iris is flawless.  Of equal value is
the vigorous habit of plant and flower.  The heavily-substanced bloom
reflects the finest in achievement in a most pleasant and harmonious
variety.  H.M. 1966, A.M. 1968, D.M. 1971."

Mrs. Kuntz could have made a good profit from Debby Rairdon.  But she
made a wrong choice.  "Mrs. Noyd asked, 'Shall I pay you, or would you
like to have a percent?"

"I should have taken the percent because she told me afterwards that she
did very well on it.  She paid me $150 in cash and gave me $150 in
iris.  At that time, I thought it was great.  But if I'd done it the
other way, I'd have made a great deal more."

Mrs. Kuntz will never breed another iris.  But, "If I were doing it now,
I'd pick not necessarily the biggest iris, but the nicest shape--where
the standards are held up and not floppy.  I'd cross that with one that
I liked the color of."

Her yard today is mainly lawn, trees amd shrubs.  The only iris she
grows is her own Debby Rairdon.

Editor's Note: J.D.Foraker is an orchardist, plant-seller, and
plant-swapper.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I hope you enjoyed it, please forgive any typos--I tried to type it
quickly!

Roger Duncan
Central California foothills--Zone 8

Now that this job is done, I've got to go out and cut more grass!





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