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recessive amoenas

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: recessive amoenas
  • From: "J. Griffin Crump" <jgcrump@erols.com>
  • Date: Sat, 14 Feb 1998 17:42:41 -0700 (MST)

Linda, Bruce, et al --  My interest in recessive amoenas began with an
attempt to produce seedlings from WABASH having different colors in the
falls -- particularly red and gold. I quickly encountered what others
before me had learned, for instance:

"Amoena crosses are not easy to make either with each other or in
backcrossing; seeds from amoenas have a poorer than average rate of
germination; and the seedlings grow slowly, particularly during the
first year so that one often has to wait until the second or third year
for bloom." -- from a 1946 article by Jesse Wills, quoted in THE WORLD
OF IRISES, p. 108. I found all of that to be true.  Unfortunately, I
didn't read that quote until about 1991.

But it gets worse. From the same page: "He (Wills) realized that large
numbers of seedlings are necessary if amoenas are to be obtained but
found this an impossibility. 'If the odds are 35 to 1 against getting an
amoena, what little chance there is when only five or six seedlings from
a cross can be grown and bloomed. (Wills 1946)'"  I had found that to be
true, also. Better germination can be had through use of embryo culture,
but that was not an option available to me at the time.

Wills, writing in 1946, was almost certainly describing the difficulty
of working with recessive amoenas, since Paul Cook's dominant amoenas
were not introduced until the 1950's.

Why WABASH as the starting point? The pure white, heavy-substance
standards (trademark of the recessives), deep velvet color of the falls
and cleanly-demarked ermine trim combined for a paragon of beauty as I
beheld it. The objectives I sought to achieve were to produce (1) the
colors I wanted in the falls, combined with (2) velvet texture, (3) good
flower form and (4) good branching.

I found early-on that color was easier to get than good flower form. The
first lesson learned was that I shouldn't cross WABASH (Williamson,
1936) with its contemporaries. (Of course, it took 3 or 4 years to learn
that.) Most of those attempts resulted in drooping, paddle-shaped or
pinched falls, and loss of the velevet texture (oops, sound like
Lawrence Welk, there). One of the really ghastly outcomes was WABASH x
PINNACLE and the same cross in the other direction. I still keep one of
those around -- perhaps to remind me that the movement should be
forward, not sideways. 

I had gotten gorgeous red-violet falls (emphasis on red) a couple of
times, but either as a bitone or without the desired shape. The
strategy, then, became to leapfrog forward as much as possible in
different lines, carrying the desired genes along in each, and hoping to
intersect later with improved form.

Another problem was that attempts to incorporate other colors or shapes
by crossing often washed out the velvet texture. Because of this, I
began to cross WABASH and its seedlings with heavy velvet varieties such
this point (ca. 1980) that the "gentleman" farmer disaster occurred and
I ended up with a handful of identified and unidentified seedlings and a
hiatus in hybridizing until 1991.

1991's crosses bloomed in 1993.  Among them were crosses of WABASH and
an unidentified yellow bitone seedling that had survived the 1980
massacre. The number of WABASH-pattern seedlings indicated that the
yellow bitone was a cross between WABASH and, probably, a yellow
seedling given to me by George Crossman, a Northern Virginia hybridizer
since deceased. Crossman's seedling had imparted modern form -- more
rounded falls with a modicum of ruffling. Crossman bred for sturdy
falls, but WABASH's slender form had resisted this influence. The
branching, however, was improved.

This is probably a good point at which to break and continue this
"treatise" later.

Griff Crump, along the tidal Potomac near Mount Vernon, VA, where the
"gloveless winter" continues, although this morning a fine snow fell for
about two hours, followed by sunshine and a cold wind. Weird.

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