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Re: HIST mystery iris

From: James Brooks <hirundo@tricon.net>

At 08:03 AM 1/15/99 -0500, you wrote:
>From: Mike Lowe <mlowe@worldiris.com>
>It is chancy to do an ID via photos, an even more death defying act to
>question an ID but...
>Here goes.
>Caesar's Brother is an outstanding iris even today. It is high in the
>category of absolutely distinctive 'Wow' iris. It has 'presence,'
>'distinction' 'carry' or any other term you care to use for a 'head
>turning' flower.
>My reaction on viewing the photo of the 'Mystery Iris' was... "humm, an
>average iris of the 30s, no particular distinction -- a real toughie on
>which to venture a guess." "Could be any one of about three to four
>The one thing that I was as positive as is possible on a photo ID, was: "It
>certainly ISN'T Caesar's Brother!"
>If you really believe that your 'mystery' iris is Caesar's Brother' I would
>strongly advise that you obtain Caesar's Brother from at least one or more
>reputable sources. Caesar's Brother has been EXTREMELY popular since its
>introduction and is the most widely traded and sold Siberian ever. It is
>also very often not true to name. In judging many shows and in making many
>garden visits to gardens stretching Maine to South Carolina and Oregon to
>California, Summer Sky and Ceasar's Brother are the two Siberians I have
>found most often to be incorrect. Usually the incorrect 'Caesar's Brother'
>is a Siberian of rich, dark purple. Where it misses is on form.
>No one can make a positive ID from a photo, and the 'Mystery' photo that
>you display might just happen be the most wretched and stunted bloom of
>Caesar's Brother ever. But I doubt it. Usually when an irisarian shoots a
>'mug shot,' that person is drawn to the best looking bloom on a clump. One
>of the strongest and most accurate criticisms of the photos I take of old
>cultivars is that I tend to try for a 'glamour shot.' Phil Edinger stresses
>that when you shoot for display or identification you SHOULD try for 'the
>most typical flower' available. This is very hard to do! You don't, for
>example, deliberately try for a 'typical' shot of your kids, nor do you
>often settle for a 'typical' shot of a flower. BUT WE SHOULD!!!
>When you acquire, grow and display a collection of historic iris cultivars
>you will experience bumps, surprises and revelations. It is well not to
>invest a great deal of certitude in proclaiming any one of your babies as
>'ABSOLUTELY THIS' or 'CERTAINLY THAT.' Almost every time that I have done
>that, with a slide of the *Sure Thing* up on the screen in front of a
>national audience, I have taken a prat fall. However, if it wasn't for the
>uncertainties and challenge it would soon be boring and we would do
>something else.

As I explained in my remarks, there was a great deal of uncertainty on this
one. I had labeled the photo Flight of Butterflies, but it in no way
matches any description I have of white falls with butterfly wing veining. 
The photo did appear to match the one in the catalog of my supplier of this
iris as Caesar's Brother, but on closer inspection it does appear to be
very spidery and not quite as full, deep purple as the one in the Iris City

In keeping track of the things in the garden I use metal tags, which can
get moved and heaved by frost. I make garden maps, which can get out of
proportion. And I keep it all on a database, which allows me quick
retrieval when seeking the location of a variety. 

Of course, taking photos makes yet another potential for error, especially
during the bloom season, when I may go through a roll of film in three
days, taken at widely scattered locations, in different climates, and
identify depending on a hand-written list, supposedly matching negative
numbers, but by the time you gang 2-3 rolls for the processor you have
greatly increased the odds of error. 

I'm saying the error is probably mine, and not that of Iris City Gardens,
the supplier. My current guess (and given that this is January and I won't
be able to confirm it until May) is that this picture is of an unknown
Siberian volunteer that sprang up in the middle of the yard when I got a
bit behind on the mowing and had come to appreciate the difference between
iris foliage and grass. If that's the case, it is one I photographed with
the intent of one day sending you the print and asking you to hazard a
guess. It's the flower that put me in love with Siberians and their spidery
form, and it is most like the species Siberians I saw growing all over
Northern China last Spring, except for its deep purple color. 

I'd be interested in knowing what your 2-3 guesses are as to its origin.
Then if I can obtain some of your guesses and grow them alongside I should
be able to solve this enigma in about two more years. That seems to be the
only thing that works with historics, if your sources haven't been buying
from each other. 

As for any kind of standardized photo techniques for the mystery iris
feature, don't count on it. I shoot them at different times of day (the
current one is nasty from that standpoint) and in all weather (lots of
raindrop photos - these bloom in the spring), and I have absolutely no
intent of being fair. That's not the nature of life. This game is for fun,
and if it blows up once in awhile, as this one did, that's part of the fun,
too. We all learn from it. 

Thanks again for your comments. Care to go out on a limb for the current
Mystery Iris? 

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