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AR: Preservation of the C.G. White Arilbreds

From: Sharon McAllister <73372.1745@compuserve.com>

Message text written by Bill Shear:

>  The old C. G. White arilbreds were a very interesting lot.  I'm saddened
hear that some of them have become extinct or nearly so; certainly they
deserve preservation.  Perhaps the ASI should make a concerted effort
before it's too late.  I'm thinking of the National Collection Scheme in
Britain, where people or institutions agree to accumulate, propagate and
maintain collections that are as complete as possible of a particular genus
of cultivated plants.  Wouldn't it be possible for someone in SoCal to set
up and keep going a C. G. White collection?

I suspect it is already too late.  This is essentially what we were trying
to do here in the Mesilla Valley in the late 1970s & early 1980s, although
it was unofficial.  The climate is appropriate.  Two other hybridizers
[George Bryant & Gus Seligmann] already had extensive collections when I
got involved.  Many of the cultivars were grown in three different gardens,
miles apart, with different microclimates.  Some were grown in other local
gardens [as I recall, Tom Tadfor Little got involved, too] and we were even
able to distribute some surplus in trade.

Then, in the space of about two years:   George's wife died and he moved
into an apartment [giving his C.G. White collection to Gus].  My mother was
diagnosed with cancer and Gus with congestive heart failure.  I wasn't in a
position to take and care for Gus's iris, he wasn't able to take mine, and
no one else was interested.  We quickly went from a plentiful supply of
many of these to none at all. 

After Gus died and my mother had recovered enough to turn my attention back
to iris I tried to re-establish the collection.  Most have been
unobtainable and at least 80% of the ones I've managed to get have turned
out to be obviously mislabeled.  I'm not talking normal variation in an
arilbred bloom.  I'm talking things like a pale blue "Black Joppa".  

To complicate matters, It's not just a question of plant supply but also of
lost knowledge.   There are few left who came to know these cultivars when
they were new and correctly labeled.  Some of the imposters have been in
distribution so long that they've become accepted.  For example, the real
JOPPA PARROT has been deemed most likely extinct by the mid-70s, but an
imposter was known to be in distribution.  The color was very close, but
while the real JP had a broad, diffuse beard the imposter had a
modern-style, bushy one.  If the imposter still exists today, how many
could distinguish it from the original?

I hesitate to say that assembly and maintaining such a collection would be
impossible -- but it would certainly much far more difficult to do today.
Sharon McAllister

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