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McAllister Bio

I was looking up a bio on list, and noticed that my own wasn't where I expected
to find it.  (I just transmitted the thing last winter -- can't recall ever
checking that it was received.)   If at first you don't, succeed . . . 


Sharon McAllister

I grew up in Oklahoma, where we had a lot of the old-fashioned "flags", but my
introduction to the world of modern iris came by chance.  LIterally.  My mother
won one of Gene Hunt's iris as a door prize at a postmaster's convention.  After
that, we started visiting the Hunts' garden every year and collecting the
then-newer varieties like Cahokia, Happy Birthday, Paratrooper, and Zantha.
Although I made my first crosses while I was in highschool, none of the results
were worth bragging about so I usually don't count that as part of my
hybridizing career.

I dropped out of the iris world during my college years.  My bachelor's degree
was from the University of Oklahoma, with a major in math and minor in physics,
so my only formal genetics training was what I got in the courses that were
"core requirements" for math/science majors of my generation.   Then came
apartment life,  employment in the space program where there was no such thing
as a "normal" 40-hour week, and the insanity of trying to attend graduate school
on a part-time basis.  So I moved to Las Cruces in 1973, started back to school
full-time.  I'd finished my master's and was working on my PhD when a job
opportunity came along that I just couldn't resist (with NMSU's Physical Science
Laboratory).  As the computer world evolved, I moved from math modeling and
programming into technical writing and editing, and project management.  

In Las Cruces, of course, I encountered the enthusiasts in the Mesilla Valley
Iris Society and started growing iris again (my collection of named varieties
peaked in the mid-80s at just over 1250).  By that time, Gene Hunt had given up
his commercial garden and offered his iris only through ASI's members-only plant
sale.  So I joined ASI,  made a lot of new friends, and took up aril and
arilbred hybridizing as a serious venture.   Of course, I also found myself
holding a lot of offices over the years -- Newsletter Editor, Yearbook Editor,
Plant Sale Co-chairman, Checklist Editor, Robin Director, Recorder.  

Now my primary iris interests are species preservation, historic preservation
(both cultivars and information) and hybridizing.  That may seem like a strange
combination of the very old and very new, but the old provides the foundation
for the new.  Work with aril species led to a breakthrough to more gardenable
arilbreds and one of the key factors in getting signals on quarterbreds was
knowledge I gleaned from studying the genetics of historic arilbreds.   

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