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RE: Standards for Introduction

  • To: "iris-l" <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: RE: Standards for Introduction
  • From: "Hall_Gigi" <gigi.hall@mtv.gtegsc.com>
  • Date: 25 Nov 1996 11:35:09 -0800
  • Return-Receipt-To: "Hall_Gigi" <gigi.hall@mtv.gtegsc.com>

In a November 25, 1996 message, Suzette Guay, writes that AIS
should introduce a hardiness standard for introduction.  This is
above and beyond what AIS (and the hybridizer) can hope to do.

Anyone who is willing to fill out the paperwork and submit
the proper fee can register an Iris with AIS.  AIS has no
explicit requirements beyond the registration application and
the fee.

To win a garden award (voted on by the AIS judges) an Iris
must do well in multiple gardens and be seen for multiple
seasons by any judge casting a ballot for that Iris.  Therefore,
an AIS award should mean that the Iris does well in a variety of
locations in most years.  However, this does not necessarily
mean that the Iris will do well in your particular situation.

Also, because the Iris must be seen by so many judges to be
competitive, Iris from larger gardens and Iris from hybridizers
with established reputations have a decided edge in the AIS
awards system.  If a Tall Bearded Iris is not shipped to at least
100 different gardens in its year of introduction, the chances of
its being recognized with an Honorable Mention garden award
during the three years that it appears on the ballot (without
having to be written in by hand) is very slim.  The HM is the
prerequisite for the higher awards - without an HM the Iris
will not advance to the AM and higher awards.  By the time that
a Tall Bearded Iris is voted an AM, most the the "iffy" performers
have been weeded out (I would say 80% of the AM winners for
1995 are consistently good growers, 20% are fair to poor
performers), but this is decidedly not the case with the
HM vote for the Tall Bearded class.  Too many HM votes are
being cast based on having seen the Iris bloom on buds set in
another climate (the garden from which the Iris was shipped)
or off of commercial growers experience (where the Iris is
transplanted every year rather than being left to form mature

In climates outside the major temperate belt, Regional
symposium results may be a better guide to what may do well
in your area than whether or not the Iris has garnered an AIS
garden award.

Also, the vast majority of hybridizers have no way to test
the hardiness of their cultivars prior to award.  Even if the
hybridizer is sending Iris to be guested at Regional and National
meetings, often the only report the hybridizer gets back is
whether the Iris lived or died.  If the hybridizer requests that
stock be returned, a rough estimate of how well the Iris grew
can be obtained.  However, the hybridizer usually doesn't get
a report on the climatic conditions of the individual gardens in
which the guest plant was grown.

Also, there are many factors that go into deciding what makes
"a good Iris" besides winter hardiness.  Over much of the country,
the ability to withstand warm summer rains without rotting is
as much or more of an issue that winter cold hardiness.
Reliability of bloom,length of bloom (an established clump of
bearded Iris should give at least a two week period), sequence
of bloom and ratio of bloom stalks to increase for the following
year are also criteria.  How well the plant grows and increases
(vigor) and whether or not the foliage is attractive when the
plant is not in bloom are considered in garden judging as well.

Finally, there is the issue of marketing Iris.  The larger growers
are going to list what sells.  And for Schreiner's and Cooley's this
means an Iris that has a photogenic flower - regardless of its
garden habits.  Don't get me wrong.  If Schreiner's orders 200
plants of a cultivar, lists the Iris the next year, and can't fill
orders because it did not grow properly for them, the Iris will
quickly disappear from the catalog, never to return.  But if it
comes down to a choice between an Iris that is in demand and an
Iris that is great technically, but no one orders because it doesn't
have a jazzy flower, they will list the Iris that is in demand.
>From the general public, the demand is based primarily on the
color and form of the flower.  Until people stop wanting (and
buying) the cultivars with magnificent blooms and poor growth
habits the general direction of hybridizing (which emphases
bloom rather than plant) will not change.

Gigi Hall
San Francisco Bay Area of California
85% marine influence, 15% inland influence

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