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MEET DR. JAMES WADDICK -- Region 18 Hybridizer

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: MEET DR. JAMES WADDICK -- Region 18 Hybridizer
  • From: Barb Johnson <ljohnson@cland.net>
  • Date: Sat, 23 Nov 1996 12:08:12 -0600


This is the second in a series of 11 articles from hybridizers in the 
Spring 1994 AIS Region 18 Bulletin (MO & KS).  As you may know, Dr. 
Waddick is the author of the book IRIS OF CHINA. He also had an 
extensive article in the July 1994 AIS Bulletin. On November 17, 1996 
our local iris club, Iris Society of the Ozarks, was privileged to have 
Dr. Waddick present a slide show of his trips to China.  This year, Joe 
Pye Weed's Garden offered a new versicolor from Dr. Waddick (April 1996 
AIS Bulletin).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

					by Dr. James W. Waddick
					Kansas City, Missouri

My interest in Iris began, and mostly continues, with wild species, 
having been 'bitten' by a wild Iris cristata at a formative age. As time 
went by and this 'bite' progressed to a 'fever,' I studied the American 
species in more detail. Later I jumped the ocean to travel and study the 
Iris of China.

But early on I started growing Iris from seed. This may seem a simple 
act for many gardeners, but not in the Iris world where most named Iris 
cultivars are grown from divisions. It is surprising that very few Iris 
growers have grown few, or none, of their own Iris from seed.

Growing from seed is also a crucial step in the development of a 
hybridizer since new cultivars arise from seed. Being a student of Iris, 
as my seedlings grew and each of their inherent differences became more 
apparent, I developed an 'eye' to see improvements and special features. 
This 'eye' for differences is also an important feature of a hybridizer.

I have registered a few Iris and have done some hybridizing, but I 
hardly consider myself a 'hybridizer.'  I am more 'on the edge' of 
hybridizing. Perhaps I should explain my odd in-between situation.

I suppose I have some of the characteristics and abilities of a 
hybridizer, as early on I grew plants from seed and selected the better 
seedlings, but does this actually make me a hybridizer? Eventually I did 
begin pollinating iris flowers and tried crosses between different 
cultivars and species. Combined with the skills described above, I was 
on my way to being a hybridizer, but I have yet to complete all the 
pieces needed to fill the hybridizer's bill of registering one of my 
very own hybrids.   
At this same time, I was collecting uncommon Iris species from all over 
the world. Some of these came in nameless or simply under a species 
name, even when they represented a significantly unique form to justify 
a special name. As I gave a name to a couple of these special forms, I 
realized that to reduce confusion I should register these named plants 
with the American Iris Society. Again, these skills of recognizing, 
naming a special form, and registering it with the American Iris Society 
are parts of the picture that make up a 'hybridizer.'

So here I am with all the pieces, but as yet no direct line from pollen, 
to stigma, to seed, to seedling, selection, naming, and registration 
--all the events needed to make a true hybridizer. Yes, all the pieces 
are there, but in a variety of different connections and lines. So I am 
sitting here 'on the edge.'

Because I am interested in species, I am definitely on the low end of 
Iris interest in the bigger American Iris Society picture. Even some of 
our best-known tall-bearded hybridizers have failed when they tried a 
species selection. On the other hand, some species selections that have 
gotten extremely good 'PR' have succeeded, with the most recent I can 
think of I. versicolor MYSTERIOUS MONIQUE and the twin inter-species 

Well, here are my suggestions to encourage other Iris growers, 
especially those potential hybridizers with a variety of assorted skills 
that are still 'on the edge':

	Grow Iris from seed. You can order seed from large seed 
	companies like Thompson & Morgan or, even better, from the 
	Species Iris Group of North America seed exchange.

	Select seedlings for what you consider to be the best.

	Try making crosses. Anything! Of course I'd recommend using
	species, but even among different bearded iris such as any
	tall bearded crossed with any standard dwarf bearded. Wouldn't
	you be curious to see what might come of this?

	Grow a wide variety of Iris--this is really the only way to
	tell which are better than others. This will also help you to
	develop a discerning 'eye.'

Incidentally, I would encourage you to motivate other hybridizers: buy 
new introductions from 'unknown' hybridizers, then write back and tell 
them what you think of the plant, good AND bad.

I have made a few hybrids, but so far my 'eye' hasn't made the crucial 
selection, yet. I play with various species, especially the water Iris 
of various sorts, and I'd like to do more with the Iris lactea and its 
hybrids. But mostly I just keep growing Iris, looking for new ones that 
I like and picking my favorites. Eventually one of these will lead to my 
completing the circle and becoming a full-fledged hybridizer.

					Reprinted with permission
					from the Spring 1994
					Region 18 Bulletin

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Barb Johnson, ljohnson@cland.net
Southwest Missouri Ozarks     USDA Zone 5b     AIS Region 18 (MO & KS)

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