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Re: HYB: Progress

From: Bill Shear <BILLS@hsc.edu>

Well, John's correspondent is not entirely wrong, just mostly wrong.  I
think he needs to look more closely.

Admittedly I grow a rather small selection of TB varieties--rarely more
than 30 at one time--but I have not found any that have been either
spectacularly poor growers or unusually susceptable to rot.  And I should
add that nowhere in my garden are conditions optimal for TB irises--we have
no full sun areas and mostly the irises have to fight it out with the
hundreds of other perennials I grow.  This is not to say that there are not
such irises, introduced because of their unusually lovely individual
blooms, in spite of poor growth habits.  But you can learn to avoid these;
Schreiners' catalog, for example, often hints at less than optimal
performance even for their newest introductions.  They were up front about
'Starship Enterprise' having poor stalks and meager increase.

There is some truth to the charge that the individual bloom has been the
focus for many hybridizers and collectors.  Color-illustrated catalogs
consist almost entirely of "mug shots" and only rarely feature whole
plants.  Pictures of whole bloomstalks are a bit more common than they once

As with daylilies, new forms and patterns have regularly appeared in TB
irises.  Horns, spoons and flounces abound and now are found on flowers and
plants that are as good as any.  Rebloom is literally exploding on the
scene--some predict that within another few decades, once-bloomers will be
all "historics."

So I don't see the drastic decline in quality of plant, nor the plateau in
breeding that this gentleman perceives.

We should also recognize that there is a considerable difference between
the view of the hobbyist and that of the ordinary gardener.  The former,
growing perhaps hundreds of varieties, will encounter the occasional bad
apple.  The latter, probably selecting from the tried and true originations
of a decade or so before (as they are now offered by general suppliers)
will get the good growers with fine blooms.  Just as with daylilies, the
stinkers don't make it into the mass market.

Not to say that we should ignore warnings like these (also strongly voiced
by Bill Munson in his book on daylilies).  All hybridizers should, if they
do not already (and most of them surely do), pay attention to factors other
than the beauty of the individual bloom.  Read some of the writings of Don
and Ginny Spoon about their "landscape" irises, and check the vigor of
their introductions (such as 'Little John', already appearing on a number
of lists of good growers) as just one example of the concern of major iris
hybridizers with these qualities.

I think John's correspondent simply hadn't looked deeply enough into the
iris world as it is now.  Of course, need we say that there is more to that
world than the bearded irises?

Anyhow, talk about boring!  This fall I ditched most of my daylilies
because I found them simply too tiresome, with their limited range of color
and form, and finicky requirements.  I wish the hem hybridizers would pay
more attention to these things.......

Bill Shear
Department of Biology
Hampden-Sydney College
Hampden-Sydney VA 23943
FAX (804)223-6374

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