There are biases towards TB with Dykes as these are more popular, and
more importantly, biases towards the warmer climates where there are
more judges. Thus there have been top awarded bearded iris in past
(including Dykes Medal Winners) that are good growers only in warmer
climates, and not the rest of the AIS regions.
As a commercial grower in a colder climate (colder part of Southern
Ontario, Canada) I often see new iris enthusiasts selecting iris based
on the awards they have received. I also would expect some of these
plants to not do as well for them as others that are more suitable for
their climate. I do try to steer people away from plants that are not
suitable for their climate. But there are many sellers of iris, and I
suspect that there are a few enthusiasts in colder climates that get
turned off iris when the "Best" as determined by AIS award system do
poorly for them.
I have suggested in the past that there be some sort of Region
requirements for awards. I was invited to present some ideas to the AIS
board of Directors, but decided that the time was probably not right.
If there was a ground swell of support for this sort of idea, then it
could be organized and presented.
If there was some sort of Region requirement (such as weighting region
votes) then more of the award winning iris would be suitable for a
larger number of growing climates. This would also translate into
retaining more iris ent
husiasts, and make the award system a more
reliable method of selecting good cultivars.
One man’s opinion.
From: Sandy Ives <email@example.com>
Sent: Sun, 29 Mar 2009 9:01 pm
Subject: [iris-species] Re:proposed AIS Awards Ballot
This is a precis of a precis I sent to Diane privately. I have
truncated the original, and there are quibbles that everyone can make.
I have also removed some personal biases. ;-)
The AIS awards are always going to be biased one way or another... in
favour of growing irises as opposed to, say, daylilies. <bias
These awards are determined by garden performance in the various
judges' gardens. That is a considerable improvement over a picture in
a catalogue, over a spike in a show, or by Joe Blow's comments on the
All the information concerning the iris awards is provided in the
Handbook for Judges and Shows that is available for sale from the AIS
First, the hybridizer has to evaluate the seedling - does it have
qualities that are an advancement over what is already available to the
knowledgeable gardening public. This means those who will distinguish
between the stuff you can get at Walmart vs. the stuff you can get at a
quality nursery. If=2
0so, they may register it for introduction after
several20years of evaluation in their garden and (especially for the
less experience hybridizer) guesting at another garden elsewhere in the
country/continent. It may then be forked into the compost or formally
introduced via a catalogue or some other printable advertisement
(webpages can be printed and mailed to the registrar).
The clock starts upon that formal introduction. A bearded iris becomes
eligible for the Honourable Mention upon its second year of
availability to the public. A beardless iris, such as a siberian,
becomes eligible for the HM upon its third year of availability to the
Practically speaking, that means avid iris growers who are willing to
pay the introduction price... and that generally means the iris judges
(such as myself). Fortunately iris prices come down far more rapidly
than daylilies, so the average gardener can buy such irises within 3-4
years at about a quarter the introduced price.
The tool used to make the determination of what wins the HM is the AIS
ballot that is sent to all eligible AIS judges. There are over 800
judges spread out over the continent and overseas, including a large
number in the Pacific Northwest. All have multiple years of AIS
membership and a considerable amount of training into what constitutes
a quality iris. There are some excellent judges and some20less so, but
the overall quality is quite high and all must retrain, both in the
classroom and i
n the garden, if they wish to maintain their status.
So when the ballots are tabulated, there are about 800-900 experienced
voters whose opinions are counted. For all iris classes, the top 10%
plus ties will receive an HM. If an iris does not win an HM in its
first three years of eligibility, it drops off the ballot BUT it always
remains eligible for an HM. <bias removed>.
Once an iris receives an HM, it is added to the ballot as being
eligible Award of Merit two years after the HM award. This allows the
judges who have not grown it previously to add it to their garden for
subsequent evaluation (or to search it out in other iris growers'
garden). Again, it remains eligible for an AM for three years, but if
it does not win an AM in those three years, it drops off the ballot
The top 10% plus ties will receive an AM. At least two of each class
will be awarded an AM, however there must be at least three candidates
for an AM before voting is permitted. Therefore the less popular
classes will see proportionately more AM awards per number of
introductions than the most popular classes.
So you see that the chances of winning an AM in a given year are only
slightly greater than 1% for all introduced irises
from a given year.
In three years of eligibility this means that around 3% of all
introduced irises from a given year in a gi
ven class will win an AM for
the most popular classes (TB and SDB especially).
Once a iris wins an AM, it becomes immediately eligible for the class
medal. The top vote getter wins the medal, but ties are permitted.
The medal winners become eligible for the Dykes Memorial Medal.
So to answer your question concerning 'Starwoman' (an IB) vs 'Rococco',
(a TB) the hybridizer who introduced 'Starwoman' saw qualities that
were improvements over existing cultivars. Those qualities could be
bloom count, durability, form, structure, hardiness, foliage habits;
any number of things. The enthusiastic iris gardeners across North
America who purchased it early and grew it in their gardens saw the
same thing, or even different things (such as rebloom) and voted for it
as a confirmation of its quality. Over the course of four rounds of
voting (six in the case of 'Starwoman'), its merits were confirmed.
All of which does not mean 'Rococco' is an inferior iris (I've never
grown it). It means that 'Starwoman' has superior qualities that
knowledgeable iris growers believe the gardening public should be made
aware of when determining what they might consider planting in their
Sandy Ives in Ottawa