Breeding Irises- the small ones

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I am starting this thread about iris breeding. Not that I am actually doing this, however I am interested in it, and last year bought a bunch of seeds of various species iris like Iris milesii. These seeds are sadly still in my seed box. I suggested to irisMA a thread about this (irisMA is actually doing it but requested I start a thread). And I saw our Canadian cousin is also interested in Iris.
So here goes.
I bought a bunch of different Tall Bearded Iris (TBI) several years ago from Schreiner's Iris. I had seen a clump of purple ones in outrageously dry shade where my father lived, probably planted at least 50 years ago. Still there, still blooming. Never any care at all, no pests or leaf nibbling or brown leaf dieback.
Now I knew TBI are supposed to be cared for, but I thought maybe some newer hybrids would be nice. After all, wouldn't they exhibit "hybrid vigor"? Sadly, none have really taken off, although 'Immortality' has established nicely it does not bloom a lot. Most have an icky disease where the leaves turn brown at tips, then slowly rot down to the base.
On the advice of Edelweiss Perennials, I planted Iris cristata 'Abbey's Violet' in dry shade under a big pine tree, it is doing fine although slugs do go for it in the spring. I also planted Iris foetidissima var lutea, on the advice of Planting the Dry Shade Garden by Graham Rice. Also doing well although no blooms yet. I grew some of these from seed, quite a process as they require a double dormancy!
Anyway I started reading about Iris, helped along by a highly discounted book from Schreiner's The World of Irisespublished in 1978 . What a lot of species! What a lot of habitats, from bogs to desert! So now I am interested in Iris.
It strikes me that the fancy TBI, highly bred for the show table, exhibit many of the problem qualities in many highly bred plants (and show dogs) like poor disease resistance, and need for perfect amended garden soil, fertilizer, staking, and frequent division . Also they are so big, I find it hard to place them.
Yet many iris are also a "pass along plant", many are hardy and survive and bloom for decades without problems.
I think for iris, as well as many other garden plants, there is a need for people to breed ones where the single most important trait is toughness. Think 'Knockout' roses. I heard that guy sprayed them with diseases, and did not put pesticides on them. Good idea.
Perhaps amateur breeders are really better suited to this project, as we don't have to win prizes, or sell large numbers, or patent everything. We could be satisfied with fewer blooms, smaller and more rain-resistant (and slug-resistant). Because there are so many iris with so many traits, one could probably come up with just about anything, eventually. The perfect "pass along plant" maybe?

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South Hamilton, MA

Tall bearded do well in our climate as a rule. It depends on where they come from. Immortality takes awhile to settle in. It is also a good rebloomer. The Standard dwarf class is very happy in New England. that is my zone (6b) as well as further north in Maine. So I am working on 2 SDB projects; red amoena & pink. We were trying TB X iris pumila for pink. Then Barry Blyth of Australia came up with the pink SDB, Chanted. Paul Black of Oregon has done quite a few nice pink iris. He is doing wild things with different plicatas. See his introductions this year. However 'Banded Tiger' is from New England & is in the parentage of Thomas Johnson's plicatas. I will post an image of my nicest pink. I would like to add a 3rd bud. Everything but that 3rd bud.

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Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Quote from Pistil :
So here goes. I bought a bunch of different Tall Bearded Iris (TBI) several years ago from Schreiner's Iris. I had seen a clump of purple ones in outrageously dry shade where my father lived, probably planted at least 50 years ago. Still there, still blooming. Never any care at all, no pests or leaf nibbling or brown leaf dieback.

Now I knew TBI are supposed to be cared for, but I thought maybe some newer hybrids would be nice. After all, wouldn't they exhibit "hybrid vigor"? Sadly, none have really taken off, although 'Immortality' has established nicely it does not bloom a lot. Most have an icky disease where the leaves turn brown at tips, then slowly rot down to the base.
Hi Pistil,

There is a patch of "old fashioned" tall bearded iris in our front yard. It was there when we rented this place a few years ago. It is probably several decades old, and seems to have no pests or problems. Your TBI and their "icky disease" are interesting. I wonder if that could be a nutrient problem (too much or too little).

In any case, your point about the Knockout roses is well taken. There may very well be a need for something like that in irises. But I suggest some research on that "icky disease." Like, what is its official name, and how do iris growers deal with it?

Good luck on your iris project. Sounds like a real adventure.

ZM


South Hamilton, MA

Some time ago I. mesopatamica was put into the TB which made the form lovely. That came from Turkey (a southern area). So people have to try & see what grows in their area. PCI (pacific coast irises) grow on the western areas & are lovely. They can be grown in their native areas. Not in New England, however. So with the TB irises one has to see what grows well in each area. The 'old fashioned irises' which probably last have a species which grows. Talk to people & see which cultivars grow in their gardens. Which part of WA do you live? I know ZM is in KS. So what grows for him may not grow for you. We are NE of Boston, so different cultivars might be happy here. Speaking of the 'little ones' the beardless 'littles' I. cristata are being hybridized by a person in our area. They have been collected before. See jpwflowers.com. Those people have been growing Siberian irises since the 1980s. Bee Warburton who grew the small irises was a teacher to many of us started to grow Siberians & they learned from her as well as Currier McEwen in Maine. Someone who knows the different cultivars could tell Pistil which are the better growers. Even the 'old fashioned irises' could use dividing once in a while & the new ones should be divided every 3 years. I would think that growing irises in shade would not be a good idea except for the cristata which like dappled shade.

South Hamilton, MA

The purple irises which grow so well are probably a species Iris pallida. In the spring check on the spaeths covering the buds. If they are papery they would be the old diploids I. pallida. If green they are tetraploid. Which species did you receive? The seeds won't spoil if you keep them dry. They can be planted in a pot (we use the plastic boxes from garden centers) which will give them a start in soil. They should not be in the ground as seeds can sprout several years later & you will have no idea which they are. Put a couple markers in the pot so you don't lose track. Write any ID numbers (you can make up any) in a notebook. Good record keeping is necessary. which species do you have? Having seeds in hand make a good experiment.

South Hamilton, MA

My MTB seedling which is in the process of being registered phot is below.

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Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Oh how exciting! I think it's probably not the greatest photo, but I get the idea.
So how do you register it?
Was this a first generation cross of yours, or have you been working on this project for a while?

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi Lucy,

Is your seedling picture small deliberately to make it less likely for the picture to be "stolen"?

ZM

South Hamilton, MA

It is small because I didn't scan it well. I am not good at that sort of thing. Let me see if I can do better. It seems to come out the same. I don't know why the 'x' at the top.

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South Hamilton, MA

The information for registration has all ready been sent to the American Iris Society.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Quote from irisMA :
The information for registration has all ready been sent to the American Iris Society....It is small because I didn't scan it well. I am not good at that sort of thing. Let me see if I can do better. It seems to come out the same. I don't know why the 'x' at the top.

Hi Lucy,

The American Iris Society would also probably like a better picture. And you probably also do. Hopefully we can help you make and upload better pictures of your irises. Maybe we can start by you telling us what you meant by you "didn't scan it well"..Were you somehow scanning the iris instead of photographing it? Does the picture exist as a jpg file on your computer and, if so, what is its file size? Or are you even using a computer?

Apparently what you uploaded to Dave's Garden had a small size that was entered on the forum as 250 x 250 pixels. (very small.) As an example, I will upload a jpg file from my computer that is a zinnia picture whose dimensions are 1000 pixels wide by 800 pixels tall. To allow for advertising space, Dave's Garden limits pictures to 708 pixels wide so DG will downsample that and report its size as 0px 0px (scaled to 708px 566px) But I think Daves Garden may actually save the original 1000 X 800 picture on the forum's server. But, in any case, you can right click on the picture and select "View Image" at the top of the popup window, and see a larger version of the picture in your Browser window. Your browser will show an even larger version of the picture if you hit the Ctrl + keys. You can even repeat Ctrl + for incrementally larger views.

In the interest of improving the quality of your iris pictures, we should try to get to the bottom of this.

ZM

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South Hamilton, MA

Way beyond me. I do use a computer, don't know how to take photos with a camera. I will only be able to post until mid Oct. as I will not pay again. Of course I can check in & see how all of you are doing. The current management is vey annoying.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Quote from irisMA :
Way beyond me. I do use a computer, don't know how to take photos with a camera.

Hi Lucy,

Do you have a camera? Some "point and shoot" cameras are just that. Aim the camera at your subject and push the shutter release button. Even the more advanced cameras have at least one "point and shoot" mode. Perhaps one of your friends or acquaintances could take some iris pictures for you, or show you how to use your camera if you have one..

I am sorry you plan to "jump ship" this October. Although I don't blame you. A lot of Dave's Garden members have decided to leave and many already have left. I'm kind of "on the fence" about whether I will renew when it comes time. I am active on Annuals forums at the Garden Web and the National Gardening Association, and participation on those sites is free...

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Hi Lucy and Zen_Man-
Lucy- It does look as if you got a photo into the computer somehow, as you have a terrific photo of a purple Iris as your "Avatar". Did someone help you?
In terms of photos, many I post here were taken with my cell phone. I have a nice camera but for this the cell phone photos are fine. "Uploading" them into the computer is pretty easy, I just plug it in with the cord that came with it, the computer asks if I want to load them into the photos file, and I say yes. Anyway, no need to worry about it even if you can't deal with this issue, I have always really enjoyed your contributions here. We have other members who never post photos, and it does not matter.
Anyway, if you leave next month we will miss you. I decided to stay (agree this is all annoying) because even with all the changes this is still a good place, with lots of good folks. Plant Files is more complete, the Plant ID forum is better, and there are a lot of super-knowledgeable people on this site, in several forums I track. I decided the lack of site maintenance is something I can ignore. We are on our own, but mostly that is OK.
ZM- I hope you stay too! There isn't really another amateur forum anywhere like this that I know of, and you are a big part of why I say that.

South Hamilton, MA

I am learning how to use a digital camera. My MTB photo comes out well on all the other forms. My avatar has been for years in my collection. It is also my MTB 'Twilight Calm'. I am on the iris forum on National Gardening. I will look for annuals. I just got tired of fighting this site. I use the wiki iris encyclopedia of AIS for locating photos of irises.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Oh wow that is lovely. Is anyone marketing 'Twilight Calm'?

South Hamilton, MA

Thank you. winterberry iris gardens has it.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I think I will get one next summer!

South Hamilton, MA

I hope it does well for you.

Dallas, TX

I'm fairly new to being a member, although have used DG as a reference for years.
Really nice how everyone is supportive here! I slowly learned how to use the digital cameras, and would just pull the card and transfer data that way, and later use a card reader, for my work boarding dogs in my home (sending pics to their families).

Finally, I got a cell phone that had a decent camera in it, at about the same time camera # 23 got lost (dust and dog hair do them in!). I learned how to use it, and it was faster and easier, but then used Dropbox to transfer things from phone to elsewhere.
We're never too old to learn this stuff, especially if we love the subject!

Back to the original topic of this post, here in Texas, I have found that the older low-maintenance irises, the ones who attracted me by growing in vacant lots, are often simpler, without the frills and curls and horns and colored beards and all that. So the choice of TBI from Schreiner's may have had some that included those features we like but are not really "natural" to the plants.
I can also say that my experience is that some iris need 2-3 years to really settle in, and then surprise one by becoming fiercely prolific.
I have around 40 kinds of iris going now, and need to put the latest purchases in.(Requires some building of new beds, so they are in temporary housing).
I am fairly neglectful of them, not watering much, removing dead leaves and debris, but honestly, I love them for being stubborn and brave with the lantana and other tough ones.
At some point, I will want to learn to hybridize, I think. by then, I will know who is toughest, and maybe strive toward that "Knockout" iris goal.

Here's Fast Forward, a tough little rebloomer who took off and multiplied right away.

Thumbnail by Ravenhill Thumbnail by Ravenhill

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