It is strange that I am increasingly drawn to some if the really old iris despite their relatively small flowers with thin texture and subtle colours. ‘Dauntless’ was raised in 1927, raised by Clarence Phillips Connell of Tennessee and won the Dykes Medal in 1929. It was bred from his ‘Rose Dominion’ which, in turn, was bred from ‘Dominion’ which was one of the first tetraploid iris which revolutionised the development of iris. Cooleys, in 1932, described it as ‘The peer of all red irises, a Dykes medal winner in America, and certainly one of the finest things ever introduced.’
Red iris have always been the Holy Grail of iris breeders because there is no true red pigment in bearded iris and great strides have been made in reaching what looks like a red iris. Scarlet will probably never be achieved but I wonder if it is truly necessary. This old-timer may be primitive by today’s standards (there will be many reds in ‘R’) but it has real charm and is an important step in the development of iris.
And so we come to another important iris. ‘Dusky Challenger’ is an imposing iris, almost 1m high when in bloom with good branching and lots of sumptuous blooms. It is a Schreiner introduction, released in 1986. It was given the Dykes Medal in 1992, a measure of its performance and vigour but a greater accolade was to come in 2010 when it was voted the most popular of all in the vote for the top 100 iris of all! The flowers are large, it blooms rather late in the season and it can open four, well-spaced blooms at once. It is still one of the most widely available iris and a good choice if you just want a good garden iris.
We continue with very special iris as we meet this ‘Drama Queen’. Sumptuous and combining intricate patterning on the falls with bold colouring it was raised by Keith Keppel in 2003 from his own ‘Tangled Web’ (1999). It is tall and fragrant and collected a host of awards including the American Dykes Medal in 2011. This was a year after the vote for the most popular of all iris, in 2010 when it came in at number 13.
‘Doodads’ has a rather similar colouring to ‘Edith Wolford’, an iris that I have always loved, though there are many subsequent improvements to the yellow standard/lilac falls pattern. But this has a lot more going on, in addition to the more complicated coloring. It was raised from Monty Byers’ ‘Passion Flower’ which is a yellow Space Age iris and Paul Black introduced this in 2004. It is certainly a love-it or hate-it flower.
With insane ruffling and widely flaring falls the relatively simple colouring of this beautiful flower is shown off to perfection. It was raised by California’s Bay View Gardens’ Joseph Ghio in 1998. He is a prolific hybridiser and not just of bearded iris. Rightly or wrongly, I associate his iris with fabulous ruffles and frills and these are features of his latest work, now sold by Schreiners.