Pictured above are Mrs. Jean Stevens, President of the New Zealand Iris Society and Marion Walker, President of the American Iris Society visiting the Schreiners display gardens, Salem, Oregon, May, 1956. Photo courtesy of Schreiners.
LETTERS FROM NOTED HYBRIDIZERS, Region 14 Northern California Nevada Bulletin, Fall 1959.
The Banquet at Region 14 convention in Porterville last spring was highlighted by the reading of letters from a number of nationally prominent hybridisers, all written in response to a request from W.B. Schortmann.
............During the last 10 years I have been concentrating my main breeding efforts to wards the raising of tangerine bearded pink amoenas. In the primary crosses I used yellow amoenas of the Pinnacle series lines with Pink Cameo and a pink bud break I obtain very many years ago from variegata breeding. Although I have had quite a large number of pink amoenas for several years, no single seedling has yet appealed to me as carrying all the vitues I am seeking. Those with large flowers of perfect form do not have dead white standards, and those with dead white standards and pink falls either are small or lack the tangerine beard I consider essential to make such a delicate contrast truly effective.
In 1957 a number of seedlings came so close to my ideal, however, that I feel confident that the crossing of the unrelated best cannot fail to bring the desired results. In the meantime, the 1958 crop of seedlings has flowered- from crosses made previous to the 1957 seedlings. These one generation back from the 1957 crop, surprised me with an expected progress. One seedling in particular happily opening during Harold Knowlton's visit here has dead white standards and very clear,smooth, apricot falls. On a seedling plant the flowers were not larger than the medium-sized and may not prove large enough to be worthy of naming. Two other distinctly related seedlings gave pink amoenas of large size and pleasing flared form, but were too dwarf. So the medium-size apricot amoena was crossed to these as well as to the best of the 1957 selections. Amongst other pink amoena crosses- which comprise about two thirds of my 1958 seedling crop-occurred about 20 other pink or apricots amoenas, but though I use these for further breeding they all lack at least one of the many virtues we now ask of a new Iris.
I think it is safe to say that long continued line breeding one colour and particularly for one colour combination, produces some unusual byproducts. This has been very noticeable in my line breeding for pink amoenas. It was natural to expect an apricot amoena as a by-product, but several most unusual colours and colour combinations are emerging from pink bud amoena breeding. Possibly this is due to the fact that the yellow amoenas and the pink used in the primary crosses are most recess of characters, and the study care I have taken to avoid introducing any other bloodlines was bound to develop distinctive results other than amoenas.
Amongst my seedlings have shown up white and pastel blue amoenas with red beards, but other unexpected developments have been strangely will Lucent pearly grey with a pinky blue cast, almost white, but shimmering with ice dust, denoting a texture as well as colour development. These all have self coloured beards.
A number development is rich clear pink standards and soft violet falls. This is lovely where the fall is clear and the colour defined. The standards are always a clear rich pink and the beard is usually tangerine or red. A strangely different pink which has a warm brown cast, making it a cocoa pink, has also appeared- sometimes as a self, and sometimes with a cream standard. Of course if these colours are to be gained in flowers of large size, Heavy substance, and perfect form, much concentrated breeding work will need to be undertaken. But the interesting point is that it is obvious that there are still a long way to go before we can say we have exhausted the possibilities of new colours, and new colour combinations, which are based within the tangerine bearded pink complex.
Must Line Breed
I should emphasise that the development of these new recessive combinations and colours have a one almighty "must" attach to them. Whoever develops any one of these new colours which are emerging must attack the problem by means of line breeding. In no other way can I see these, until recently hidden, recessives being given the attributes of first-class garden irises. There will be no shortcuts via the introduction of other irises of dominant colours- and don't forget that any orthodox colour is dominant in relation to a recessive combination.
Outside the pink amoena breeding, and amongst my brown amoena crosses, has shown up another development which should not entailed much further breeding to give a perfect flower and a new colour combination. This is an Iris with pale blue standards and rich walnut brown falls- a sort of brown neglecta. The only faults one of the seedlings has which prevents me from naming it is rather close branching and flowers which are hardly large enough. However, with a nearly related brown amoena of good size and excellent branching available for use to correct these faults it should not be too difficult to get results.
Mrs W.R.Stevens, Bastia Hill, Wanganui New Zealand.
The above insightful letter from Jean Stevens was written to be read at the Region 14 convention in Porterville, Spring 1959. Letters from noted breeders were selected by Bill Schortman. The above extract was published in the Region 14 Fall 1959 regional bulletin.