Tuesday, July 10, 2012



The thoughts for these posts on hybridising came about late February when I was sent the photo of 'Sopra Il Vulcano' re-blooming in Auckland and looking through the pedigree got me thinking. This stunning Iris is the result of crosses between three irises that on average were each twenty years old at time of its registration. 

Now several years later Paul Black used the iris 'Sopra Il Vulcano' (1998) as the pollen parent in a cross with seedling he labeled 12A, ('Apricot Topping' 1997 X 'Romantic Evening' 1994) and as you can see all of the irises involved in this mix are irises of the nineties. The seedling selected from this cross became the impressive award winning iris 'Some Like it Hot' (2007).
I am also hesitant when writing about 'Some Like it Hot', as it could once again fan the 
smouldering embers for the 'Hell that’s a good looking iris, lets make moves about importing irises again' crowd, so before there is a mad rush to start drooling over the latest  international catalogues just let me tell you that all the irises used in making this cross are all available commercially in New Zealand, so it could just as easily been bred here in New Zealand today without importing a single iris.

Having to fly overseas to do crosses in iris nurseries beds is just so naff and unnecessary to produce a great iris, and as for having a Jean Stevens Medal for an iris grown from imported seed…… Sure, get seed from overseas to introduce different genes or to short cut a breeding pattern into your breeding pool but don't make it a class or set up a trial ground for the seedlings, as it sends the wrong signals. I have read many, many articles written by Jean and all I can find on the subject is her great enthusiasm for breeding ‘New Zealand Irises’ and you can sense her reserved enthusiasm when you read the following article ‘Breeding Bearded Irises’.
Should a new hybridiser produce a world beating Iris, please don’t expect a rush of recognition and awards. The New Zealand Iris Society has its own awards system which is, quite frankly, puzzling, erratic and underwhelming and that’s being kind. Seriously, New Zealand has fantastic pool of talented hybridisers that deserve better recognition than they currently receive. With only three (last week there was only two) NZ Dykes medals awarded in the last 20 or so years, so perhaps the trial gardens need to grow a few recent Dykes Medal Irises amongst the trial irises just to give the judges a direction on what they might be looking for!!!!
One would have to think that trail grounds politics and the debating of the rules (which in some instances still have unresolved discussions that have lasted years) all seem to have taken on greater importance than the Irises themselves. Then there's the BIS guidelines for entry to a New Zealand Dykes Test Garden that state: “An Iris must be grown and pollinated on New Zealand soil to be eligible” (Has this always been the guideline?) and then go on to say “the person who pollinates the iris plant is the hybridiser and must be a member of the New Zealand Iris Society. This iris can then be called ‘New Zealand bred’”............ Really? I know some very clever New Zealand Iris Hybridisers who are not members of the NZIS that would take issue with this.

Who (and it’s a safe bet it wasn’t a committee of hybridisers) has made so many complicated rules regarding awarding Dykes Memorial Medals when the purpose for which it was originally instituted in 1926 was simply "For the best new Iris of the year, not hitherto in commerce".

All New Zealanders that are interested in breeding Irises need to stop thinking let's import more International Irises for their 'new genetics', because quite frankly the genetics aren’t new and start thinking about the great iris genetics that are readily available in New Zealand, they are about as new as you will find anywhere else in the world. Also keeping in mind with all the fuss about the kiwifruit pollen importation currently going on in New Zealand and two government agencies at each others throats playing the blame game, how likely is it that these same government officials are going to consider relaxing restrictions on importing Irises? Let me enlighten you. I was in Wellington just last Friday and this subject was part of a discussion I participated in and the answer, without having to go into details, is zero, zip, nil, not going to happen, so forget about it.

My closing thoughts......... you will not have sell out speaking tours if you had some Iris Society policy wonk espouse ‘the thrill of Iris Society Rule Committee meetings I have attended’, but you do get great attendance and attention when hybridisers speak, and that should tell you something. So, let’s get on with encouraging more New Zealand hybridising which will allow us to grow more New Zealand-bred Irises which, surprisingly, like growing in our gardens. Without the increasingly diminishing but extremely valuable group known as hybridisers Iris societies can quickly disappear!

The next few posts extend the topic of New Zealand Iris hybridising with amazing and informative contributions from Jean Stevens, Keith Keppel, and Paul Black.


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