Irises forum: Question for the hybridizers

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South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
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Polymerous
Feb 11, 2016 3:22 PM CST
Here's a question for the iris hybridizers, on culling seedlings. (Thinking ahead, here, because I don't have a whole lot of space for iris seedlings... the daylily seedlings already own the space, and then some.)

With daylily seedlings, some of them can be counted upon to cull themselves prior to maiden bloom, via rot or drought. The hybridizer can also do culling based on foliage. Is it susceptible to disease (leaf streak disease, rust, spring sickness)? Is it starkly upright as opposed to nicely arching? Is it thick and coarse? (And, I suspect with some hybridizers, some culling may happen in favor of foliage color (deep green or blue-green) or habit (in favor of dormant or semi-evergreen).)

Daylily hybridizers can also select based on vigor of growth... if the seedling is slow growing, and shows no sign of bloom when most of its class (either all seedlings from that year of harvest, or other seedlings in that particular cross) are going gangbusters, and may have had their maiden bloom.

So the corresponding iris question is, what kind of seedling culling or selection can be made with iris seedlings prior to maiden bloom? Confused
The current avatar image is that of a volunteer daylily seedling showing cristation.
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
Charter ATP Member Cottage Gardener Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: United Kingdom Region: Northeast US Irises
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irisarian
Feb 11, 2016 3:32 PM CST
Lack of growth is one. If the foliage is messy, cull that. Of course my medians are easier to cull because we don't have to wait so long to bloom.
Name: Bonnie Sojourner
Harris Brake Lake, Arkansas (Zone 7a)
Magnolia zone
Region: United States of America Region: Arkansas Master Gardener: Arkansas Irises Bulbs Seed Starter
Gardens in Buckets Garden Art Plant and/or Seed Trader Moon Gardener Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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grannysgarden
Feb 11, 2016 4:46 PM CST
bloom color and form. Good stalks and vigorous growth. bud count per stalk. And sadly some absolutely gorgeous irises are thrown away because they look too much like another already on the marker.
I love my garden.... and Jesus, and coffee, and naps.......
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Polymerous
Feb 11, 2016 10:39 PM CST
Bonnie, thanks for your comments. I know the problem with "look too much like another" - there are many daylilies that fall into that category.

But what I am looking for here is tips to help me cull BEFORE the seedlings ever bloom. (Because I will need the space... Also, as one daylily person pointed out, it is a lot easier to get rid of a seedling with poor foliage or other plant habits before it blooms, because if it blooms with a pretty face, you're going to want to hold onto it - when you really shouldn't.)

So, in that vein, Lucy answered with "lack of growth" and "foliage is messy". Thank You!

That leads me to further ask, what kind of growth should I be looking for, and what constitutes "messy" foliage? (Because, to be honest, I am not that impressed with iris foliage. I am not that impressed with a lot of daylily foliage, either, so no discrimination here.)
The current avatar image is that of a volunteer daylily seedling showing cristation.
Name: Gabriel/Gabe Rivera
Charlotte, NC (Zone 7b)
German imported, Michigan raised
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Cuzz4short
Feb 12, 2016 5:13 AM CST
Douglas Kanarowski of Mariposa Iris uses this form

http://www.mariposairis.com/mariposairis/eval.aspx

It's a PDF, so it's printable
Gimme it and I'll grow it!
Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
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tveguy3
Feb 12, 2016 5:24 AM CST
Although I never plan to be an iris judge, it would most likely be a good idea to get that training if one wants to take this to a grander scale then just dabbling.
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. - Alexander the Great
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
Charter ATP Member Cottage Gardener Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: United Kingdom Region: Northeast US Irises
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irisarian
Feb 12, 2016 10:16 AM CST
You can look at it & make up your own form. I think you should go over y our own iris collection & pretend they are seedlings & see what works for you. there will be more things on dwarfs than on TBs. Your eye is so accustomed to daylilies it is difficult to make a 'short cut to irises.
Thumb of 2016-02-12/irisarian/9c6c3a To give an example here, as much as I like the flower, the foliage is taller than the stem & flower so may be useful is I get taller stem, but would not be an introduction.

[Last edited by irisarian - Feb 12, 2016 10:22 AM (+)]
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Name: Bonnie Sojourner
Harris Brake Lake, Arkansas (Zone 7a)
Magnolia zone
Region: United States of America Region: Arkansas Master Gardener: Arkansas Irises Bulbs Seed Starter
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grannysgarden
Feb 12, 2016 10:19 AM CST
I have a few that the flower blooms almost down in the foliage and I would like it if the foliage were much shorter. Great point Lucy.
I love my garden.... and Jesus, and coffee, and naps.......
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Polymerous
Feb 12, 2016 10:58 AM CST
Thanks for the form, Gabe. There are some good points there, but clearly one is expected to know what constitutes things like good substance, branching, and so forth. I do like his idea of "20% better or 20% different", although that requires a fair amount of iris experience and/or cultivar knowledge to know what constitutes better or different (and by how much). To my mind, a reblooming iris with a fancy modern face might fit that description, but I could be wrong.

Tom's suggestion of iris judge training has its merits; it would teach those points. I did that with daylily garden judge training and it was useful, but it automatically landed me on the list of garden judges, although that was never my intention. Blinking

Lucy and Bonnie, thanks for pointing out the issue of bloom to foliage relationship. Some daylilies also have the flaw (imho) of having the daylilies bloom just barely above the foliage (and sometimes down in it).

As for the idea that there are no short cuts going from evaluating daylilies to irises... well, a lot of older iris hybridizers moved to daylilies (and let's not forget Bill Maryott), so presumably there are actually a lot of things in common. "Substance" I gather is an issue for both flowers. I know what constitutes good substance for a daylily bloom, so it is just a matter of determining what that means in the iris world. I hate it when daylily blooms don't open properly... so I would be on the lookout for something like that in iris blooms (if such ever occurs).

But what constitutes good branching and budcount in an iris? I haven't a clue. Confused What constitutes good foliage (or conversely, as one person put it, "messy" foliage)? Not a clue. What about what constitutes an acceptable flower form for an iris introduction? Daylilies are all over the map there (and some of them are getting to be.. Blinking Whistling to my mind). Are touching or overlapping falls a necessity? Is the bloom (and thus the plant) considered "flawed" without them?

All of this, while of course useful and important to know, goes beyond the scope of the question, which is how to evaluate (and cull) seedlings prior to maiden bloom, which once again comes back to the foliage, the vigor of growth, and maybe (because I'm not sure how this works) the rate of increase.
The current avatar image is that of a volunteer daylily seedling showing cristation.
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
Charter ATP Member Cottage Gardener Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: United Kingdom Region: Northeast US Irises
Region: United States of America
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irisarian
Feb 12, 2016 11:23 PM CST
Maiden bloom is important. I don't cull before that unless the plant is not growing well.
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Polymerous
Feb 13, 2016 12:04 AM CST
So you don't think there is such a thing as bad iris foliage? Or maybe you do, but you think a pretty face trumps bad foliage? Trying to understand here... Confused
The current avatar image is that of a volunteer daylily seedling showing cristation.
Name: Bonnie Sojourner
Harris Brake Lake, Arkansas (Zone 7a)
Magnolia zone
Region: United States of America Region: Arkansas Master Gardener: Arkansas Irises Bulbs Seed Starter
Gardens in Buckets Garden Art Plant and/or Seed Trader Moon Gardener Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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grannysgarden
Feb 13, 2016 3:52 AM CST
Poly, if you are using the term bad foliage to indicate a plant where the bloom opens down in the foliage then you will have to wait for the maiden bloom, and perhaps the second season bloom, to realize that this is a trait of this particular plant. All of the other irises I have seen have similar foliage and I would not be able to assess a bad foliage plant until after it bloomed. One thing I do not like about an iris is when it outgrows its class. I have an SDB that will sometimes put up a leaf that is 20 inches tall. That is very irritating to me and looks tacky in an otherwise uniform bed. Perhaps it is just a trait in my garden or perhaps the hybridizer thought the bloom made it worthy of registering. Others may have grown an iris with bad foliage but for me all my seedlings look like a normal iris. I will not be able to tell if they are misbehaving until they bloom..... and I cant wait. LOL
I love my garden.... and Jesus, and coffee, and naps.......
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
Charter ATP Member Cottage Gardener Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: United Kingdom Region: Northeast US Irises
Region: United States of America
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irisarian
Feb 13, 2016 11:17 AM CST
Even in SDBs one can have twisted foliage or leaves which brown off quickly. These are faults as well as the height. However a plant which does well in the hybridizers garden may not do so elsewhere. When my introducer was in MA even between our gardens a plant could sulk so we did not introduce the couple which did.
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Polymerous
Feb 13, 2016 10:47 PM CST
When I mean "bad foliage", I am not referring to blooms that are down in the foliage, or nearly so. That I consider to be a fault of the scape, in that it is insufficiently high. But you make a good point, Bonnie, about the foliage outgrowing the class, and that seems like something that could be culled out prior to maiden bloom (which is the point of this entire exercise).

"Bad foliage" would be things like susceptibility to disease (in daylilies, susceptible to leaf streak or rust), problems early in the spring (spring sickness, not something I usually see here), or foliage that just for whatever reason looks bad.

In daylilies, I dislike really wide coarse foliage; I think it looks bad. (Can iris foliage get too wide? Or too skinny?) And foliage that does not arch properly but rather sticks straight up is definitely a fault. (I'm not sure what the iris equivalent to that last one would be - maybe foliage which always flops?)

Lucy, twisting or quickly browning foliage definitely sound like faults; thanks for pointing that out.

And not all plants perform well in all gardens, something to keep in mind. But first, they have to pass in the hybridizer's garden.

All that said, I know one kind of foliage culling which should be easy to do... in a cross aimed at variegated foliage, it presumably shouldn't take long to cull out the seedlings which aren't variegated. Whistling

The current avatar image is that of a volunteer daylily seedling showing cristation.

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iciris
Feb 14, 2016 2:37 AM CST
Polymerous, I applaude you for what your doing and trying to learn from the many knowledgeable people here on ATP. I've really liked ready the different opinions. That said I sure know I couldn't do what your trying to do. I would not be able to cull an Iris before it bloomed. That would be like throwing out a present before you opened it. My curiosity would get me every single time. nodding *Blush*
Name: Mary Ann
Kentucky
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Region: United States of America Hostas Hummingbirder Daylilies Birds
Irises Keeps Horses Region: Kentucky Farmer Container Gardener Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Muddymitts
Feb 14, 2016 9:45 AM CST
Yup -- I'm in agreement with that, Barb.

Regarding foliage -- I think that it's so uniform in Irises, and so well established for the species, that it would be really difficult to make any determinations early on. One fault of foliage would be a tendency toward leaf-spot or browning off -- but those issues usually show up later on in the season, generally after blooming. And those faults could be somewhat controlled (or helped) by activities of the gardener.

For myself -- I grow an Iris for one reason only -- the bloom. I don't care about the foliage -- it's not what I'm there for. If the bloom is spectacular, I'll live with foliage faults.

Thoughts become things -- choose the good ones. ([url=www.tut.com]www.tut.com[/url])
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Polymerous
Feb 14, 2016 5:25 PM CST
Phillip, it's not that I'm not curious about the blooms that I will never see - I am. But I have suffered through enough plants with bad foliage before finally deciding that enough is enough and pitching them, that I have become somewhat more critical (or, if you prefer, more jaundiced) about it. (Though, as I think I may have mentioned elsewhere, it helps greatly in the seedling culling process if one has worked oneself into a bad mood before taking it on. Grumbling It is much easier to do it then: "You! You've got leaf streak?! OUT!")

I think the daylily hybridizer (I can't remember who it was) who said that it is easier to dispose of a plant with bad foliage (or was that bad plant traits? Confused )before bloom, than after, has a good point. Since I am pressed for seedling space here (and that situation is only going to be worse now that I will be adding iris seedlings), I need to get serious about culling seedlings at every possible opportunity, and culling on the basis of bad foliage or bad health prior to bloom is certainly justifiable. (Of course, one can always torture oneself with thinking that "Well, that seedling has bad foliage but the flower is awesome, and if I just cross it with this other plant, I will surely have the next Stout/Dykes Medal winner!" But why add to the garden masochism?)

While we all may grow irises (and daylilies) primarily for their bloom, the reality is that we have to live with the foliage all year round (or whenever it is above ground). An evergreen daylily may be in bloom (in my neck of the woods) for three months (depending on the cultivar), but I'll be looking at that foliage all year round. It had better look good when the plant is out of bloom.

With irises (except the reblooming irises, and even then, I am given to understand that with most rebloomers, there isn't a whole lot of rebloom), the clump will be in bloom for what - 2, maybe 3 weeks? - out of the year. But I will be looking at that foliage for the other 49-50 weeks of the year. (Or when it is above ground, and not covered with snow (which we don't have in my climate).) From my perspective, just as with the daylilies, the foliage had better look good when the iris is out of bloom.

Seedling room considerations aside, I have to wonder if perhaps I am looking at this from a different perspective than some people here. (And I may as well go ahead and say it, that I think that I also look at daylilies from a different perspective than many daylily people I have known.) And my perspective is this.... No matter how much in love with a particular genus of plants I may be, that is not going to be the only genus of plants that I grow, nor is that genus of plants going to constitute the majority of plants in my garden. Monoculture (ignoring matters of disease and insect pests) is boring. It is boring out of season, when there is nothing to look at but a monotony of foliage. It can even be boring in season, when there is nothing else around to complement the foliage and blooms. And fwiw, I think this is true no matter the size of the garden, although in small gardens the monotony (and the evidence of bad foliage both in and out of season) can be even more stark.

I remember visiting a certain hybridizer's iris garden some years ago. It was a dazzling burst of color in bloom, but even then, I thought to myself how awfully boring it must be out of season. For all of the sheer quantity of massed color, my favorite part of the garden was a small display bed as you came in the garden gate - because it had things other than irises in there. (I remember alyssum for sure, and I think there were roses, too.) It was, I thought, a pleasant, harmonious display of irises and a demonstration of how they can be used in the garden. (And yes, I know that this "garden" was essentially a commercial iris farm and thus the limited land was best used for irises and not display gardens, but that does not change the fact that it would have been boring as heck to look at, out of season. Imho.)

I have to think on the Garden of Eden, how beautiful it must have been with its diversity and complexity of plants. For certain none of us has, or lives in, a Garden of Eden Rolling my eyes. , but I do think that plant beauty and diversity is something to strive for in any (non-commercial) garden - and that includes beauty of foliage when the plants are out of bloom.

"God is in the detail" ~ variously attributed

...and that detail, imho, includes the beauty and the quality of the foliage.

(...looking around for my asbestos overcoat now... Hilarious! )
The current avatar image is that of a volunteer daylily seedling showing cristation.
Name: Mary Ann
Kentucky
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Region: United States of America Hostas Hummingbirder Daylilies Birds
Irises Keeps Horses Region: Kentucky Farmer Container Gardener Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Muddymitts
Feb 14, 2016 5:39 PM CST
Not to worry -- we have no harrassers here. Smiling
Thoughts become things -- choose the good ones. ([url=www.tut.com]www.tut.com[/url])

Region: California Cat Lover Irises Enjoys or suffers hot summers Dog Lover
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iciris
Feb 15, 2016 1:00 AM CST
[quote="Polymerous"]

I think the daylily hybridizer (I can't remember who it was) who said that it is easier to dispose of a plant with bad foliage (or was that bad plant traits? Confused )before bloom, than after, has a good point. ]

I completely understand your point. It makes perfect sense and I hope you didn't take my comment as being rude, it wasn't meant to be! I just know "I " couldn't cull any plant after waiting for a few years before it bloomed. For me a little pollen dabbing is fun and waiting for the blooms is exciting and the reason why I do it. Drooling


Name: Bonnie Sojourner
Harris Brake Lake, Arkansas (Zone 7a)
Magnolia zone
Region: United States of America Region: Arkansas Master Gardener: Arkansas Irises Bulbs Seed Starter
Gardens in Buckets Garden Art Plant and/or Seed Trader Moon Gardener Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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grannysgarden
Feb 15, 2016 1:47 AM CST
I, for one, am looking forward to what you create, Poly, and no need to trot out the asbestos overcoat, the plant growers here are as diverse as the plants we grow and we embrace them all. smiles
I love my garden.... and Jesus, and coffee, and naps.......

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