Irises forum: What Qualities Do You Look For

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Name: Jerry
New Jersey (Zone 6a)
Jan 24, 2018 10:44 AM CST
Hi Folks,
New member here. I'd like to give you some of my background before asking my question. I am currently 62 years old and live in zone 6A. I have been an avid gardener since my early 20s. I grew orchids, mostly Cattleyas, and did my share of hybridizing. I sold off my collection and greenhouse because of the crazy cost of heating it. It was costing more to heat my 10' X 20' greenhouse than my home. I have fallen in love with irises and have been growing them for the past five years. I will most certainly begin crossing certain irises this Spring. What are some of the qualities that you, who are more knowledgeable I, look for in your seedlings blooms that would make you want to continue breeding forward with a particular flower rather than culling it out? Thank you in advance for your information.
Name: Leslie
Durham, NC (Zone 8a)
Region: North Carolina Irises Cat Lover Garden Photography Enjoys or suffers hot summers Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Jan 24, 2018 10:47 AM CST
Welcome! Can't help you here but wanted to welcome you to the iris bunch!
My road calls me, lures me west, east, south & north; most roads lead men homewards, my road leads me forth. - John Masefield
Name: Barbara
Northern CA (Zone 9a)
Region: California Cat Lover Irises Enjoys or suffers hot summers Dog Lover
Jan 24, 2018 10:58 AM CST
Welcome! Jpari, check out the thread "A Record Year". Brad describes a lot of what you're asking for. Plus welcome to the addiction.
• “Whoever said, ‘Do something right and you won’t have to do it again’ never weeded a garden.” – Anonymous
Name: Bonnie Sojourner
Harris Brake Lake, Arkansas (Zone 7a)
Magnolia zone
Region: United States of America Region: Arkansas Master Gardener: Arkansas Irises Plant and/or Seed Trader Moon Gardener
Garden Ideas: Master Level Dragonflies Bulbs Garden Art Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Gardens in Buckets
Jan 24, 2018 11:04 AM CST
High Jpari. I do not hybridize irises because of lack of space but some on this site make some beauties. One has said that they decide what they personally like best about an iris, buy a few that fits all their desires and then they cross the best with the best.

Welcome and stick around. We are only weeks away from spring bloom season. Big Grin
Who plants a seed beneath the sod and waits for growth believes in God. ~~Unknown
Name: Lilli
Copenhagen, Denmark, EU
Irises Roses Bulbs Hellebores Foliage Fan Cottage Gardener
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Seed Starter Winter Sowing Bee Lover Dog Lover Region: Europe
Jan 24, 2018 11:22 AM CST
Welcome! to the iris forum! Hurray!

Different hybridizers have different goals - a specific colour or colour combination, rebloom, healthy foliage, show stalks, early bloom, late bloom, the shape of the bloom, ruffles, large beards, vigorous growth, ability to grow in hot/cold/dry climates etc.

You can look at the American irises which have been awarded the Dykes medal and see how different they are and also how iris 'fashion' has changed over the years here:
You don't know if it will grow until you try!
Name: Evelyn
Northern CA Sierra foothills - (Zone 8a)
Region: United States of America Region: California Annuals Bulbs Butterflies Cat Lover
Foliage Fan Irises Organic Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Vegetable Grower
Jan 24, 2018 11:37 AM CST
Jpari ~ Welcome! to the Iris Forum!

Some more knowledgeable members here can give you an answer about hybridizing. One really nice thing about growing irises, is that you do not need a greenhouse.

On the other hand, you should have a good size plot of land, and prepare to work outdoors. Beds need to be dug so you can plant your favorite irises. And then you need beds for your seedlings.

Others can add to this, as what I mentioned is only a very basic outline.

Some of our members do hybridizing and others just enjoy the different irises.
Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Irises Vegetable Grower Butterflies Region: Wisconsin Keeps Horses Cat Lover
Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry Daylilies Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Jan 24, 2018 1:13 PM CST
Hi Jerry, and Welcome! I am about as far away from being a hybridizer as I am from being a marathon runner. I have 4 crops of crosses that I have made, and haven't really found anything to exciting yet from my efforts. The first year was just trying to make it work, the second year took on a bit more purpose, and now I'm getting more selective in trying to attain a goal or two. This article on Winterberry iris website is a good read and might give you some ideas about what judges look for in an iris. It's a good place to start. Good Luck!

Some issues to contend with:
I still haven't seen all of my first and second crops bloom. Many would have bloomed last year but a nasty hail storm took off all the bloom stalks before they could open. That posses a problem in that I am not able to cull many yet. I need to do some serious culling this summer to make room for the next crop of seedlings. We plan, mother nature laughs. So when people say you need space, that's a real fact.

I spend time during the winter studying iris pedigrees, and planning crosses I want to make, and then either one of the cross doesn't bloom at all, or the cross doesn't take. Sometimes one that you wanted to use doesn't produce pollen.

Or you make several of the same cross hoping to get one to take, and they all take, and then you have a jillion seeds of that cross to decide what to do with. Plant them all, plant a few of each, give some seeds away??

Getting a good germination rate can be a challenge. Some years almost all of them grow, and other years only a few grow.

All in all, it's a fun thing to do, and a real joy to see your first baby open in a couple years. Just have to remember not to look at them with a parent's eyes, or you will want to keep them all even when they aren't worthy.

A personal suggestion would be to study what the successful hybridizers do and what plants are producing well, and use some of them in your crosses.

Have fun!

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: daphne
san diego county, ca (Zone 10a)
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Jan 24, 2018 1:40 PM CST
Welcome! @jpari/jerry. this is a very knowledgeable, active, sharing, fun group of forum members. ask away, and when someone can help, someone will step-up.

i wish i could dabble in hybridizing, i think it would be a rewarding experience; the joys as well as disappointments. nevertheless, experience that would add to life's journey. but, alas, we have downsized and space constraints forbid me to practice the art of pollen daubing.

needless-to-say, i really enjoy the efforts of everyone else! i can drool over the irises with the best of them, purchase those i can afford, then find a non-existent space in my garden for them Hilarious! nodding . (there always seems to be room for one more😜.)
Name: Leon
Indiana (Zone 5a)
Light is the shadow of God!
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Region: United States of America Region: Indiana Vegetable Grower
Garden Ideas: Master Level Peonies Hummingbirder Cat Lover Dog Lover Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Jan 24, 2018 3:34 PM CST
Welcome Jerry,
I don't hybridize anymore because of limited space and time constraints. I'm sure if you stick with us you will get ample, good advice. Also someone already mentioned this thread, "A Record Year by ARUBA1334". There's a wealth of information there and also from all the members on this forum. So welcome, and jump in anytime with your thoughts and comments. You will be glad you did.
Even a fool, when he shuts his mouth, is counted (as being) wise.Proverbs 17:28
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
Charter ATP Member Cottage Gardener Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: United Kingdom Region: Northeast US Irises
Region: United States of America
Jan 24, 2018 3:38 PM CST
For northern climates search for 'winter hardiness'. yes some beautiful plants re sickly through the winter. See some of Chuck Chapman's work with the plicata series.
Name: Jan Wax
Mendocino County, N. CA (Zone 9a)
I'm a studio potter.
Hummingbirder Dog Lover Irises Region: California Organic Gardener Dahlias
Garden Art Cat Lover Vegetable Grower Birds Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Jan 24, 2018 3:42 PM CST
Welcome, Jerry ! Welcome!

Tom, agreed with everything you said !!
[Last edited by janwax - Jan 24, 2018 3:44 PM (+)]
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Name: Jan Wax
Mendocino County, N. CA (Zone 9a)
I'm a studio potter.
Hummingbirder Dog Lover Irises Region: California Organic Gardener Dahlias
Garden Art Cat Lover Vegetable Grower Birds Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Jan 24, 2018 4:30 PM CST
Some random thoughts about hybridizing ( for Jerry) - I'm a beginning pollen-dauber, with less experience growing irises, perhaps, than you!

1. Make use of the wonderful iris database on this site. You can get so much information about irises that you may want to breed...their genetics, when they bloom (early mid late etc.)

2. Decide what looks appeal to you. For instance, if ruffled iris are what you like , get some of the most ruffled recent ones for your breeding program.Great strides have been made in iris hybridization.
Consider buying introductions to capitalize on this.

3.If you have a scientific mind, study iris genetics.

4. Be prepared for unusual outcomes.

5. Have fun.
[Last edited by janwax - Jan 24, 2018 4:36 PM (+)]
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Name: Robin
Melbourne, Australia (Zone 10b)
Region: Australia Irises Garden Photography Cat Lover Seed Starter
Jan 24, 2018 6:01 PM CST
Welcome! Jerry,

I am a hobby gardener and I just try to make hybrids that appeal to me. The qualities that appeal to me are:
- the colour and pattern of the flower
- the beard compliments the flower
- the size of the standards and falls is in proportion
- the flower opens fully and the falls don't curl up
- it has lots of blooms (several branches)
- the blooms aren't too close together so the flowers aren't pushed up against each other
- it flowers for a long period
- it flowers every year
- the stems stay upright and don't fall over (it's OK to fall over in the wind, but some just fall over)
- it doesn't smell bad
(Zone 9b)
Region: California
Jan 24, 2018 6:13 PM CST
Welcome Jerry! Welcome!

Name: Marilyn, aka "Poly"
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
Jan 24, 2018 6:31 PM CST
Welcome, Jerry. Welcome!

Re hybridizing... my main two points hold true not just for irises, but also for daylilies, and doubtless for a great many other plants.

First of all, you have to decide what kinds of irises turn YOU on, which in turn will help you determine what YOU want to pursue as a hybridizing goal.

Once you know what kinds of irises (color, pattern, form, whatever, perhaps even species that are not bearded) excite you, then you need to find parents (exhibiting those traits) that are good for YOUR climate.

Having found such parents, go forth and hybridize!

That last was a bit facetious, but the point I want to drive home is that you should pursue your vision of an ideal iris, not someone else's. Hybridizing and all the attendant chores to bring a seedling to bloom is a lot of work, and you want something rewarding at the end of it. I can almost guarantee that you will not be excited by a seedling which meets someone else's criteria of beauty, but not yours.

I also cannot overemphasize that you need to work with irises that are good performers in your garden and climate, not in someone else's. I'm afraid that I can't tell you how to determine that, other than by talking to people from your climate or area. (This is where joining a local iris club may be helpful; the members there can tell you which irises are good "do-ers", or which hybridizers produce plants that do well in your area.)

Apart from that, if modern form and ruffles, or modern color patterns, are among your goals, then (as someone else suggested) do acquire some new(er) introductions to work with. Older irises may be less expensive, but they may also not get you where you want to go.

Good luck!
A 'Premonition of Spring' - PCI time already?!
Name: Scott
Elburn, IL (Zone 5b)
Plant and/or Seed Trader Irises Native Plants and Wildflowers Birds Butterflies Canning and food preservation
Region: Illinois Dog Lover
Jan 24, 2018 8:25 PM CST
Welcome Jerry! Welcome!
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” -Aldo Leopold

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