Irises forum: Some realizations about awards

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Name: Lyn Gerry
Watkins Glen, NY (Zone 6a)
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LynNY
Jun 25, 2018 11:22 AM CST
Probably most people have assumed that the award winning iris are the best; I did anyway. And as a result are sometimes puzzled by the winners, because of others one may adore that are ignored.

Some of the top winners are obvious in that they represent a breakthrough in iris breeding. Others not so much.

I have realized that the iris that win awards are going to be good iris, but that your favorite iris won't necessarily win an award. It seems that the decisions about awards tend to come from the people who show and judge iris shows. If an iris doesn't get shown a lot, it's unlikely to become a winner, or to be planted by enough AIS members to get a vote. Considering how many different iris there are, that's not surprising.

An example is Barry Blyth's Smoke and Thunder. I adore it. Never won a single award


When I planted my first iris garden I bought award winners, in fact there were collections advertised that way. And those were all wonderful, don't get me wrong

Another mindbogglingly beautiful iris that has never won an award is Scottish Lass . If you love huge ruffly pink iris, you'll love this


Another realization I had, having nothing to do with awards, is that I like big clumps. When I started growing iris I planted close together. This fills in fast but one doesn't get the big clumps. I always love the garden pictures where there are clumps of blooms. It means a lot of weeding. I know some of you use pots, but for those of you who have 500+ iris not in pots, how do you keep up with the weeding. Just my 100 plus is a big job!
[Last edited by LynNY - Jun 25, 2018 12:16 PM (+)]
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Name: Daisy
close to Baltimore, MD (Zone 7a)
Irises Cat Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener Region: Maryland Bookworm
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DaisyDo
Jun 25, 2018 1:05 PM CST
Lyn, what you a saying is true, and only accredited judges are allowed to judge the awards such as the Wister and the Dykes. And when I looked up the accreditation process, I realzed that even just to enter the training program to become an apprentice judge, one must first be recommended by 5 people who are judges already. That makes it pretty insular, doesn't it, pretty much assuring that only people involved in iris hybridizing and commerce get to be judges.

So, yes, that could make it much harder for a new cultivar from an unknown or hobbyist hybridizer to gain recognition. So there really will be cultivars that "slip through the cracks" on judging. It's inevitable. It's also true that beauty is often in the eye of the beholder, and that what one person deems as beatiful, another may feel has muddied colors or standards that are too short or stiffly upright.

Fortunately, the AIS judging is a multilevel process, first with Honorable Mentions, then with Award of Merit, and only those that make it through with both those awards, get to be eligible for the higher awards, such as the Wister and Dykes. So it a cultivar makes it to the very top, with judges all over the US voting, then the cultivar must indeed be something special.

So someone like me, with a postage stamp yard can benefit from all that prescreening when choosing cultivars, and know the space is unlikely to be wasted.

However, those of you with greater acreage to spare should surely have my encouragement to experiment with other non-awarded cultivars. We all need to see your discoveries. Maybe something you like and speak well of can then make it into more gardens and get at least word of mouth recognition. And that's surely a good thing.

Frankly, I think that the requirement for 5 recommendations in the initial application to enter the apprentice judge program should be eliminated, and that progression through the apprenticeship program should hinge only on tests of competency that are objectively scored, such as multiple choice tests.
Name: Daisy
close to Baltimore, MD (Zone 7a)
Irises Cat Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener Region: Maryland Bookworm
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DaisyDo
Jun 25, 2018 1:23 PM CST
As far as the AIS Tall bearded symposium popularity poll that I just posted a link to, anyone who is an AIS member can vote every year on that one. One not need be a judge. So support the AIS with an annual membership fee, and vote for the 25 irises you like the best. The problem is, you can't just vote for any iris. It has to be one of the listed "eligible" irises, having won a prior award from the AIS judges. So catch-22 again.

In my opinion that "eligible" requirement should be dropped. People should be able to vote for any registered iris. Just my opinion.
Name: Jane H.
Kentucky (Zone 6b)
Irises Birds Region: United States of America Region: Kentucky Clematis
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janielouy
Jun 25, 2018 1:32 PM CST
I find that I feel the same way about many that win awards. Of course it depends on how far back it won since new, unusual and more impressive irises are getting awards now. I have taken lots of judges training and yes, you do have to do a multiple choice test. BUT I am more interested in irises for their beauty and color patterns than their form or how straight the stem is so I choose not to be a judge although I always learn something at the training from those more knowledgeable than I am.
I agree that it is good to recommend strong growers and good irises to the public and newbie iris gardeners. I agree
I am happy just to enter mine in the shows.
Name: Jan Wax
Mendocino County, N. CA (Zone 9a)
I'm a semi-retired studio potter.
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janwax
Jun 25, 2018 1:40 PM CST
I'm curious. I've noticed that Barry Blyth's irises don't get our awards. Is that because he's from Australia?
Name: Lyn Gerry
Watkins Glen, NY (Zone 6a)
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LynNY
Jun 25, 2018 1:43 PM CST
I have a postage stamp yard too, and I do pay attention to awards especially because an award winning iris presumably is able to grow in a lot of different gardens (alas my Elizabethan Age heartbreak -- three tries, always died)

Some of the iris on that list I have, or have had in the past. But its funny about lists, because of need to really make choices due to space I started thinking in terms of what would I never give up. Some of the iris on that list of mine are not on the AIS list at all. Some of the AIS favorites are things I would never buy, given my space limitations as well.

For example, Conjuration, which I had in the past, was really nice and probably astonishing when it was released. But it can't hold a candle to Keppel's Brilliant Idea, not on the AIS list at all, which is on my shortlist.

Not being involved in the iris show world, I don't have any position on judges' qualifications. More to the point, most of the people who grow iris are like me, just gardeners who will never be deciders of such things. If the nearest iris show weren't a ninety minute drive in each direction, as well as the club meetings, I would attend. I am glad that there are people who do, and we all owe them gratitude IMO, even if our favorite iris aren't on their list :)

Name: Lyn Gerry
Watkins Glen, NY (Zone 6a)
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LynNY
Jun 25, 2018 2:16 PM CST
Jan, I wondered that too but Decadence is Blythe's and won the Wister. He has a few HM and AW's

However, his Louisa's Song, which is gorgeous and must have been really amazing 20 years ago when it was introduced, and has 133 child plants, has never won an award.
Name: Daisy
close to Baltimore, MD (Zone 7a)
Irises Cat Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener Region: Maryland Bookworm
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DaisyDo
Jun 25, 2018 2:19 PM CST
On Brilliant Idea, we have to agree to disagree. While the colors are quite pretty, I find the form awkward, with standards that are too stiffly upright and often twisted together. This is per the majority of the photos for it, shown in the database. It did get the Award of Merit, presumably based on lovely color, but I can't agree that it should have been awarded a Dykes or a Wister - because of its form.

If I had to choose between Conjuration and Brilliant Idea, I would have to choose Conjuration because form is just as important to me as color. I don't think an iris should be given a Dykes or Wister award based simply on color when the form is awkard a majority of the time.

It would be nice to see if Briliant idea could be bred to Conjuation, retaining BI's color, but regaining some graceful form.

Name: Lyn Gerry
Watkins Glen, NY (Zone 6a)
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LynNY
Jun 25, 2018 2:26 PM CST
My view on BE is from having it in my garden and how it effects me. When I see it, I want to scream and shout I am so thrilled. Just a matter of taste. I won't eat mayo under any circumstances but judging from its omnipresence, most people find it wonderful.
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
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irisarian
Jun 25, 2018 2:49 PM CST
To get an AIS award it has to be introduced in this country. Obviously Barry introduced his irises in Australia. Now that Thomas Johnson is handling his plants they might get more US awards. If you are an AIS member & go to meetings people will get to know you. You sign up for the judging program, take the tests & entering the judging program is not that difficult. New England is short judges, for example & we would love to have more people put in the time. It is not a tough time, it is people willing to take classes & put in the work. Are you? then you may become a judge.
Name: Daisy
close to Baltimore, MD (Zone 7a)
Irises Cat Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener Region: Maryland Bookworm
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DaisyDo
Jun 25, 2018 3:18 PM CST
Irisarian, I'm really glad to know that all it takes is getting to know people at AIS meetings. If I were younger than 71, and not so affected with chronic illness, judging is something I would really enjoy doing. Now it's all I can do to keep my garden in order. The house inside can go to pot for all I care, but my gardens have priority. I guess for most people it's the reverse of that, but I'm a little weird that way. I have to budget my limited energy. To heck with the dust and clutter in the house- the gardens are more important! LOL.
Name: Robin
Melbourne, Australia (Zone 10b)
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Totally_Amazing
Jun 25, 2018 4:35 PM CST
I perfectly understand wanting to keep the garden looking great and caring less about the house. My DH wants to renovate the house and I want to landscape our garden. He will win the battle because the renovations will damage the garden and need to done first.
Name: Arlyn
Whiteside County, Illinois (Zone 5a)
Irises Beekeeper Region: Illinois Celebrating Gardening: 2015
crowrita1
Jun 25, 2018 4:46 PM CST
As to "Award Winning Irises", you also have to realize that what might be a very good grower, and a super bloomer, in "certain" climatic conditions, might be a real "dud", someplace else ! If it's, for example selected in California, it's probably going to do very well there, and put on a good show....and if it's in a lot of gardens...lots of judges see it.....the same plant, say in the colder upper Mid Western, or New England, states....might be a dud, and not in many gardens, and, as Lucy says, judges are "scarce" there, so.....not many to see...not many to see tham....so not many reports of it's "duddiness" !
I've given up on growing the whole Dykes Medal Collection....too many "duds" in my climate, I guess Shrug!
Name: Daisy
close to Baltimore, MD (Zone 7a)
Irises Cat Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener Region: Maryland Bookworm
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DaisyDo
Jun 25, 2018 5:46 PM CST
Arlyn, Except for the cup awards given out at conventions, the other tiered awards (Honorable Mention, Award of Merit, Wister and other division awards, and Dykes, are all, I think done by paper or electronic ballots mailed in from judges all over the US. See https://www.irises.org/About_I... , which explains the balloting procedure. So this way regional favoritism is really not an issue, and a cultivar needs to be a good performer in most of the US in order to succeed in being selected. Of course that doesn't mean a selected cultivar will grow vigorously in ALL regions, but it does have a greater chance of succeeding in most areas. If it doesn't, it won't stand a prayer of a chance for winning enough votes, especially for the highest awards, like Dykes and Wister. I am sorry to hear that you are having such problem with them in Illinois. Who'd have guessed!
Name: Mary
Tennessee (Zone 7a)
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urania1
Jun 25, 2018 5:47 PM CST
It sounds like becoming an iris judge is easier than becoming a Garden Club of America judge. In addition to all the studying, which I would not mind, GCAs have to show and win five (I think) blue ribbons each year. I enjoy going to shows; I do not enjoy showing even though I do okay, which is to say, I only show when I have to. I would rather be working in the garden than prepping buds and flowers days before an event.

It would be nice to have a list of irises that do well in particular regions.

It was interesting to me to see which irises came through without soft rot this year. None of my old NoIDs got soft rot. They behaved as if they had never heard of the concept and seemed surprised that their neighbors required treatment. I have always had a lot of NoIDs, but this is only my second year of planting fancier irises. So it will take me a few years to make determinations. Even so, some of my second season bloomers clearly outperformed their counterparts: 'Happenstance,' 'Table for Two,' and 'Córdoba' come to mind These were not necessarily my favorites, but en masse they looked beautiful.
Name: Lyn Gerry
Watkins Glen, NY (Zone 6a)
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LynNY
Jun 25, 2018 6:22 PM CST
Table for two was one of the survivors this year in my rotten disaster beds. For some reason, though it is exactly the sort of iris I would expect myself to like, it just was not quite....I dunno. But I was so impressed with its fortitude, and its earliness, that I had to keep it
Name: Mary
Tennessee (Zone 7a)
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urania1
Jun 25, 2018 8:41 PM CST
Lyn,

I would never have purchased this iris; it was a bonus from Schreiner's. But when it bloomed I decided I really liked it. It grows on one.
Name: Daisy
close to Baltimore, MD (Zone 7a)
Irises Cat Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener Region: Maryland Bookworm
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DaisyDo
Jun 25, 2018 8:44 PM CST
Mary, Happenstance is a Wister medal winner, and Cordoba is an Award of Merit winner. So, apparently they have done well for a lot of the judges all around the US. So, what I am saying is two out of the three that you remarked have done well for you are highly regarded award winners. Happenstance is also the first or second highest ranked pink on the AIS TB Symposium popularity poll, so a whole lot of AIS members nationwide voted for it in the annual all-members ballot last fall.
Name: Daisy
close to Baltimore, MD (Zone 7a)
Irises Cat Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener Region: Maryland Bookworm
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DaisyDo
Jun 25, 2018 9:00 PM CST
I do think that Schreiners' does give out bonuses that they have lots of. And the reason they would have a lot of a particular variety is precisely because it's a vigorous multiplier. I have a NOID ( I was given the name at the time, but lost it because I was skeptical whether I would like it) that has turned out to be my most vigorous grower and amazing bloomer. I love it. It has outlived all the other irises that I purchases in 1987. Yes, it is over 30 years old. I was forced to divide it fall before last, and will be forced to divide it again this fall. It's a fragrant bubble-ruffled lavender that is simply lovely.

So, love your bonuses- they can turn out to be terrific!
Name: Daisy
close to Baltimore, MD (Zone 7a)
Irises Cat Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener Region: Maryland Bookworm
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DaisyDo
Jun 25, 2018 9:06 PM CST
[Last edited by DaisyDo - Jun 25, 2018 9:25 PM (+)]
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