Article: The Hybridizer’s Corner

From Schreiner’s Iris Lover’s Catalog for 1954

Almost everyone who has been growing Iris for some time eventually gets the desire to try growing some from seed. There are many gardeners who would like to try their hand at hybridizing. You can do it with little trouble whether your ambition is to produce a fine new hybrid or just to see exactly what will happen when two varieties are crossed. It takes a little patience. The seed is harvested in August and planted the same fall and the seedling will sprout the following spring. It will take this seedling another full year’s growth to reach flowering size. If your interest has been piqued and you feel you would like to try raising some seedlings consider first what desirable qualities you would like to see combined and then search your garden for the two best plants you consider would best qualify. The actual mechanics of applying the pollen is simple. Note the illustration of Campfire Glow on page 23 [at right]. The projecting anther is bearing a good supply of yellow pollen. This is applied on the upper side of the blue-like lip just above the anther. You will note a sort of hairy texture to this lip that is slightly sticky. Apply the pollen here. Apply on all three stigmas of a flower that has opened the same morning preferably. Then mark the particular pod with a tag with the record of your pollen and seed parents.

The matter of choice of parents is interesting and fascinating. In fact their choice is of extreme importance. In making your crosses do not attempt too wide a cross. That is, between widely dissimilar flowers. Particularly if you desire to continue the color of one or the other parents. For instance, you will soon observe that to develop and raise fine white Iris you best results will come from the use of whites mated with white Iris varieties or whites crossed with blues or the light cream yellows. Two of our white Iris have very interesting parentage. White Tower is the result of a cross of Snow Carnival crossed with a white seedling derived from (Winter Carnival x a pale lavender seedling). Note how white figures in the ancestry each time. One of the finest white varieties is New Snow whose parentage is (Snow Flurry x Katherine Fay). Both are whites. Or, take a case of a white crossed a blue as gave Lady Boscawen, a white, and a sister seedling, the famous Helen McGregor, a blue. Their ancestry is (Purissima x Cloud Castle). The selection of good whites for parental stock is noted in these fine studs, all which should yield fine seedlings. Helen McKenzie and Spanish Peaks for pure whites. Two with gold would be Winter Carnival and Admiral Nimitz. Or are you interested in trying for something different? To show how a color will show up unexpectedly, the tangerine-red beard on our new Gay Lavinia was a surprise. The cross was made aiming for flamingo-pinks. The parentage is a white Schreiner seedling from (Inspiration x (SQ72 x Matula) crossed with Cherry Flip. A special note should be made of Snow Flurry (Purissima x Thais). When crossed with blue it gave us first, when we used Chivalry, the fine Iris Blue Sapphire, and when crossed with Sylvia Murray it gave us our new Blue Hawaii! Further, when crossed with Golden Eagle, the fine cream Desert Song arose. So far a striking white with the blue beard of Black Forest has not been offered, but it is possible!


There is a two-pronged avenue in developing finer blue Iris – the use of whites with whites and the use of whites with blues. The further refinement of the blues can come using such superb varieties as we now have available, such as CahokiaHelen McGregorJane PhillipsBlue RhythmChivalry, and Distance. Our new Harbor Blue, a 1954 introduction, arouse from the combination of Quicksilver (Chivalry x Distance) mated with Jane Phillips, a combination of three distinct blue-blood lines. Two whites when mated will give a blue, at times, as in the case of Azure Skies (Crystal Beauty x Snowking). A shade or two deeper in the blues, approaching the marine shades, there are some handsome subjects. Danube Wave (Anitra x Narain) and Blue Valley (Lake George x Great Lakes) are good examples. Blending the deepest colored violets with light blues results in an Iris like Midnight Blue (Black Forest x Chivalry) and other mid and marine blues. Since we are getting these new near blacks it offers a good chance to cross these with white for the improvement of this class as well.


Here is a color class that is inherited as a recessive character. An unequaled chance to use Iris of many colors is certainly responsible for the endless and surprising variations which result. Our efforts have been pointed in two main directions. We want to select families that have definite, not washy markings, preferably with a nice amount of white ground in the center, as in Raspberry Ribbon and Bright Contrast, and yellow plicatas that have a solid yellow background as Frolic and Dancing Tiger. The breeding of Bright Contrast is quite interesting. It came from a cross of over 300 sisters all of which were plicatas arising from (Beau Ideal x Wasatch) x (Helaine x Tarantella). This seedling then was crossed with the pollen of Minnie Colquitt and yielded Bright Contrast. The blue-marked plicatas embrace the fine group of Blue ShimmerAlduraBlue Rim and new Caroline Jane. In the yellow background plicatas we have been particularly fortunate in getting two seedlings with complete yellow background. They are Frolic (Firecracker x (Magic Carpet x Tiffany) and Dancing Tiger from the same general blood lines. We referred last year to our seedling of (Raspberry Ribbon and Harlequin). This has proven so nice we feel it necessary to propagate stock so that we will have enough to go around when we offer it. We hope name it Bazaar. Its partner (Rodeo x Frolic) we think is the finest yellow plicata seedling we have raised or seen elsewhere. We want to observe it one more season. (Ed. Note: This seedling was later introduced as Firetail in 1955, along with Bazaar.)


Were it not for the cross of (Extravaganza x Wabash) this entire color class would be at a standstill. Gaylord is of this parentage as are brand new seedlings Mr. Knowlton has obtained in Massachusetts and Mr. Brummit in England. There is a hope that somehow a breakout will occur in this class. Maytime is a striking example of another amonea approach this is different and distinct. Its parentage is (Shannopin x Pathfinder). With Bright Hour the blue two-toned Helen Collingwood (Extravaganza x Louise Blake) and Lothario (Mme. M. Lassailly x Winneshiek) we more or less have the cornerstone material to use in this class. The surprising break and advent of Pinnacle, along with its two sisters Summit and Mystic Melody, offers new potentialities. When bred to amoneas they will yield some light toned amoneas. Think of the wonderful infusion of new blood lines, and the color genes that await refinement. We will again observe a Pinnacle derivative crossed with a seedling of (Majenica x Pink Reflection) this year. We think it is one of the most significant developments along this line and await its blooming again most eagerly. (Ed. Note: This seedling was later introduced as Opal Beauty in 1955.)


Every breeder seems to get a “break” of some kind if he experiments for some time with various crosses. Black Forest has been one of our more fortunate breaks. Its size is not the largest but its qualities have practically every breeder working with the very dark Iris. Our aims in using Black Forest have been to improve its size and height as well as its branching and yet not lose the fine luster and depth it possesses. Tabu (Black Forest x Storm King) along with Storm Warning (Down East x Black Forest) and Black Castle (sister to Black Forest x Down East) are some examples of the dark Iris we are offering, the result of selecting from over eight thousand seedlings raised in a three-year period. Last year and again this year some third generation work of these first crosses will bloom. We are anxious to see results. Some Storm King seedlings that flowered last May had us excited. Paul Cook has developed some exceptionally fine dark Iris. His Sable is well known and we have used it. Also Indiana Night (Valor x Sable) is another fine parent. His new Sable Night (Indiana Night x Modoc, x Sable) in a way approaches a back cross. Our Velvet Dusk is a seedling of Sable derivation and it, like most of the Sable seedlings, tends to give a slight red cast to the dark coloring. Congo (Ethiop Queen x Velvet Dusk) a 1953 introduction, shows this reddish approach as well. To build up intensification of colors, deeper colors must be bred together and while we are bringing in new blood via outcrosses to other Iris like Snow Flurry and Chivalry, the loss of intensity is such that it often takes two generations to recover the color saturation these deep colored Iris have.


A lot of Iris news was made in the Red class this past season. We feel particularly proud to have the chance to purchase the stock of Trim, Mr. McKee’s fine new red Iris. Iris folks will recall its fine showing at the Boston meeting. There are two or three main lines in the development of red Iris. Mr. Lapham and Mr. Cook, near neighbors in Indiana, have developed individual lines of great interest. Pacemaker is being used extensively by both breeders and it has given us seedlings of promise as well. Some of the good Indiana reds are Lights OnRedwardRed Gleam. In addition to intense line breeding work, the use of blend Iris has given several outstanding good reds, as, for instance, Technicolor which has been a good a parent particularly noticeable in some of the newest reds we have on trial. Personally we have always liked the finish and fine form of Garden Glory and have succeeded in raising some very nice seedlings out of a cross of (Garden Glory x Cordovan). We have been using these seedlings in particular, as parental stock. What will 1954’s blooming bring? Chet Tompkins has some new reds which we expect to see this year and we look forward to them with great anticipation.


Much has been written about the flamingo pinks and I believe that probably more flamingo-pink seedlings have been raised than any other color in the last few years. The seed sets easily, the germination is extra good, yet somehow far too many seedlings are too alike. The breeder’s problem has been how to develop distinct variation in this class. The color pattern is a recessive one which generally requires quite intense inbreeding to bring it out in quantity. The use of some of the finer pinks like Pink Sensation (Tally Ho x Courtier), Pink Formal (Golden Eagle x SQ72), Cherie (Golden Eagle x 39-62) x Fantasy), Vanity Fair (Cherie x Fantasy) seems to be the logical way to proceed. Our Mallow Marvel, whose family tree is quite long entails the combination of the rugged Sass Iris Matula, which then was combined with the Loomis pinks, and this is turn combined with the David Hall flamingos in the hope of getting greater vigor. Seeing the plant’s growth as well as the heavy stems with moderate branching shows to what degree we have succeeded.


In St. Louis at the same time of the Iris meeting several years ago Pink Plume gave a fine display and its reception was gratifying. Actually this Iris and its sisters of later years, Lavenesque ’53, Crispette ’54, Orchid Ruffles ’54 represent a comparatively separate line of breeding. Years ago we grew the Iris Violet Crown, a very fine Iris in its day. Violet Crown was crossed with the old diploid Noweta and we got the same essential orchid coloring that we have carried down through tree generations. The parentage of Lavenesque, for instance is Dreamcastle x ((Angelus x ?) x (Matula x (Noweta x Violet Crown))). This past blooming season one of our delights was the tendency of this orchid line to show another significant break in that we are now getting a whole new series of orchid and deeper rose-toned seedlings.


Perhaps, next to the plicatas, the blends represent a class of coloring of which the Iris as a family can boast, not other flower being able to equal it. The class is most extensive and we have found these varieties, each in their own coloring, very good material: ChamoisCascade SplendorRusset WingsSunset BlazeCopper MedallionArgus PheasantPretty Quadroon and, of course, wonderful Inca Chief. Last May when visiting the originator of Inca Chief, Mr. Mitsch modestly asked if I would take a look at a “few Inca Chief seedlings.” It didn’t take long to find three most promising seedlings. Dr. Kleinsorge has certainly given the Iris world a wonderful line in his fine blend line. Inca Chief, as well as many more Iris that go back to Tobacco Road, reveals what the Iris world would be missing today had not Dr. Kleinsorge developed this distinct blend family.


We are probably standing on the threshold of a new development in Iris. It is revealed in the lace-edged Iris Chantilly. Probably the most famous of these lace-edged types is the recent Dykes Medal winner, Truly Yours. Note these varieties … Party DressRusset WingsOrchid Ruffles. In the East, stemming from an original cross of Daybreak and Midwest Gem, we have one family of these lace types. In the flamingos there are many examples (due to the background inheritance in many cases of Midwest Gem.) When Chantilly flowered for the first time this different factor attracted us and we had the feeling that Midwest Gem, which was in the parentage of Chantilly, had something to do with this. This lace likewise has shown up in a number of Sass seedlings and it has also been noted in seedlings of Cascade Splendor and Rose Splendor. We have been carrying on some breeding work along this line that goes back to our original cross of (Chantilly x Midwest Gem) from which cross we selected a few pollinators that we combined in turn with Iris that seemed to lean particularly toward ruffles and lace edges. We have a number of unusual flowers of this type on trial or in stock propagation. White and yellow seem to be the colors which yield this feature with the greatest ease. We still await the light sky blues as well as some of the dark blacks though we are trying something of everything along this line.

Such is the fascination and fun of creating and growing new Iris. The only bounds an Iris hybridist will know is his own enthusiasm and imagination. Who knows, your Iris might some day win a Dykes Medal!


Argus Pheasant (Casa Morena x Tobacco Road)

Black Forest (Dymia x Ethiop Queen)

Burmese Ruby (Red Valor x Red Gleam)

Char Maize (Snow Flurry x Aztec Copper)

Distance (Castalia x Santa Barbara)

Frances Craig (Snow Flurry x Capitola)

Golden Sunshine (Goldbeater x Jasmine)

Gold Sovereign (Ola Kala x Rocket)

Helen Collingwood (Extravaganza x Louise Blake)

Inca Chief (Mexico x Tobacco Road)

Jane Phillips (Helen McGregor x (Pale Moonlight x Great Lakes)

Halolight (Alpine Glow x Gypsy Rose)

Morning Melody (China Maid x Morocco Rose)

Mt. McKinley (Amigo x Wabash)

Nine Hearts (Wabash x Snowking)

Orelio (Casa Morena x Garden Flame)

Note: Interestingly after this article, Schreiner’s had a collection offer entitled “The Pedigree Collection.” What they were offering were not Irises that were already introduced, but never-introduced seedlings that were only under number and that were labeled with its pedigree. You could have chosen, for $3.00 each or 4 for $10.00, a choice of seedlings from color categories: Jet Black, Red, Cream, Light Blue, Flamingo Pink, Golden Apricot, Orchid Rose and Raspberry Pink.

[All photos are from Schreiners Iris Lovers catalog for 1954,
except Indiana Night 1959, & Pink Plume 1961.]





Campfire Glow






Lady Boscawen





Spanish Peaks







Gay Lavinia












Jane Philiips






Dancing Tiger























Indiana Night






Storm Warning



















Pink Sensation










Pink Plume





Inca Chief










Truly Yours