Irises of note: Autumn Twilight

Autumn Twilight, (G. Percy Brown 1945)
by Mike Lowe, VA

Irisarians have raised questions concerning Autumn Twilight’s description and dating since its listing in Lloyd Austin’s catalog. During the 40s, 50s and 60s this iris was widely grown and was a significant parent in reblooming iris hybridizing. It was not registered until 1971 and the listed introduction date and color description disagreed with some catalog data. This fostered speculation that a 1948 G. Percy Brown registration, August Twilight was actually the iris sold and grown under the name, Autumn Twilight. As the chronology of these irises is complicated, a timetable of events will detail their story.

Mid 30s – early 40s: Dr. G. Percy Brown hybridizes the seedling that will be selected and named Autumn Twilight.

1945: Autumn Twilight is introduced to commerce through in-garden sales in G. Percy Brown’s Barre, Massachusetts, Everblooming Iris Garden.

1948: A seedling is selected, named August Twilight and registered. This iris was never used in breeding nor offered for sale in 14 years worth of Brown’s catalogs. However, it may have been sold from Doc Percy’s garden. (Doc Percy-the name used by iris friends.) The parentage of this iris is listed as September Skies X Autumn Sunset.

Late 40s – early 50s: Lloyd Austin offers Autumn Twilight in his catalog, Iris Color Guidebook. Austin always listed pedigrees, when available. No pedigree was ever given for Autumn Twilight in Austin’s catalog.

1952: Doctor G. Percy Brown issues his first Iris Sale List.

1953: G. Percy Brown offers a small, printed flyer or catalog, listing all his introductions and a few originations of others that did well in his garden. In this catalog, Autumn Twilight is listed with an introduction date of 1945 and is so listed in all subsequent catalogs through 1967.

iris autumn twilight
Autumn Twilight
from Lloyd Austin’s catalog for 1960

1960: Lloyd Austin features a color photograph of Autumn Twilight in his catalog.

1971: Because of Autumn Twilight’s wide distribution and importance in breeding, Doc Percy is urged to register it.

1971: Autumn Twilight is duly registered with a parentage of: (Autumn Sunset X September Sparkler) However, Doc Brown, age 82, was then living in an apartment and did not have access to his records, thus at least two mistakes were made in the registration. The first is the listing of the introduction date as 1958 rather than the correct 1945. Second, the description of color is listed as: “S. brownish yellow; F. light yellow” instead of the correct description in Doc’s ’53 catalog: “S. brownish yellow; F. light yellow and lavender.” The ’55 catalog had an slightly expanded version: “S. brownish yellow; F. light yellow and pinkish lavender.

1971: A complete listing of G. Percy Brown introductions is listed in the March 1971 Reblooming Iris Reporter, edited by Edwin Rundlett.(This newsletter was started by Rundlett prior to formation of the Reblooming Iris Society and was a large factor in generating interest sufficient to make possible a Reblooming Society.

When Rundlett gave up the editorship, he requested that the name be changed and it was: from The Reblooming Iris Reporter to The Reblooming Iris Recorder.) The data given for Autumn Twilight’s pedigree was obtained from correspondence between Edwin Rundlett and Dr. Brown and agrees with that in the registration submission and the 1971 R & I. The date of introduction and color description listed in the Reporter article is in agreement with that in Doc Percy’s catalogs.

1971: Dr. G. Percy Brown is awarded and receives the 1971 AIS Hybridizer’s Medal.

1971: Doctor G. Percy Brown dies in December 1971.

1975: Lloyd Zurbrigg compiles the Reblooming Iris Societies’ 1976 Reblooming Iris Checklist. Lloyd speculates that the 1948 registration ‘August Twilight’ was in error and the 1971 registration ‘Autumn Twilight’ was made to correct this error.

Early 1990s to present: Libby Cross has grown and distributed Autumn Twilight since the mid 60s. A picture of her AT illustrated the article in ROOTS and is indistinguishable from the Autumn Twilight photo in Lloyd Austin’s catalog (shown above). A question of Libby’s in an earlier ROOTS kicked off this investigation and a write-up from Libby furnished the framework around which the facts are organized.

Conclusion: Autumn Twilight was introduced in 1945, however conflicting date and color information has been published in catalogs, articles and the AIS R & Is and Check Lists. Two errors in the ’71 registration can be shown using early G. P. Brown and L. Austin catalogs.

The most credible interpretation of the ’48 registration would be that it was a seedling that never went further. We can be reasonably sure that there is, and has been, only one Autumn Twilight. Further, it is nearly certain that the cultivar pictured in Austin’s catalog and growing in gardens today, is Autumn Twilight and is traceable from the late 40s to the present.

This article was made possible by help from Libby Cross, Keith Keppel, Scott Jordan and Sharon McAllister.

~ Reprinted from ROOTS, Vol. 10, Issue 1, Spring 1997