Notable Irisarians: Hans Peter Saas, 1868-1949

By – Agnes Whiting


Hans Peter Sass, one of the most successful plant breeders in America, has laid down his work. He was born in Alt Duvestedt, Germany, in 1868 and died in Bennington, Nebraska, on September 18, 1949. He studied botany and was interested in propagation from seed before he came to America with his parents in 1884. He bought a small farm near Omaha in 1903 and gave much of his time to growing all kinds of flowers, many of them from seed. By 1912 he had bloomed gladiolus, iris and peony seedlings from his own breeding and a few years later, hemerocallis, lilies and lilacs.

He was a charter member of the American Iris Society and introduced his first iris, MIDWEST, in 1923. He was one of the first to cross pumila with tall bearded iris, producing the true intermediates, for which he was best known for the next few years. In 1925 he introduced KING TUT, which he later considered his most important iris for breeding, but it never received any awards.

iris rameses
[Rameses, Sass 1929, from Cooley’s Gardens catalog for 1937]

A seedling from it, RAMESES, became very famous and was awarded the Dykes Medal in 1932. He was not discouraged by the lack of awards for his earlier introductions, nor was he spoiled by the steady stream of them which came later. He brought out each new iris in his modest folder with only a line or two of description. Each year brought more H.M. and A.M.awards, and in 1943 his PRAIRIE SUNSET was given the Dykes Medal.

In 1941 he received the Gold Medal for Hybridizing from the American Iris Society. In 1947 he was awarded the Foster Memorial Plaque by The Iris Society of England. President Geoffrey L. Pinkington visited America that year and told him of this award in his garden in Bennington, and it was a great privilege to see the pleasure it gave to both of them. Later he formally presented it to him at the AIS Annual Meeting in Evanston, amid the cheers of all present.

Mr. Sass was very active in his work until a few weeks before his death. He enjoyed the 1949 iris season and made many crosses. His nephew, Henry E. Sass, brought him for his yearly visit to Maple Valley, where he was as keenly interested as ever in the new seedlings, many of which are descendants from his own varieties. With a twinkle in his eye, he carried home a stalk of a new pink one to use the pollen.

How fortunate for him, and for the world, that he was allowed so long and so fruitful a life. His work will never be finished, it will live on in millions of flowers, forever.

[Reprinted from the Bulletin of AIS, Jan 1950, p 72]

The Iris Creations of H.P. Sass
Intro date Varietal name
1923 Autumn King, Midwest (RE)
1924 Kalos (IB)
1926 Autumn Queen (DB RE), Buto, Eventide, King Tut, Midgard, Omaha, Prairie Gold (HM ’26), Redwing, Ultra (IB RE. HM ’26),
1927 Baldwin, Nymph (IB), Purple Haze (HM ’27)
1928 Nebraska,
1929 Churchmouse, Doxa (IB), Euphony, Old Gold (IB), Ragusa (IB), Rameses (HM ’31, DM ’32),
1930 Clara Noyes (HM ’31, AM ’32), Cyrus (IB, HM ’32), Midwest Pride, Sungod, Waconda (HM ’31)
1931 Blue Hill, Blue Waves, Irma Pollack, King Juba (HM ’32), Laddie Boy (DB), Peaches, Rose MIist (DB), Sunny Day (SPUR., HM ’36) Thuratus,
1932 Alice Horsefall (IB), Al-lu-we, Blue Charm (SIB), Imperial Blush (HM ’36), No-we-ta
1933 El Tovar (HM ’32, AM ’33), Eleanor Roosevelt (IB RE, HM ’36, AM ’37), Frost Queen (IB RE), Golden Light (HM ’36), Oriana (HM ’33), September Skies (IB RE),
1934 Abelard (IB, HM ’36), Autumn Gleam, Autumn Haze, (IB,RE) Avondale (HM ’36), Gentius (IB, HM ’36), Southland (IB RE, HM ’36, AM ’39), Susa (IB, HM ’36), (RE)
1935 Ballet Girl, Golden Bow (IB, HM ’36), Snowking (HM ’36, AM ’37), Tarantella,
1936 Amenti, Amitola, Anitra (HM ’37), City Of Lincoln (HM ’37, AM ’39), Cosette (IB, HM ’36), Papio (IB), Siegfried (HM ’36, AM ’38),
1937 Khorasan, Midwest Gem (HM ’47), Orloff (HM ’37), Ossar, Sandalwood,
1938 Miss Aravilla, Miss Camelia, Nassak, TIiffany (HM ’38),
1939 Ameila Eeahart (SIB), Balmung (HM ’40), Elsa Sass (HM ’39, AM ’41), Giralda, Matula (HM ’39), Patricia (HM ’40), Prairie Sunset (HM ’37, AM ’41, DM ’43), Royal Coach (HM ’39), Ruth Pollack (HM ’39, AM ’41)
1941 Autumn Flame (RE), Garden Flame (HM ’40, AM ’43), Grace Ballard, Minnie Colquitt (HM ’43, AM ’45), Persian Prince (HM ’42), Rose Top (HM ’43),
1942 Green Shadows, Moon Ray, Peachblow, Prairie Flame, Snow Velvet (HM ’42),
1944 Chocolate Cream,
1945 Banded Beauty
1946 Fontanelle,
1947 Red Torch (HM ’47)