Retic & Juno Bloom
By Alan McMurtrie
Oh the joy of Reticulata perfume in the Spring!
El Niño gave us the earliest
Reticulata bloom I've ever seen: starting March 2! Normally bloom starts at the end of March in
Toronto, Canada. The first species
Crocus (named forms of korolkowii)
actually opened 4 days prior (Feb. 26th), and of course some
Galanthus were open even before that.
Temperatures throughout February generally swung from just below
freezing at night, to just above during the day. The mean temperature in February this year
was +1°C, whereas it's normally -3.8°C (+0.5°C was the previous record
high). Snow fall was recorded as being
only 0.8 cm when 29 cm is normally received (5 cm was the previous low).
In mid December, only the soil
surface was frozen. In many spots under
the leaf and straw mulch the soil was soft.
Temperatures did drop at one point to -13°C, however in early January El
Niño gave spring-like 9°C daytime temperatures for over a week. Although a fair amount of snow fell prior to
the end of January, by mid February it had melted.
It was two of Janis Ruksan's
"Talish" at the front of the house
that opened on March 2nd (aka. hyrcana
"Talish"). Also, just starting to open in the backyard
was one of my collected danfordiae
(ANM2325). Two days later a couple of
1992 & 1993 hybrids opened at the front of the house. Over the next 2 weeks the Retics continued to
open slowly, however the weather was such that their anthers were not opening
(combination of dampness and coolness).
On March 10th the temperature dropped to -10°C as predicted
and there was some snow on the ground, as well as coming down. I covered the Galanthus with a light covering
of straw -- something I meant to do the night before but didn't have time
to. It was only on March 25, when the
weather turned quite nice, that I was able to start doing a lot of
hybridizing. It was so nice in fact that
you would have sworn it was summer: I was out hybridizing in my shorts!
By April 1st the
Retics were finishing! No joke! We had just had a warm spell for 5 days with
temperatures of 25°C. Less than a week
prior to the start of this we had been dumped on by 20 cm of snow. The day after I had been outside building a
snowman with my sons. The warm weather
began to build several days later (including on the 25th). Then on March 28th the majority of
Retics all burst into bloom in symphony.
Fortunately rain generally held off (we did get a little on the 28th,
but it was near the end of the day). I
spent 4 days almost solidly hybridizing.
I got a lot of good crosses made, but I couldn't get everything done
that I wanted to. In the end a fair
number of sophenensis x danfordiae (s x d) blooms went without
being hybridized. Most of these had been
open prior to the warm spell and I just wasn't able to get to very many of them
in the first couple of days of the warm spell.
I had expected the weather to warm up slowly, which would have allowed
me to get to them in the normal course of events.
I did try to keep assessing what
the next highest priorities were and get to those. Sometimes it was a matter of not knowing what
to put the pollen on in terms of making something that made sense. For example I had four Çat x danfordiae blooms. Although they are nice, and in one sense
exciting (since they involve danfordiae),
I tend to think that on some pod parents they wouldn't produce good
results. Which in part is to say, I
would be better off using some other pollen parent instead. Yes, sometimes one must ignore what seems to
make sense, since perhaps something special may result from an odd ball cross.
Sometimes when I might think of
making a specific cross I would find the pollen wasn't ready, so I had to try
to keep some of those ones in mind to do later.
In a few cases I even wrote up a tag and left it with the flower as a
reminder, in order to make sure I did the cross. I did have computer printouts of the crosses
I've made previously (one list by pod parent, and another by pollen
parent). As well as telling me which
crosses I had already tried (so I could try others), it gave me information
about how successful they had been. For
example a lot of 'Purple Gem' crosses didn't work last year, so I didn't make
many this year.
Although the Retics came on so
quickly, I must say it was really nice having the warm summer days to work with
them. It was very enjoyable but
hectic. Afterwards we started to get
some cooler rainy weather, which made me appreciate how nice it had been.
Back in early April I was trying
to see what record keeping I needed to do.
In particular to mark down how many sophenensis
x danfordiae blooms there were since
this was information I wouldn't be able to piece together later: ie. because I
hadn't crossed all of the flowers, I wouldn't simply be able to count each pod
parent's crosses later in my data base, as I use to do in the past.
There were 262 sophenensis x danfordiae blooms not counting those of bulbs given out for testing
last fall. Of particular interest was
the fact 21 89-Q-3 bloomed. In this case
4 bloom-sized bulbs had additionally been given out for testing (thus
tentatively 25 in total). This was the
highest bloom count of any s x d clone.
I had originally been predicting 13 would bloom here. The 21 means eight of the 10 mm diameter
bulbs would have bloomed -- some of the original bulblets! Next year (1999) however, I'm predicting only
14 blooms as you will read below.
Stepping back for a moment to
March 9th, that morning I discovered 91-FC-4 had one flower open along with
several others showing colour; also starting were 1987 hyrcana hybrids. In the
afternoon temperatures reached a lovely 12°C.
On careful inspection I found 36 1989 s x d hybrids in the process of
opening. Surprisingly they were in one
portion of the bed; others weren't quite as far along. It was particularly impressive to see all of
the blooms coming up so close together: 100 sq. inches (10" x 10").
Last year there had been 126 s x d blooms compared to this year's 262. With bloom-sized bulbs being down in number,
I'll be lucky next year to match this year's total.
Surprisingly 92-CI-1 didn't bloom
this year. It's the s x d clone that
showed the most yellow to-date. The
other two 1992 s x d clones which bloomed for the first time last year had 2
flowers each, and a third, which hadn't bloom previously, also had 2. At the time I replanted the bulbs last year I
found a 2nd "double nosed" bulb up against 92-CI-1. I wondered if / hoped they too were
92-CI-1. They are now designated 92-CI-3. Unfortunately I couldn't keep the smaller
bulbs and bulblets of the two separate last fall, so that will be a tricky task
in future. I am expecting one bloom of
92-CI-1 next year. The other 92-CIs will
have 2 to 7 blooms. Yes, if 92-CX-1's
three 10 mm bulbs bloom, next year there will be 7 flowers!
Reticulata increase was fairly
good overall: the numbers of bulbs increased as expected, if not better in most
cases. This was definitely true with
89-Q-3. It had 807 bulblets verses the
700 I had predicted. I was surprised and
a touch disappointed that the number of bloom-sized bulbs were down. You might think this was due to overcrowding,
and perhaps indeed it was. However it
was pleasantly surprising to find last year's bulblets had increased quite
well: they were perhaps half a size larger than last year's. This would have been in part due to the
milder weather, though the whole growing season was generally earlier by 3
weeks (there were only a few things that occurred when they normally would have
such as strawberry season). Last year's
bulblets had been planted on top of the mature bulbs and the small bulbs,
giving two or in some instances even three layers of bulbs. Yes, the bulbs were all were quite close
together, but I imagine the mature bulbs would have a much more demanding root
structures than those of the bulblets.
Unfortunately I tended to plant similar sized bulbs together. This meant mature bulbs were together,
increasing the competition for nutrients (nutrient starved), rather than having
them spread out with smaller bulbs in-between as I have done this year.
Since I couldn't hybridize all
the blooms, I was wondering if in these crowded situations the bulbs of
unhybrizied flowers were noticeably larger than those of ones that were
hybridized. Unfortunately I don't
believe I have enough data to say one way or the other. Next year I should flag a number of each and
see what I find (but will I remember and have the time to do so? I spoke of needing to do this in last year's
report, but I forgot all about it!).
In September I sent Berney Baugen
10 of the largest bulbs of 89-Q-3 in hopes that he will successfully force them
for one of the English early Spring shows (many were not as large as I would
have liked them to have been, but the majority should bloom). Now that 89-Q-3's numbers are becoming quite
reasonable I need to develop interest in it and some of the other s x d clones.
I now have a number of people
around the world testing my s x d hybrids: Australia, England, Holland, Japan,
Missouri and Virginia in the U.S., plus Alberta and Manitoba in Canada, and
soon New Zealand. Many of these were
added this year.
Figure 1's predicted numbers have
been updated, and they also take into account the bulbs given to Berney. I expect the totals will be slightly
conservative. Based on this year's
results I am taking the view that the second bulb of every original parent will
be 2 years away from being bloom-size.
Performance in the earlier years was clearly better than that. Bulblet numbers are calculated from the
previous year's number of larger
and medium bulbs: I estimated 8 and 4 bulblets are produced respectively on
In the early years the actual
number of bulblets can vary much more widely than predicted due to only a
couple of bulbs producing all of the bulblets.
As mentioned last year, parent bulbs can have anywhere from 5 to 17
bulblets (up to 25 for 91-FC-4). "1 year
away" can have 1 to 9.
1 year away
2 years away
3 years away
1 year away
2 years away
3 years away
Figure 1: 89-Q-3 (sophenensis
x danfordiae) Bulb Count
89-F-4 continues to have the
highest total bulb count with 1349 (858 are bulblets). This is 10% higher than 89-Q-3; down from
last year's totals, which were 25% higher.
I had predicted 13 would bloom, including 3 of 4 given out for
testing. There were actually 15 blooms
here, so the total was likely 18. As
well there were 3 bulbs in with 89-F-5 which also bloomed. I flagged and moved them plus their
bulblets. No doubt there are more mixed
in due to previous year's bulblets.
91-FC-4 continues to do fairly
well. Last year's total was 178. This year's was 407. This is back in line with being 1 year behind
89-Q-3. I don't know why last year's had
such an explosion (vs. this year's sort of settling back). 91-FC-4 can have as high as 25 bulblets: all
of reasonable size.
One F2 s x d clone (89-Q-1 x
89-AC-4) from 1994 is doing particularly well.
It had 2 nice sized leaves up, along with what appeared to be the leaf
of a bulblet. I am looking forward to
seeing it in bloom next year. I flagged
all of the 1994 s x d hybrids and replant the ones that looked large enough to
have bulblets re: moving the bulblets closer to the soil surface so that they
can increase. It looks like only the one
mentioned above is large enough to bloom.
11 winogradowii flowers bloomed!
Now I'm getting somewhere. One
was a double (2 flowers per bulb). I
used winogradowii 's pollen quite
extensively. For example, almost all histrioides were crossed with it. This made good use of the histrioides pod parents. Unfortunately it will be 5 years before I
start to see the resulting progeny. I had a number of 1993 histrioides hybrids which appeared to be pure histrioides (a bee must have gotten to them first, or some of it's
own pollen got on to it's stigmatic lip).
This happened with 4 crosses, which is quite surprising. Perhaps they opened while I was at work, and
I didn't notice any white pollen on the lip when I made my crosses.
Based on bulb sizes I only expect
4 will bloom next year. It would seem
that my attempts to set seed took their toll on the bulb sizes; in particular
with all of the pods that produced "popcorn" (endogerm, but no endosperm). Yes indeed, they looked like small bits of
popcorn. Only 3 of the pods set seed,
yielding just 4 seeds. Certainly these
crosses were not worthwhile, including ones using histrioides pollen. I would
have been better off just intercrossing the winogradowii
To ensure I have a reasonable
amount of pollen next year I purchased another 2 bulbs. I now have 38 bulbs of all sizes.
Winogradowii's pollen was used much more successfully with 54 of 98
crosses yielding an "enormous" 646 seeds.
Of this, 11 of 14 s x d pod parents produced 149 seeds. This was quite a change from all 11 tries
last year being unsuccessful (which in part says don't get totally put off by
something not working the first time).
Now let's just hope they germinate.
I got 120 seeds from 9 crosses onto the "Armenian Caucasus
Retic". I really don't think the
progeny will be all that interesting, but seeing what histrioides produced makes me hope something interesting will
result. One key difference though is the
"Armenian Caucasus Retic" lacks amount of white area and veining that
lead to the lovely hybrids like 'Katharine Hodgkin'.
Eduard Hanslik has an Alba form
of winogradowii! He hasn't revealed whom he got it from. He had promised to send a picture of it, but
couldn't, saying, "the weather at flowering time was so catastrophic that I
didn't take a picture." He commented,
"it's not luminescent white, but whitish, for example like Corydalis bracteata 'Matina' (Alba)." I was successful at negotiating a trade of
Trillium 'Snowbunting', a double form of grandiflorum,
for a bulb of it. The bulb he sent was
10 x 15 mm which may be large enough to bloom.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed though, since as I have written in the
past, there have been times when I thought I had winogradowii bulbs large enough to bloom, but they didn't.
Six 1992 histrioides x winogradowii
hybrids bloomed from 4 crosses. Three
from two of the crosses were 'Frank Elder'-like. Two from one cross were more yellow than
'Katharine Hodgkin'. The last cross gave
essentially a white with dark blue dots.
Its fall wasn't as wide as the others (and thus my wife liked some of
the others better), but it is still fairly wide. As soon as I saw it I said elegant! In fact I concluded that that's what it
should be named: 'Elegant'. There were
several other clones from this cross that didn't bloom. I wonder what they'll be like? Patience!
The only "disappointment" is that
in 10 years time, when I may be able to retire from my day job, there will only
be roughly 1000 blooms of 'Elegant'. I
say this thinking that 4000 would be a nice number from which to start selling
(ie. an additional 2 years). This long
time to build up stock is the reality with any hybrids. It's certainly nice to look at the ones that
have already been blooming for a few years and see how many bloom-sized bulbs I
am currently up to. Again, it's a matter
of patience. By starting now and working
with them to promote increase, before you know it, so-to-speak, I'll be there.
'Elegant' now has 2 bloom-sized
bulbs plus 3 bulblets. You may not think
3 bulblets are all that important, but if each blooming bulb were to produce 3
bulblets every year, and assuming they were replanted nearer the soil surface,
then 1000 bulbs would be reached in just 6 years. And 5500 would be reached in 8 (along with
12,000 of all other sizes). Of course at
this point I'm not counting on there always being 3 bulblets. Time will tell...
I am hopeful, but not too
optimistic that Otto Fauser's 'Polly' will bloom next year: I. reticulata hort. x winogradowii. Otto sent me 3
bulbs of it back in 1991. The largest,
which I simply recorded as being of medium size, is now 9 x 12 mm. An offset from it is 4 x 7 mm. The other two small 1991 bulbs were planted
in separate locations in the garden.
Neither survived. A picture I
have from Otto shows 'Polly' being a medium grey-blue Retic with I reticulata hort.'s form; not stunning,
just something different.
The supposed danfordiae x winogradowii
hybrid from 1992 is now 14 mm in diameter, along with 2 large bulblets. I am certainly looking forward to seeing it
bloom next year. I hope the cross is
true and doesn't just turn out to be pure danfordiae. I tried repeating this cross three times this
year. Only one worked, giving 7
seeds. I also used 88-AX-2 pollen on
it. Either way the results will be
interesting. The big hurdle currently
is, will any germinate?
I mentioned in last year's report
that a bloom from "Armenian Caucasus Retic" x winogradowii didn't show any winogradowii
influence, and that I was expecting more blooms from this cross in 1998. They too did not show any winogradowii influence, so yes indeed,
it appears the cross was actually a self (the progeny were all reasonably
89-A-2 (hyrcana hort. x danfordiae)
and 89-A-3 bloomed for the first time.
Both were extremely interesting.
89-A-2 was strongly yellow, though the yellow was less intense than that
of danfordiae (the outside of the bud
was cream). This was mixed with a small
amount of hyrcana's blue. Unfortunately, at least from my point-of-view,
the colours were not even across the fall blades. My perception was that the blue was causing
the blotching. 89-A-3's falls showed a
distinct orange colour. It too had blue
from hyrcana mixed in. Unfortunately the tip of its bud was eaten by
a slug, which meant a good portion of the fall was missing, and thus I couldn't
enjoy it in all its glory. What's of
particular interest about these two is that it shows yellows other than just danfordiae's bright yellow-orange are
possible. As you can appreciate by the
fact they are only just blooming, they must be slow increasers. As reported previously, 89-A-1 is a greyed
blue due to a small amount of yellow mixing with hyrcana's blue. In
comparison, it increases reasonably well.
As expected none of these set
seed, but surprisingly I got 47 seeds from 3 of 10 crosses using their
pollen. A single seed was with 89-A-2
pollen; the others were of course with 89-A-1 pollen since the slug got
89-A-3's anthers. Of the other two
crosses, one was a back cross to danfordiae,
which gave 40 seeds, and the third was onto an s x d hybrid.
88-AX-2 (Çat x danfordiae ) bloomed for the first
time. It was similar to 88-AX-1 and
88-AX-3, both of which also bloomed. I
had been surprised with 88-AX-2's large 12 x 15 mm bulb size, and I wondered if
it might have been some other hybrid; though I was fairly certain I hadn't
mixed it up. A second bulb 8 x 11 mm
also bloomed. 88-AX-1's bloom was on a
bulb only 9 mm in diameter. While these
hybrids are not of interest commercially, the fact they are fertile is
particularly interesting. This year I
repeated this cross using what should be a larger flowered danfordiae. I'm not
expecting anything different, other than hybrids that are hopefully a little
more vigorous, with bigger flowers. The
tiny 88-AX-1 is cute, but certainly larger flowers would be more showy.
Three of the 4 flowers produced
24 seeds. They were from intercrossing
the clones. I expect this is the most
interesting use of these since their expression will likely open up
significantly in the second generation.
Their pollen was used successfully on 18 of 26 crosses, giving 368
seeds. This breaks down as: 2 onto hyrcana for 26 seeds, 6 onto danfordiae for 157, 9 onto various s x d
clones for 188, and a single "miscellaneous cross" (91-DV-3), yielding 5
seeds. As you can see, I felt crosses
onto danfordiae progeny would be most
valuable in the longer term, since these hybrids will hopefully be fertile. In the
case of hyrcana, since my hyrcana x danfordiae crosses are turning out to be particularly interesting,
I thought it would be interesting to see what crossing the 88-AX clones onto hyrcana would yield. The fact 88-AX clones are fertile makes me
think the Çat Retic is 2n = 18. If it
is, then down the road some very interesting colours might come from danfordiae, sophenensis, & Çat combinations. It will take quite a while to get there
The three 88-AX hybrids increased
nicely in number. 88-AX-2 continues to
produce larger bulbs than the other two clones, with its largest this year
being 11 x 17 mm. Next year it will
again have 2 blooms. I am hopeful
88-AX-3 will also bloom, but know for sure 88-AX-1 won't. Total bulb counts are now 16, 16, and 22
respectively, with half being bulblets.
There hasn't been any news from
Brian Mathew about Kew's studies of
88-AX-1/2/3, 89-A-1, reticulata Çat, or his BM11026.
Kolpakowskiana had 6 blooms in 3 spots in the garden. I also have it in two other locations. Generally I'm not happy with how well they
are doing. Clearly by the fact they are
blooming, they're not doing that poorly.
Unfortunately a mouse ate the stems of two large bulbs, one of which had
bloomed and set seed, as well as the stem of two bulblets. It was by chance that I noticed the seed pod
missing. At the time I thought it might
have been the work of a squirrel. The next day I happened to discover
everything was gone. The only thing that
alerted me to the fact this was the work of a mouse, was some rustling in dried
leaves. Checking under them I found
evidence of the mouse (droppings).
Within an hour he was no more. I
then exposed about 1 mm of the stem / leaves that had been below the soil, in
hopes of invoking some photosynthesis to rejuvenate the bulbs; not long after
they did green-up. This might have
happened anyway since the leaves were still growing.
Unfortunately those bulbs were
affected by their ordeal: one of the bulblets disappeared while the other is
smaller than it had been (it had been the larger of the two). Of the large bulbs, both are now 12 mm in
diameter. This is the same size that the
non-blooming one had been last year.
Generally all of the others are equal or slightly smaller than they had
been last year.
I am glad to report that the
Armenian Caucasus Alba Retic bloomed this year.
The large bulb in the spot where the Alba form first appeared did indeed
turn out to be the Alba form. It is
normally the last Reticulata to bloom (which makes it hard to use in
hybridizing -- since I've already crossed virtually all other flowers). This year it bloomed from April 5th
to 13th. All of the other
"Armenian Caucasus Retics" were already open when the Alba form's bud
was still at ground level.
I again selfed it and got 16
seeds. Incidentally none of 1994's 15
selfed seeds have germinated: disappointing. 6 of 13 crosses with it's pollen were
successful giving 94 seeds. In the short
term this won't yield much since the progeny will be coloured (I expect F1
hybrids will contain a dominant and a recessive gene for Coloured). It's only in the long run, once the progeny
are intercrossed, that any Albas might result (potentially 25% of F2s will be
homozygous recessive). The key thing I
would be aiming for is to include some other characteristics in the hybrid Albas:
in particular a better rate of increase.
It is currently a very lovely large flowered clone; so that doesn't need
The main bulb is down from 11 x
12 mm last year to 9 x 11 now. Two
bulblets from last year seem to have disappeared. Also missing is a second bulb in the 1987/88
hybrid area. In total I currently only
have 5 bulbs. One of these, a 4 mm
bulblet, was moved to fresh soil in a different spot in the garden. Last year two bulbs were sent to Wim de
Goede; neither had been big enough to bloom.
Wim didn't report how big they were this year.
I didn't try to count 87-BN-1's
or 87-BB-1's bulbs, but I did replant them in the new location where they were
moved last fall.
A reasonable of my hybrids
bloomed for the first time: this year the number of 1992 blooms was a much more
reasonable 44 (36 new, plus 2 each of 4 clones that bloomed last year). The number of 1993 blooms was 68. To my pleasant surprise I even had one 1994
bloom: 94-VX-1 (possibly a clone to watch; plus I quite liked it). I suspect it must have germinated the first
year after being planted (almost all seeds germinate in their second
year). Alternatively it could be more
vigorous than other Retics.
With 93-EH (parentage below) I
had hoped to bring out bakeriana patterning
with some variation. That didn't
happen. Genetically, the expectation was
~25% would show bakeriana
patterning. There were only three 93-EH
clones, not a large sample, but it would appear more than one gene is
involved. Their colours ranged from
blue, to violet, to purple. A
disappointing fault is the flowers grow too high (above the spathe), and then
'Cantab' x bakeriana
94-VX-1 is actually somewhat bakeriana-like: it has dark velvety
violet fall blades. Unlike most bakerianas, the colour extends right
around the fall blade. The white area
around its orange-yellow ridge has some blotches, but the ridge colour
dominates. Its standards and styles are
a uniform purplish blue. As you can see
below, it has a lot of bakeriana in
'Gordon' x ?
'Purple Gem' x Turkish bakeriana
bakeriana x 'Cantab'
bakeriana x ?
93-DZ-1 was a nice pale blue;
from ['Pauline' x hyrcana - 1] x
['Cantab' x "Armenian Caucasus Retic" - 3]. I certainly hadn't expected this. It's of course more blue than
'Natascha'. It's nice. We could do with a nice powder blue
clone. It's quite possible however, that
the consumer might view it as wishy-washy, preferring instead stronger /
brighter colours. That is, unless it was
just the right shade of powder blue to appeal to them.
There were a couple of other
particularly nice clones that bloomed.
It will take two or three years though to see how well they
increase. For example I particularly
liked three of five 93-BA (87-BB-1 x "Talish") clones (87-BB-1 is one
of the clones I feel should be introduced).
The bud of 93-BA-1 showed a colour that was a combination of blue and
purple anthocyanin. When the flower
opened however it was blue like "Talish", but had 87-BB-1's larger
more pointed fall blade: rather nice, but disappointing in a sense. It would have been interesting if the flower
turned out to be the bud's colour; case of "just another blue". The other 93-BA clones ranged from blue to
slightly violet. Time will tell both how
they do and how well I continue to like them.
I was a bit surprised at the fact
that I didn't see the F2 expressions opening up. Yes, it is true that one expects the progeny
will be similar to their parents. And
certainly if the parents are similar to one and another, you can't expect much
difference in the progeny, but I thought there might be something
striking. What was I expecting you
ask? Well, a few first generation
crosses were tricolour: standards, style arms, and fall blade all noticeably
different. So I thought there might be
more bicolours / tricolours. As just
mentioned above for 93-BA-1, I was hoping for new colours. Also a wider range of colours within each
cross. Plus hopefully more colours in
each flower; just as some wild collected clones had: ie. various shades of blue
and/or purple on the fall blade radiating out from the ridge rather than just
pure colours. Patterns with veining and spotting would be
nice. I wonder for example if dark blue
spots are possible on a light mauve, or a pale purple background.
I wouldn't say that I saw much in
the way of bad characteristics. But I
don't really expect with first year blooms to see their faults. A couple of years are needed to see how well
they increase, and whether any anomalies are really faults, or just temporary
weather related effects: such as the crape paper effect one flower had when it
first bloomed in 1992; or the faint yellow ridge some standards appeared to
have. To-date all flowers with more than
3 falls were simply temporary faults. I
do have one seedling bucharica that
consistently has no style arms; its anthers are normal.
89-AU, and in particular 89-AU-1,
is markedly better than the 87-AS and 90-G clones, which are from the same
parentage ("Armenian Caucasus Retic" x bakeriana). Of course both
parents were wild collected clones, so it's not surprising to see some
variation in them, but all progeny are quite consistent in flower colour.
Certainly when the parents are
quite different, such as sophenensis
x danfordiae, you would definitely
expect the F2 expression to open up. I
hope to start seeing that on at least one plant next year; the other's bulbs
don't appear to be large enough to bloom.
Bloom on 1987 and 1988 clones was
generally down. There were a few strong
clones that did have good bloom in spite of not being replanted for the past 3
'Pauline' is doing poorly. I don't understand why. It only had 2 blooms. True it hadn't been replanted last year. But even in 1997 it had done poorly, and I
believe I did replant it in the fall of 1996.
It had done well in previous years with being replanted there. The particular bulbs had originally been
obtained and planted where they are in fall 1992. Some 'J.S. Dijt' on the other hand are in a
location right at the front of the house, and they have been doing well there
for many years. I tend to replant them
I had intended to do seedling
counts this year for years 94, 95, 96 & 97, but didn't have time to. These days what is of particular interest is
to see whether any of the special crosses germinated. I only managed to flag special 1994 crosses,
in particular s x d clones so I could replant those and get any bulblets closer
to the soil surface. Surprising there is
only one s x d clone large enough to bloom next year.
BM11026 is a fickled clone: none
of the bulbs in the 1995 bulblet area bloomed.
I do quite like this clone. It is
possible that it tends to need to be replanted in order to do well. Those 1995 bulblets are in the area where I
have my 1987/88 Retics, so it could just be that they need fresh soil. Two of the bulbs in my main area for it
bloomed. Both of these produced 8 seeds
each. One was a self. It had a lot of hollow seeds. Interestingly only 2 of 8 crosses with its
pollen worked, both of which were onto hyrcana,
yielding 63 nice large seeds. I had
never tried hyrcana as a pod parent
before. Three of the ones that didn't
work had hollow seeds. They had all been
onto my F1 hybrids. Two of the other
three were with "Talish" (it's interesting that they didn't work and hyrcana hort. did), and the last was
It would seem that the name
'Hercules' is being reused for a different hybrid. I bought some 'Hercules' last year from Hoog
& Dix and they've turned out to be very dark blue like I. reticulata hort. They have a moderately wide fall, with
virtually non-existent pollen (anther surface is waxy; ie. no good), which
suggests the pollen parent is likely histrioides. 'Hercules' should in actual fact be near
"red-black", with a fault that it's flowers do not open properly due to its
stem not growing above it's spathe. This
new hybrid is quite nice, but it's disappointing to see the name 'Hercules'
being reused from the point-of-view of the confusion it will cause. At least the confusion will be minimized by
the fact this hybrid is sterile. I doubt
that this new clone was registered with the Royal General Bulb Growers
Association. I must inquire.
Hoog & Dix's Descriptive
Catalogue has the same original description as printed in the 'International
Checklist for Hyacinths and Miscellaneous Bulbs: "raised by Mr. A. van den Berg
Gzn. from I. histrioides x I. reticulata, flowers velvet-purple, with
an orange blotch [ridge]." As I wrote
above, this new hybrid is definitely a very dark blue.
I crossed all of 'Hercules'
flowers, but as expected none gave any seeds.
Those crosses were not included in this year's hybridizing statistics
since they would throw off the numbers.
This way the numbers reflect this year's success rates with varieties
considered to be fertile.
When I went to dig a couple of
bulbs of 'Hercules' to send someone I was quite surprised, actually shocked, to
find a lot of diseased bulbs. In most of
the cases the two new bulb were completely replaced by a lesser amount of peat
moss-like material. Out of 50 large
bulbs I'm left with only 30. Since all
of the original bulbs had doubled in number that means 35 (70%) were lost.
I expect that many people will be
disappointed with the hybrid being sold as I. reticulata Alba. It's not
really very close to white: very light blue.
As near whites go, I prefer 'Natascha'.
The I. reticulata Alba clone
would have been better sold as a near white in mixtures rather than trying to
sell it separately. It's actually quite
unfortunate someone is trying to pass this off as a pure white, especially when
pure whites are known to exist
I wish I could get my Armenian Caucasus Alba Retic out into the market. It's a beautiful true white, and worlds
better than this I. reticulata
Alba. Unfortunately its just not a good
Surprisingly none of the crosses
onto I. reticulata Alba worked. It is planted near 'Hercules', however all of
it's bulbs increased nicely.
'Alida' was nice, but as the
saying goes, "just another blue": nice light blue. Unfortunately a good number of its bulbs were
affected by disease. I found all of the
bulbs, but a high percentage were pock marked with dark brown tissue on at
least the top half of the bulb. I
trimmed off what I could with an Exacto knife, and some were simply tossed out.
This year Hoog & Dix had
Reticulatas 'Marguérita', 'Pixie', and I. reticulata "Kuh-e-Abr" for
sale for the first time. Janis Ruksans
also had 'Marguérita' I ordered some, but he didn't send any; I haven't heard
what the problem was. I was particularly
interested by I. reticulata from
Kuh-e-Abr, but unfortunately Hoog & Dix weren't able to send any bulbs of
it. I don't know whether they were sold
out, or whether there was a "crop failure".
My order confirmation only said it, and quite a number of other bulbs,
were unavailable. Fortunately this year
Hoog & Dix produced a supplement to their Descriptive Catalogue (which is
separate from their price list), so I am able to pass on the following
reticulata from Kuh-e-Abr: "collected
in Iran, province Semnan, in eastern Elburz near Kuh-e-Abr, around 2500 m alt.
1977; flower a delightful colour, Maria-blue; the shade of blue was unknown by
growers of I. reticulata cultivars; ridge honey mark yellow-orange; height
sounds exciting, but at the same time it may truly be "just another blue".
"raised by Mr H. Kroon from a variegated sport of 'Clairette' [its leaves have
a white stripe running along them]. Its
standards are cornflower-blue (CC 96a/b), and its falls are dark
victoria-violet (CC89a) with ivory white (CC 155a). Its fall ridge is honey mark lemon-yellow (CC
14b). Height 10-15 cm."
"a new selection from 'Harmony' ". This,
plus the fact it has been granted Plant Breeders Rights,
is the only information given. In last
year's report William said 'Pixie' is a purple 'Harmony'.
From late October on into
November I replanted my 1987/88 Reticulata bed.
As I dug it up one section at a time, I replaced its soil (to about an
20 cm [8"] depth). All of the bulbs fit
back into 3/4 of the bed. This is not a
good sign: it means overall the clones there did quite poorly. It will be extremely interesting to see how
the bulbs do by the end of next season.
The soil was some ordered in for the expansion at the front of the house
(see below) and thus hasn't seen Irises before.
I am quite pleased to report that
some of the bulbs I got back from William had 3 flowers per bulb! Incredible!!
Now if only I could find the data I recorded about bulbs sizes so I can
cross correlate it to the number of blooms.
I was surprised to notice that
some danfordiae bulblets that I had
planted in two different good spots in the garden have not done well; they died
out in one spot and there are only about 4 in another. What makes this surprising is that in another
location not too far away diploid danfordiae,
along with its bulblets, is doing quite well.
Near the end of the growing
season Reticulata leaf lengths were a fairly consistent 45 cm (18"). Of course bulblet leaves were somewhat
shorter. William van Eeden's
unintroduced 'Blue George' had 61 cm (24") leaves, and my 89-AU-1, which
Wim is interested in for the European market, were 75 cm (30").
I added 300 square feet of new
garden at the front of the house. I am
hoping this will meet my seed planting needs for the next 3 years. The gardens are now 7 feet closer to the
road, but there is still about a 20 foot buffer. I can't easily go any closer due to water
shut off valves for my neighbour's and my house being 6 inches from the new
garden edge. In addition, the main
garden was expanded closer to the house.
Now there's only a 2 and a half foot wide strip of grass running beside
the walkway to the front door.
Previously it had been 6 to 10 feet or more. 10 cubic yards of nice sandy loam soil meant
I was able to raise the beds to the same 8 inch height of the existing
beds. Once the beds were built, a fair
bit of work was required to move bulbs from the old edges to the new ones. In a number of cases it was good to replant
the bulbs; something that hadn't been done in upwards of seven years.
I tried looking at Retics under
black (ultraviolet) light in order to see what they might look like to insects,
but nothing fluoresced. I thought that
the ridge colour might show up brightly since people often speak as if this is
like a landing light for insects.
Probably no matter what we do we can't really see what insects do since
our eyes just aren't receptive to the same wavelengths of light.
Speaking of ultraviolet light,
I'll just remind you that it reacts with the flower's anthocyans (blues,
violets) out in the garden to cause them to lighten somewhat. It's something you don't tend to notice when
you're looking at the flowers on a daily basis.
Some clones are affected more than others. Hence, the colour of Retics forced indoors
during winter are slightly different than they'd be out in the garden.
It is always interesting to hear
from time to time what the grower's side of the bulb trade is like. This summer William wrote, "Retic prices are
still very low; even the demand. In
winter and spring at every show with Retics, always 'George' gets the highest
rewards and the first prizes. Concerning
prices, 'George' is offered for 2.50 Guilders for 100 bulbs, which is about
$1.75 Canadian (~$1.25 U.S.)." William
attached a clipping from December 1997 giving market information for summer
1998 delivery. A well as 2.50 for
'George', 2.75 Guilders is shown for I. reticulata
hort. Now if only we could pay that
little... Hoog & Dix list these at
10 Guilders per 100 bulbs, 88 Guilders per 1000 (minimum order 500 Guilders),
while Potterton & Martin charges £1.30 per 10 (about 45 Guilders per 100),
which drops to £5 per 50 and a mear £7 per 100 (about 24 Guilders per
100). Of course postage, packing and
phytosanitary certificate add another 50% to 25% respectively. Note: the wholesale price for 'Natascha' is 3
times that of other Retics. This fall danfordiae and 'Harmony' were selling
for $6.30 Canadian for 20 bulbs including taxes in local nurseries (about 40
Guilders per 100). One nursery had danfordiae and reticulata hort. for $1.60 per 10 (about 20 Guilders per 100). A local mail order bulb firm was charging a
ridiculous $11.45 for 25 bulbs including taxes (60 Guilders per 100;
Yikes!). 50 and 100 quantity prices were
only 10 & 20% less respectively. An
additional 12% delivery charge can be avoided by picking the bulbs up in
person. A few additional varieties were
available at similar prices (no wonder more people aren't enjoying
Hearing William speak of low
prices makes you think of market economics: supply vs. demand. The only problem is that in this situation
there are middlemen. In the past I would
have said so what, they just add on their costs to come up with the price
consumers are charged. Recently pig farmers
have been complaining about record low prices.
So low in fact that they are getting back only 60% of what it costs to
raise pigs. Apparently this has been
going on for several months (partly due to the collapse of Asian markets), yet
the price charged in stores for pork products hasn't changed one bit. There goes the "law of supply and demand"
right out the window. Perhaps that's
also happening in the bulb market.
Retail sales at 40 Guilders verses the 2.50 Guilders bulb growers get is
definitely highway robbery. Clearly the
middlemen are getting rich at the expense of everyone else.
William also commented, "this
year I made many Crocus and Corydalis pollinations; no seeds at all. I know other growers had the same
experience. Even the natural bee crosses
didn't work." He went on to say all
early spring flowering bulbs and corms were either without seeds, or only had a
few small ones. William later wrote,
"the Retics are all lifted, but bulb yield is disappointing this year with
every one of the early flowering bulbs and corms, lesser and smaller bulbs."
Unfortunately I was late getting
to replant my Retic hybrids. There were
a number of reasons for this, but I won't go into them. Last year, in the last half of October I
found root growth was just too great to allow replanting, so this year I was
prudent and covered the beds with sheet plastic to keep them dry. This worked quite well. There had been a bit of root growth prior,
but it wasn't too much.
I am to the point were a machine
to separate the bulbs and bulblets from the soil would be quite helpful. As in the past, I found that in spite of
thinking I got all of the s x d rice grain bulblets I would inevitably find a
few in the soil. To minimize the mix-up
this would cause, as I dug each clone I put it's bulbs and soil into separate
plastic dish pans. This worked out well
since it then allowed me to separate the bulbs from the soil indoors after
dark. In many cases I additionally took
the time to count the different sized bulbs.
When the bulbs were replanted, I covered them with the soil from the
dishpan. That way any bulblets I missed
separating out would still be with that clone.
Of course if they ended up being planted too deep they'd simply die out,
but so be it. One has to be practical
about the effort involved.
Speaking of bulblets dying out,
it was clear with a few of the s x d clones, ones I didn't get to replant last
year, that this was exactly what happened -- only bulblet hulls were left,
along of course with this year's bulblets.
Last year's bulblets weren't able to get a leaf up through the soil, and
died trying to. The parent bulbs
increased as expected.
It was certainly a treat to see
how well all of the hybrids were doing, especially many of the s x d clones; to
physically see and feel the increasing number of bulbs. The only catch is I'm having to triple the
area available for them; verses doubling.
This wouldn't be a problem per se if I only had a couple of clones, or
if this was their first couple of years (lower numbers per clone). I was finding that in spite of the tripling
area I was having trouble planting last year's bulblets (now 4 to 6 mm small
bulbs) into the new area. For example 12
x 18 inches gives 216 sq. inches.
Allowing for the fact you need to plant a bit in from the edge means,
with 390 small bulbs, their centres can only be .5 inches apart. Since the bulbs are physically 4 to 6 mm in
diameter that leaves about .3 inches between them. If you remember the fact that last year I
replanted the bulbs back into the same space they had been in, then I actually
need to give them as much as 9 times the area in order to allow me next year be
able to replant them back into the same space they are now in.
In this particular example I'm
clearly in trouble. In other cases the
bulbs may not be quite as tight: 250 in the 216 sq. inches, which means they're
.6 inches apart. It's a matter
allocating enough space as I replant, while keeping an eye on the total space
available. In all cases I'm planting 3
layers deep: large bulbs at the bottom (bloom-size and 1 year away), then 4 to
6 mm bulbs followed by the bulblets. Of
course one thing I can do next year is plant any excess elsewhere so I don't
have to completely replant the whole 1989 area: I will certainly have enough
others to replant. I can't do this with
too many of the clones though because of space limitations -- there are still
some areas in the garden that could be used more efficiently. These spots however generally haven't proven
to be the best.
Even in the second case, next
year there would typically be 500 small bulbs (this year's bulblets). I'm not sure if I would be able to plant in
more than three layers. It might be
possible with the bulblets and first year bulbs. It's also a matter of how well they would be
able to do (but that's something I won't know for sure until I try it). Certainly I can expect to have trouble with
large bulbs since this year's small bulbs would be moved to the lower
level. Too bad I didn't think of all of
this before starting to replant. I would
have given certain ones more space: at least quadruple rather than just triple.
A guestimate would be that I have
26,000 bulbs in 6 sq. m (64 sq. ft). Of
course roughly 17,000 are bulblets.
Like last year, I found 89-F-1
lost many large bulbs including bulblets that had formed at the base of the
large bulbs. The reticulated coats were
all that were left. I mention this since
it is a reality, and of course it's one of the factors that separates the good
clones from poorer ones. When I was
replanting I also noticed that some of my s x d clones did not regenerate their
parent bulbs very well. I will need to
take better notice of this next year.
Because a fair number of the clone's parent bulbs increase well I hadn't
realized there were some exhibiting the same characteristics as the paternal
parents: danfordiae and sophenensis. Up until now I have been tracking performance
based on rate of increase (total bulb count plus relative size -- it's no good
having lots of bulbs if they can't bulk-up properly), as well as number of
I seem to be finding that
Reticulatas should be replant after ~2 years.
This isn't necessary in all cases, but it might go a fair way towards
minimizing losses. For example I hate
the fact I've lost all of the lovely bakerianas
I had. My outlook in general has been
two fold: first, species such as bakeriana
come from the wild, so they should do well just planted out and left alone;
second, I largely want only the hardiest to survive (of course it's no good if
all of the bulbs get wiped out as happened with my Dutch Iris hybrids a number
of years back).
I still suspect my previous
problems with disease in one bed started with diploid danfordiae bulb overcrowding.
Certainly this isn't the only answer as witnessed by the problems with
'Hercules' and 'Alida' this year: both of which were not over crowded. It would be interesting to see if danfordiae hort. (triploid) would do
better if all of it's bulblets were tossed away (given that in my previous test
it did poorly from the third year onward without replanting). 89-F-1 may just be a somewhat poorer clone
than other sophenensis x danfordiae hybrids; particularly in
terms of its ability to regenerate flowering-sized bulbs. I must try planting a bulb or two of each s x
d hybrid in separate but similar spots (possibly also different situations),
and see how they do: do they too have problems with disease when there's
overcrowding? In the case of the diploid
danfordiae, even though the bulbs
weren't being replanted, and as I've stated previously, the bulblets would have
had difficulty sending their leaves up to the soil surface,
a reasonable percentage did get up.
Overall prior to disease hitting, the area looked like it had tuffs of
Ideally you'd expect the bulbs to
reach a certain equilibrium number and consistency of bloom. Accepting that there are some that produce
lots of bulblets (eg. danfordiae, sophenensis, and the Çat clone), it's
surprising that these aren't just simply "hardier": in part meaning that they
are able to stand up well to disease, and that overcrowding doesn't just simply
turn off the bulblet producing mechanism.
One thing to remember: in the wild Retic bulbs don't bloom every
year. Typically there will be only a few
blooms for many leaves. I suppose now
that I remember this, it is indeed one characteristic that does need to be
improved through hybridizing.
It's funny to think that I'm
wanting to shake up all of the genes, and create things that are new and
different. At the same time, when we
look at our children or our friend's children, we see the parent's
characteristics in them. The same will
be true with hybrid plants, though the more diverse the parents the more
distinct the progeny will be, such as with histrioides
x winogradowii crosses (unfortunately
they are a dead end; but look what was accomplished in that one
generation). The goal is to make diverse
crosses in hopes of being able to pull out recessive traits in future
generations that are genetically there, but weren't able to be expressed.
Just as a reminder, when crossing
two pure species it's only in the second generation and beyond that you
generally expect their progeny's expression to open up. Assuming the species are distinctly different
'Blue George' is now doing quite
well. It produces a reasonable number of
very large bulblets. This year William
kindly gave me some bulbs of his lovely bakeriana
clone, as well as his 'Michael'. I've
had both in the past, but they died out after a couple of years. I plan to keep my eyes on these and actively
I sent Wim 60 89-AU-1 of all
sizes, which leaves me with 2 large bulbs plus about 20 very small bulbs. I also sent him a bulb of 'Elegant'. At the end of October Wim wrote, "I lost the
two bulbs of 89-AU-1 [sent in 1997], I don't know what happened, but they were
completely calcified. Maybe I was a bit
too late with digging, so next year I will dig them earlier. [I leave all of my Retics in the ground year
round (except briefly of course when they are replanted). I'm sure a few are affected by disease, bugs,
etc. that otherwise wouldn't be, but the percentage is generally low.]"
I think it's important and
interesting to hear of some of the practical realities of growing various
varieties. At times disease will attack
a given variety, and the fact it doesn't do well doesn't necessarily mean it is
a poor variety. 'Katharine Hodgkin' for
example was lost in the 1960s,
but fortunately a few bulbs had been sent to someone else, and look at the
lovely hybrid we all have to enjoy.
Unfortunately after the last
weekend in October when daylight savings goes into effect I'm left with only an
hour of daylight between the time I get home from work and when it gets
dark. Floodlights can help, but
realistically there's not a lot you can conveniently do (shadows make it hard
to dig bulbs and be sure of getting them all).
I continued to replant until mid
November. Killing frost hit on Nov 4th,
with the thermometer showing -2°C at 6AM and not budging all day. The first snow fell that evening, but didn't
amount to anything. Vegetables were hit
by the cold before this, especially in the backyard which is open to winds
blowing down a 230KV transmission right-of-way.
At the end of October / early
November the ground was quite dry. I
noticed this because of wanting to push my seedling tags back into the ground;
some had previously been heaved up half an inch or more. Earlier, after several wet rainy days, which
provided a good soaking, I was easily able to push them down. At the time however there were many other
higher priority items that needed doing, so I worked on those instead thinking
that there would be plenty of opportunity for pushing the tags in later. What I ended up doing in mid November was
watering the seedling areas. I imagine
many of my neighbours were wondering why in the world I was watering the garden
For about 3 weeks at the end of
November and into December we had unusually warm spring-like weather (up to 18
°C). It was a delight to have, though I
wasn't able to enjoy it as much as I would have liked to, due to numerous
commitments. Weathermen had been saying
this winter the weather pattern was going to be a La Niña, which would give a
bitterly cold winter. Clearly that
hasn't happened, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't. The suggestion earlier on was that the worst
would hit in the new year.
If you stop and think about the
warm spell for a moment, you begin to understand why Retics (and other bulbs)
don't do well in the southern United States, northern parts of New Zealand,
etc. They have to be immune to strange
weather patterns otherwise they would perish.
This December there were reports of a few Forsythia bushes being tricked
into flower 100 km north of Toronto. If
Retics were to do this, they would surely perish in their native environment
due to the severity of weather still to come.
Certainly Retic flowers can easily survive freezing and snowfalls, like
we often get in early spring. The
problem would be due to the damage prolonged heavy snow would do to the leaves,
thus affecting the bulb's ability to regenerate, and to the potential that
sudden large temperature drops would cause the exposed leaves and flower to
turn to mush, which in turn could cause the bulbs to rot. This latter case being due to the cell sap's
freezing point being raised when the plants are in growth. When bulbs and buds are hidden under leaves,
or a blanket of snow, they are frozen solid and not subject to starting into
growth as a result of a week of warm weather.
As well, early blooming would severely lessen the plant's chance of
successful seed production, which is the whole reason plants flower in the
Thinking back to areas that only
get a minimal amount of freezing, if this in itself were able to trigger the
Retics into bloom, then they would have done just that in the warm spell we
had. I was actually glad to see they
weren't being fooled. A few other
factors / conditions must come into play as well.
Normally our Novembers are dull
so we don't tend to get the warming radiant heat from the sun that we would in
Here's an interesting one: while
writing these paragraphs it hit me that histrio
ssp histrio's leaves start to come up
in late fall and thus tend to go through winter exposed above ground. I would sometimes observe in spring that part
or all of their leaves were straw colour, and thus dead. But with the warmer weather they would start
back into growth, exposing new green tissue.
I haven't carefully checked all of my histrio bulbs. I have a
feeling there are problems with some patches.
I did replant histrio ssp histrio in one bed and they seemed to be
doing reasonably well. I know leaves
hadn't been showing this fall in two other locations. I will have to keep my eye on them and see if
anything shows up.
It always disappoints me to hear
that Retics are somewhat difficult in these areas. I would like them to do well everywhere.
Iridodictyum kopetdagensis: now here's a dilemma -- we now have an
Iridodictyum kopetdagensis and a Juno
kopetdagensis. What do we call this new Retic in the Iris
world? Clearly the Juno's name
prevails. There are several
possibilities, but I would prefer to give Dr. Kurbanov the honour of naming
it. I will ask Dr. Rodionenko to pass
this suggestion on Dr. Kurbanov, before someone else publishes a name. I have one in particular in mind, but
personally, I want to see that this is indeed a new species before suggesting
the name. I am skeptical. Over the years I have seen many variations in
wild collected Reticulatas. Dr.
Rodionenko kindly sent me 4 bulbs of Iridodictyum kopetdagensis. They were two
bulbs that bloomed and divided which Dr. Kurbanov had sent George last
year. I am quite looking forward to
seeing them in bloom next year.
As you will read in the attached
description, Iridodictyum kopetdagensis is
said to "differ from [reticulatum] by
a number of characters: narrow leaves without four clearly seen borders;
shorter fruits [seed pod] -- its length only twice (not more) longer than
width, whereas in I. reticulatum
fruit length two-four times longer than width. Moreover, leaves of the new
species in a period of flowering are of smaller sizes [shorter] than that in I.
reticulatum, but in postfloral period
they grow up faster to 40-48 cm (but not 7-12 cm)." Its leaf tips are said to not be
pointed. The description lists its
colour as: dark violet.
Back in 1995
Janis wrote, "...two forms of I. reticulata
- from Tbilisi (Tortilla lake) and from Kopet-Dag (east of Caspian sea, near
border with Iran. Both are almost
identical in colour, but Tbilisi plants are more than twice as large as the
Kopet-Dag sample." April 25, 1995 This year Janis commented, "I'm still
doubtful about its species range -- I've been growing it for years and for me
it looks like only a minor form of I. reticulata."
My guess is
Iridodictyum kopetdagensis and Janis'
Retic aren't the same, since I have Janis' Tbilisi Retic, and it's red-purple
in colour. A photo Janis sent in 1995
shows a plant that is somewhat 'J.S. Dijt'-like. I. kopetdaghensis
on the other hand is dark violet. Colour
of course is not a good species separator, but it can be used in a crude way.
astutely mentioned "I guess [kopetdagensis]
must be the same as that collected by Paul Furse in the 1960's from the other
(Iranian) side of the border, in eastern Iran.
Unfortunately no living bulbs survive; only [herbarium] specimens."
In the 1964
British Iris Society Yearbook, page 103, Paul Furse wrote:
Bojnurd, in Transcaspia, on bare slopes and among limestone rocks, facing
north; in flower very soon after the snow had melted.
This was an interesting find,
a deep violet-coloured form of I. reticulata
looking just like the typical commercial form of it; the original locality for this Iris has never been known, and it
will be interesting to see when this flowers in England if it is identical with
the old-fashioned garden form.
Janis' 1999 catalog will list a
mystery Reticulata under the name kolpakowskiana
aff. 'Ihnachsai': "we were very surprised during our last expedition when we
found a Reticulata Iris at 2800 m. This
in no way can be considered foothills, which is thought of as the homeland for
I. kolpakowskiana. You might think this plant must be identical
to Iris winkleri reported from
Itelgesai, which is not far from Ihnachsai, but it has a reticulate tunic (Iris
winkleri's is longitudinally
ribbed). Further investigations will
show whether it is only a highland form of his kolpakowskiana, or a new third Central Asian Reticulata Iris
species. Collected in Lhnachsai, Pskem
mnt. range, Uzbekistan (ARJA-9865)." [text edited for clarity]
In a letter to Ron Goudswarrd
(New Zealand) I wrote: "Your 1993 minimum for July of 1°C would explain why
your 'active period' before flowering is so short: you don't get it cold
enough. Because temperatures here drop
well below freezing for ~December to March the Retics get put on hold (the
ground is frozen rock solid). Some years
they get buds up higher than others before being put on hold [certain varieties
more so than others]. When the weather
warms up enough, as it did this year, then the flowers are all set to start
blooming (March 2nd). They have been a
bit lethargic though: temperatures haven't been warm enough for much to happen
-- however those first flowers are sure lasting a long time!! Perhaps with exposure to the elements they
wouldn't be lasting as long as they are under dish pans and cans (which I'm
using for hybridizing purposes)."March
In late June Ron wrote, "Every
day another Retic seems to be showing.
No flowers open yet though. I see
that 'Joyce' and 'Jeannine' were up yesterday.
'Harmony' was the first shoot to appear above ground closely followed by
reticulata hort. and then 'Clairette'
a couple of days ago. Two of your
seedlings have 3 inch [7 cm] leaves up already too, which means that they must
have emerged even before 'Harmony'. Your
seedlings were early last year too (from seed received June 1995, from NZIS
"I have come to the conclusion that in previous years,
bloom season seems to have started after 3-4 weeks of relatively warm weather
(minimum / maximum temperature doesn't seem to have a bearing). Once the bloom season has started, any drop
in temperature simply extends the bloom season.
I think you already knew that, but what causes the season to start
early? Warmer temperatures at the end of
February so that water is freely available instead of being locked in snow and
ice? In theory I would expect our season
this year to be late because autumn rains were so late. We aren't doing so bad for rain now
though. It would make sense that plants
that come from relatively dry areas would be very in tune with seasonal
rainfall. Our Retics flower from late
winter to early spring; yours flower mid to late spring."
"Overall we have had a long dry
summer period, with drought over much of eastern N.Z., which means we should
have few losses in the ground. We had
our local Iris group meeting on June 21st, and although other
members report Retics starting to appear above the soil, no one else had
flowers open yet."
In August Ron E-mailed, "Do
Retics grow roots while bone dry in their rest period? One of our local members forgot to bring her
pot of 'Harmony' out of storage and it sat bone dry from mid summer until mid
winter (June). In June she brought the
pot outside (no sign of any growth), and a month later on July 27th
(ie. Three weeks earlier than usual!), the pot was smothered in flowers, and is
still flowering now - August 18th).
NB: My 'Harmony', in a pot, was showing at the soil surface near mid
In mid October I replied "The answer is essentially 'No'. I actually have some of my Retic hybrids out
in the garden covered with sheet plastic at the moment. I put the plastic there several weeks ago
specifically to prevent root growth so that I would still be able to replant
those areas (it becomes impossible, as I found out last year, if there is a lot
of root growth). I'm getting some
leakage at the edge. I just started
replanting those areas this past weekend.
The bulbs in the leakage areas are growing roots, but there is no growth
in the bone dry areas. Bulbs in general
will form root nubs when they are ready to start shooting even if they are bone
dry, but of course they are using up some of their internal energy storage for
this. The amount of growth is quite
It's quite possible that the
'Harmony' bulbs were perfectly 'ripe', and shot into growth the moment they
felt moisture. Whereas other bulbs that
had been constantly feeling moisture, were growing at a slow but steady pace.
Ron's August letter continued,
"Gwenda, the editor for our society, wrote that her first Retics were
'Katharine Hodgekin' on July 23rd and 31st, and histioides 'Major' on July 31st.
I have written to you before that although histioides
and 'Katharine Hodgekin' flower early for us, their leaves often do not start
growing until other Retics have finished blooming.
In my garden 'Royal Blue' were
first to open as usual ('Katharine Hodgekin' and histrioides didn't flower), but the surprise was that the group of
'Harmony' in the ground flowered without leaves and with such a rich lustre that they put all the
other Retics to shame. The 'Katharine
Hodgekin' in my garden are just starting to grow their leaves now and most of
our histrioides have yet to start
growing leaves. Some of the Reticulatas already have leaves over 20 cm
I currently have two flowers of
'Jeannine' open on the kitchen windowsill and this really is the best way to
enjoy them because they are too small to leave at ground level. They have such
a lovely scent too. How about breeding that scent into some of the bigger
This thought certainly hadn't escaped me. Over the years I hadn't been very successful
working with 'Jeannine' (for one thing, it happens to be pollen sterile). Two years ago I started to renew my efforts,
but it was only this year that 3 of 12 crosses worked, yielding 46 seeds. This is a first step. Time will tell whether any of these turn into
In mid October Ron E-mailed,
"Have you ever tested the affects of potash on Retics? I recently visited a new garden that was
growing unbelievable bearded Iris with no extra fertilizer. An analysis of the soil had shown it to be
naturally rich in calcium and phosphorus and almost deficient in potash. I could only conclude that Iris do not need
potash. I believe I have read that
potash actually inhibits the uptake of calcium.
Even more surprising, there is no humus in the soil, it bakes like
concrete in summer, and the pH is 7.
Even so the tall bearded iris grow so dense and so strong that in this
garden they are planted along the outer fence as a windbreak! I have suggested
the owner try growing Reticulatas.
I promptly started adding more
calcium to our soil. I suspect that rose fertilizer (which is particularly high
in potash) may have caused some of my Retics to dry off early previously."
In mid January 1999 I was
delighted with being able to buy forced bulbs of 'George' from a local nursery. They were $2.49 plus 15% tax for a pot of 4,
and happened to be on sale for just $1 per pot.
Too bad there weren't other varieties as well. They were only identified as "Iris". A slight disappointment is some of the
flowers didn't unfold fully. It was as
if they stopped growing. The falls
remained curled widthwise.
Janis had Juno capanoides for sale: "only" $50 U.S. per
bulb; yikes! To make things even "worse"
(more expensive), the Canadian exchange rate dropped due to the Asian, then
Russian, crises ($1 U.S. now costs $1.57 Canadian; at the beginning of the year
it had been $1.46)! Of course what can
you do when this is the first time capanoides'
available anywhere. Congratulations go
out to Janis for making it available.
Janis also had maracandica
($30), and orchioides 'Chimgan' ($30)
which should be different from what I consider to be the normal true form (not
the wholly yellow trade form of bucharica
going by the name orchioides, and
which I refer to as orchioides
hort.). As well Janis listed a rosenbachiana 'Varzob', but I believe it
is actually nicolai. His 'Harangon' form is true.
The distinction between rosenbachiana and nicolai has become a blur for me.
Previously the one key distinction between these two was rosenbachiana's white pollen, and nicolai's bright yellow. This seemed to hold true even though I've
seen several forms of rosenbachiana
that tended to be paler than the typical.
Up until this year all of the nicolais
I've seen have been the same clone.
Perhaps this just means that all of the Czech bulb collectors I've
gotten bulbs from, over the course of many years, collected from the same
vicinity. Thanks to generous donations
and trades by various Juno enthusiasts last year I've now seen quite a wide
range of plants that confuse the heck out of me. I now begin to wonder how indeed to also
separate out baldschuanica, which is
pale yellow with a few dark markings on it's fall blade (I've had it here, but
lost it). Are these all just colour
forms of a single species? I wonder if
genetic analysis would be able to sort them out. My suspicion, without any grounding, is that
they are all slightly different genetically, including several of the nicolais.
I believe two red rosenbachianas with pale yellow pollen
from Janis a number of years ago were hybrids between rosenbachiana and nicolai. At the time I intercrossed the various
clones, but nothing has resulted either from these or my previous crosses. I couldn't say whether any of the seeds even
In March Janis Ruksans reported,
"We made careful cytological studies this winter and found very interesting
things. Iris winkleri has a different chromosome number than kolpakowskiana. Also, in Iris orchioides there are included 2 species, but still more research is
needed to determine which population can be accepted as true orchioides, and which one needs a new
name (possibly even names). Cytology
confirmed that in Kugurt we collected two Junos, and that in Zaamin we didn't
collect parvula but another species;
most likely species nova, because it has a different chromosome number and its
genotype is very different." March 15,
Janis updated this in Jan 1999
saying, "Iris orchioides from Chimgan
is really a new species, description of which is prepared and now waiting only
for DRN sequence research which will be finished in March (by Arnis Seisums
working at Kew), which will show relationships between some Juno sp. Now we are almost 100% certain that Chimgan orchioides is species nova, but closely related to orchioides and capnoides. Plants from Chimgan have a different root
system too - they are much longer and thicker than true orchioides, collected at Ihnachsai, Kurama, etc."
April 13: aucheri hort. and the dwarf form (aka. nusairiensis hort.) started blooming along with 'Sindpers', and bucharica, bed 16. Magnifica (April 15), maracandica and willmottiana
(true) (April 16) started
shortly after. This was 2 to 3 weeks
earlier than normal.
The lovely aucheri Kew 78.3630 unfortunately didn't bloom; 2nd year
in a row it hasn't. Aucheri is indeed a fickled creature. However, Iris nusairiensis (true) from Kew bloomed again: a single flower. April ~23 I have now moved it to the new extension,
where I am hoping it will increase faster.
A seedling bucharica from the Taskent Botanical Garden bloomed. It looked like the Duschanbe form, but what
was most interesting is the fact its markings were black (very nice contrast),
as opposed to the normal dark greenish grey. (April 17) Its
style arms are lemony yellow, as opposed to Duschanbe's light yellow. A second clone also bloomed. Its markings were more typical. Its pollen was surprisingly sparse and many
of the grains were mis-shapen, suggesting it's an interspecies hybrid, but that
didn't physically appear to be the case.
The first clone's pollen was normal and was used successfully in 25% of
the crosses tried.
Several of my Juno hybrids
bloomed for the first time:
92-CY: albomarginata x (graeberiana
& maracandica) - 2 clones: one
with 2 flowers, the other with only one, started blooming on April 19th. They were albomarginata-like
plants with graeberiana's
colouring. I either intercrossed them,
or used pollen from older albomarginata
x graeberiana hybrids. ex. 92-BG: magnifica Bulbs de Opal x vicaria
92-BD: magnifica Alba x warleyensis:
BIG disappointment -- they turned out to be magnifica
Alba x self. I was quite surprised by
this because I was certain their bulbs were slightly different from those of
pure magnifica. Obviously I was looking at a characteristic
of magnifica Alba bulbs, but didn't
93-JE-1: partly veined vicaria x linifolia - single bloom opening April ~25. Creamy white, small flowered like linifolia, without any of linifolia's yellow fall blade or other
markings. Appears that it many be a poor
increaser (like most vicarias). That doesn't matter since its not of
93-IX-1: orchioides x orchioides
hort. - single bloom; typical orchioides
x bucharica hybrd.
94-UO-1: magnifica x bucharica
PF8223 - 4 blooms on a single stalk.
Very similar to magnifica
Alba, with a bit more over all light yellow.
My guess is this is just a magnifica
Alba self, particularly since there doesn't seem to be any bucharica influence coming through.
If I remember correctly it both had good pollen and set seeds. I didn't bother planting any -- just gave
94-ST-1: magnifica x willmottiana
(true) - 3 blooms on a single stalk, April 22
Rats, it turned out to be pure magnifica. I am sure that I'll eventually see flowers
from true crosses, since I've had over 50 successful in the past 7 years.
Magnifica x bucharica in
a bed at the front of the house(bed 1D)
died for an unknown reason. It had been
a nice clone. I believe there had been
at least 2 separate stalks last year.
Had I dug them up and cut off their side shoots and then disease gotten
in? I really don't know. I'm just very, very surprised.
Bucharica formas are doing well with the exception of one which
happens to be at the front of the house.(~bed 1B) Its leaves broke
through the soil surface, then they turned brown and the plant stopped
growing. In some ways I'm glad I divided
this plant last year (a nice healthy bulb is now right nearby). Did my dividing cause the problems I
witnessed this year? Keep in mind that
something like 99% of the divided plants are doing fine. Without question, the value of dividing Junos
(active propigation) far out weighs any problems it might cause. I just hope the disease doesn't "jump" the
short distance and invade the good bulb.
I didn't want to distrub them at the time for fear I might in some way
harm the good one.
I was a bit disappointed to find
I only have virtually one bulb of each bucharica
forma. Clearly the side shoots I cut off
last year all died. Equally clearly they
are not good increasers.
A new bucharica forma raised from seed bloomed for the first time.(bed #8). It's similar, but slightly different from the
other clones I have. Of particular note
is the fact it appears to be robust.
Unfortunately when I dug it, I ripped its two bulbs off their basal
plate. Boy was I disappointed when that
happened! I immediately put the bulbs in
a plastic bag. By late November they had
formed root nubs. When I planted them I
found several of the basal plate shoots were doing well. I had divided up the basal plate using an
Exacto knife at the time I tore the bulbs off.
I could end up with more than 4 bulbs by the end of next year if I'm
lucky, but what a risky way of doing so.
Plus now I won't have any bloom in 1999.
It is very unfortunate that warleyensis is not as robust as bucharica or vicaria. In all it's forms
it is truly very beautiful! I don't
quite know what to do to get them to do better.
What is it that they are missing?
This year two bulbs of warleyensis from Dr Josef Mikulastik
bloomed: 8 years after being collected in growth in the wild. My other clones don't seem to be doing all
that well -- not very robust. I didn't
try dividing them last fall, so that didn't cause any problems. On the other hand that may be what's affected
some of my maracandicas. I did have 2 blooms on one group, but several
others nearby are not doing well -- weak leaves in my opinion. Yet, when I divided them last fall they had
seemed to be doing well: I found clumps of a reasonable number of smallish
bulbs. I didn't record any data about
the bulbs, but I suspect quite a few perished.
I wish I hadn't separated them.
Of course I was only trying to help them do better.
Two bulbs of warleyensis from Hoog & Dix last year turned out to be bucharica x warleyensis hybrids. This is
one of those things when you're disappointed and yet happy at the same time --
you didn't get what you were hoping and looking forward to, yet at the same
time you got something new and interestingly different. It turns out Hoog & Dix are now selling
these as "hybrid from 'WARLSIND,'" which in itself is incorrect, since
'WARLSIND' is a sterile hybrid. Hoog
& Dix's descriptive catalogue says, "we have mistakenly offered this plant
in 1996 and 1997 as I. warleyensis,
but we are very sorry, it seems not to be; it was found in our stock of Iris
'WARLSIND' and appears to be another hybrid, with warleyensis and bucharica
as most likely parents" [alternatively it's a sport]. It has nice brown striping
on it's orange-yellow fall blades, which makes me think of tiger stripes. 'WARLSIND' in contrast has a fully brown fall
blade. Both have white with greyed
violet infusion on the lower half of their falls plus style arms
Warleyensis is still listed with the same source coding, but Hoog
& Dix's descriptive catalog states, "a stock recently received from Czech
gardens." I ordered two bulbs of it, but
they were unavailable.
Arnis Siesums went collecting
again with Janis Ruksans in central Asia.
He E-mailed, "now having seen albomarginata
in nature I feel it is the same as the cultivated [plants]. Simply in the prologue measurements of
extremely dwarf specimen are given, it is more winged as well. It is a real beauty, and quite variable as
well (from almost white to violet-blue).
It is related to, but distinct from, zenaide." Arnis also went to Iran where he collected
Iris hymenospatha subsp. leptoneura, pseudocaucasica from Zagros mountains, and a Reticulata Iris which
he commented, "I did not see it in flower, but herbarium specimens from that
place are almost black and white coloured."July 20
In April Arnis wrote, "in
Aksu-Dzhabagli true I. willmottiana
grows, although always called I. coerulea
by Vvedensky. I have seen some herbarium
specimens from there. Another Juno there
is orchioides auctt. I have never visited Aksu-Dzhabagli, but
quite close is the quite rich 'orchioides'
[Kara-Archa] collected by me." "It is
quite clear to me that the so-called orchioides
contains at least 2 species."
I didn't do as much Juno
hybridizing as I had in the past. I'm
not as interested in the "common" crosses, such as magnifica x bucharica,
since I already have a number of plants from them. They are nice, but you only need so
many. I did still do some, but most were
distributed to other people.
It is interesting to realize that
the natural propagation of Junos is somewhat slow. Some are clump forming and thus increase at a
reasonable rate on their own: eg. aucheri,
bucharica, and magnifica. Others like vicaria need some help. A number of the side shoots I cut off my
Junos last year did not come up: albomarginata
and several willmottianas for
example, but when I replanted many of the Junos this year I found quite a
number of small bulbs which were without a doubt last year's side shoots that I
had cut off. I again put in a reasonable
effort and went around cutting off as many as I could. This year though I did it earlier: early August. By late fall I observed tremendous results:
many were showing new growth. I must try
for a similar timing next year.
I was surprised and disappointed
at how poorly parvula did, especially
when it had seemed to be doing fairly well last year when I replanted it. The same was true for maracandica. I wish I had
kept a record of the numbers of bulbs and their sizes in each case for factual
comparison. I hope they recover.
I shake my head. Again this year I managed to rip a tremendous
number of Juno bulbs off their basal plates.
More than 2 dozen from over 12 clones.
Yikes, that hurts! This was a
small portion of the total number dug, and was in spite of trying to be
reasonably careful (occasionally being too gung-ho -- it won't rip off, I'm
being careful, right?). Probably the
soil was too dry, and thus wasn't able to go around the bulbs when I was
Handling the basal plates was not
a problem since the very centres of the bulbs were left. Each was simply cut off along with a few
roots. You might think of just throwing
away the bulbs since their centres were missing, but I knew from experience
with Junos I collected at Leylek station, Turkey back in 1986, that I could get
them to root. However, as a result of
some difficulty with the technique in previous years, I made sure I quickly got
the bulbs into plastic sandwich bags.
Note: they were nicely dry, so there wasn't going to be a problem of too
much moisture. This, and a longer period
for root development, made a lot of difference.
Only just a few didn't show signs of root nub development by the time I
had to plant them in late November.
When you stop and think about it,
the whole thing amazes me. These are
simply scales. If you examine a ripped
off bulb it seems like you could easily take it apart. I don't think the scales could individually
accomplish the same thing. I expect they
would simply dry out. Perhaps this is
something I should experiment with in 1999.
I don't know how they do it. When
they're ready to plant you find root nubs have developed around only the outer
scale, not on all scales. It's as if all
the scales were working as a collective; remember: they are touching each
other, but no longer attached together.
Patrick Healey in Belmont
Manitoba Canada (~near the U.S. border) wrote, "aucheri had 2 fans, but no blooms.
Vicaria bloomed modestly, but magnifica and willmottiana hort. have developed into first class garden
plants. Magnifica was in bloom May 3 to 15, with 4 bloom stalks 15 to 18
inches tall, with 3 to 7 blooms per stalk.
Willmottiana hort. bloomed
from May 3 to 11, with 5 bloom stalks about 12 inches tall, each with 5 to 7
flowers. Vicaria had 3 bloom stalks, 6 to 8 inches tall, with 1 to 3 blooms,
from May 5 to 12th."
Late Breaking News (Jan 1999): Eugenijus (Augis) Dambrauskas in
Lithuania has a number of lovely, what I believe are, albomarginata x magnifica
hybrids. He has named, but not
registered, two of these. As far as I
know they have not yet been introduced.
I have been distributing a third hybrid from him under the name "willmottiana - Edmundas 94". As you can probably surmise, I first got it
from Edmundas Kondratas (Augis' friend) in 1994 as "willmottiana". The only
thing Augis can say about these three is, he raised them from seeds from an
unknown European Botanic garden.
'Evening Shade' is pale blue with
an orange blotch on it's fall blade, while 'Morning Sky' is bright blue with a
yellow blotch. 'Morning Sky' appears
from a picture Augis sent, to be a slightly brighter blue than "willmottiana - Edmundas 94". "Willmottiana
-Edmundas 94" however has a noticeably oranger blotch. This blotch does fade to near yellow as the
flower ages. It will be interesting to
compare all three clones someday, especially the latter two since the colour in
the picture could be off slightly. I can
only guess that Augis likes 'Morning Sky' better than "willmottiana - Edmundas 94" since he named it.
Clearly albomarginata is one of the parents. I expect magnifica
is the other, partly because I have one magnifica
clone with a very orange blotch. A
number of other factors supported the "magnifica
theory": widely winged haft; no other colour mixing in with albomarginata's; reasonable flower
count. I suspect the parentage is
actually albomarginata x magnifica since I've had only one of 14
reverse crosses work. As it turns out
though, I have only tried the albomarginata
x magnifica cross twice, and in each
case bucharica pollen was also used
(and I now know bucharica pollen will
work on albomarginata). Both crosses did of course give seed. For-what-it's-worth I should try this cross
two or more times in 1999 without any other pollinators (it's been a case of
not having enough flowers and wanting to use them for other crosses).
In early March I saw a black
squirrel eating some Crocus 'Blue Pearl' which had some bulbs right at the soil
surface. I bought a small animal trap,
but didn't have to use it, since there weren't any further problems. In early July however another squirrel dug up
and ate a few bulbs I had recently replanted, including some of the lovely and
rare Tulipa primulina (fortunately he
didn't get all of them!). I sent a grey
squirrel packing 50 km away. Since I
didn't see the squirrel digging the bulbs, I could only hope that this was the
culprit. There haven't been any problems
As mentioned above, a slug chewed
my lovely 89-A-3 (orange) bud. It had
been under a tin can, which I was using to keep rain off, plus prevent any
pollen from blowing away, as well as keep pollinators off. It had been a lovely warm evening, and I had
been proactive and put down some slug bait within the previous 2 days since a
sibling had recently had parts eaten off.
The culprit is no more, but the damage had already been done. After that, I surrounded the whole flower
with slug bait! By the way, those two
flowers were the only ones damaged by slugs.
As reported above, a mouse (now
deceased) made a meal of some of my kolpakowskiana's
leaves and a pod. Fortunately the bulbs
recovered due to their leaves continued growth, though they are down a bit in
size. Another 5 mice made their way to
mouse heaven in the fall. Four of those
had taken up residency in our compost bin.
I've always chased cats away from
our property because I didn't want them doing their business in the garden or
in my son's sand box. Now I'll have to
change my tune. I need a cat around
occasionally to keep the mice away.
A problem with moss in the garden
has escalated in recent years. It goes
hand-in-hand with fact that I'm not getting to replant many of my beds, as well
as the fact that, as it's gotten worse I didn't do much about it (too many
higher priority items). Breaking up the
soil surface by hoeing or cultivating for example can greatly reduce the
moss. I am fairly certain that the main
reason the problem developed in the first place is because I am using one of my
neighbour's silver maple leaves as a mulch in the winter. The neighbour has moss in her lawn which in
recent years has gotten quite bad. In fact
it has now spread directly into my front lawn and infested the one side quite
badly. When I got leaves from her last
fall I noticed a lot of small pieces of moss in with the leaves, particularly
when the piles were small. Obviously as
she raked her lawn bits of moss were broken off and mixed in with the
leaves. I actually threw out a fair
amount of the leaves from her. This year
there was virtually no moss in with the leaves.
I had been expecting I would have to tell her I wouldn't be wanting her leaves
-- it would be less costly in the long run to buy a couple of extra bales of
straw (assuming of course the straw is clean; which I discovered at many
nurseries isn't the case).
Well this year I attacked it in
earnest! I spent over $100 trying to get
rid of the moss. Most of that went to
killing the moss on the lawn. I expect
more moss killer will be needed next year since there are signs that some may
have survived. I had been a little leery
of spraying it directly on the garden, but in the end I did just that. It is effectively a 7-0-0 fertilizer. The high nitrogen didn't adversely affect any
of the Iris. Some black spots were
produced on Tulip leaves, as well as a few other plants, but none on Iris (they
were in active growth at the time).
I actually used two kinds: one
you sprinkle on (very effective, but I may be using more than recommended), and
a liquid form in a container that you simply attach your garden hose to and
water the affected areas (an application the previous spring didn't seem to do
anything). Presumably it was mixing too
much water and coming out too weak. It
was this that I put into a sprayer with a quantity of water and sprayed
directly on the garden. I plan to repeat
the spraying next spring since there are still spots with moss.
When I was replanting my 1987/88 Retic area I found
a fair number of white grubs. I will
have too see about applying a killer next year.
I just don't like the fact that the killer must be fairly strong since
its label warns: "Make no more than 2 treatments per year".
The September 1998 Alpine Garden
Society Bulletin, Vol. 66 No. 3. is devoted to bulbs. It is a 'must
have' publication (I bought a second copy).
Of particular interest is Tony Hall's article 'The Cultivation of Juno
Irises' which is accompanied by pictures of numerous rare Junos. I was particularly fascinated by I. subdecolorata. I am certain that I at one time had this
species, but I simply regarded it as a form of kuschakewiczii! It, like kuschakewiczii, survived for several
years, was seeming to be doing reasonably well, then died out.
I do have kuschakewiczii again and will actively propagate it. Once I have a couple of bulbs of it I will
move some to a different location as insurance.
Janis Ruksan's article 'The Hunt
For Iris Winkleri' is a must
read. He and Arnis Seisums had an arduous
adventure on their historic trip. It's
just too bad that winkleri isn't the
cherry red colour that turn-of-the-century literature suggested it was. An accompanying colour picture shows it to be
a lot like kolpakowskiana. It is though, definitely a distinct
species. The article also includes
pictures of orchioides and zenaide which they came across. I am fairly certain this zenaide is actually albomarginata. Janis has since written to say that this
plant's chromosomes are distinctly different from those of albomarginata. In Jan 1999
he wrote, "we came to the conclusion that most of the samples of so named albomarginata grown by western gardeners
are zenaide. and true albomarginata is extremely rare in
gardens. We are certain that we have
both species. Both are collected in
locus clasicus, and what is most important, chromosome research confirmed that
both are different and separate species.
Although superficially they look something similar - albomarginata is smaller plant; there
are other differences too."
Janis' 1999 catalog will list
Iris winkleri for $80 U.S. Congratulations Janis and Arnis for making
this rarity available. Numerous Junos
species are also listed for the first time!
A slightly shorter account
appears in the British Iris Society's 1998 Year Book under the title 'Something
Old... Something New...'. Quite surprisingly
[actually shockingly] no pictures accompany the article.
In mid year I started looking
into getting more Hall metal labels.
Many years ago I bought 5000 at about $30 U.S. per 1000 including
delivery. I'm now wishing I had bought
twice that number. At the time, as you
might well imagine, I figured 5000 was plenty - I had estimated I was using at
most 700 per year. This summer I could
see that if I was "lucky", I would just have enough for this year. It turns out that Hall labels are now being
produced under the Best Plant Tag name.
The shocker is they now cost $156 U.S. per 1000! This includes delivery in the U.S. The price for 5000 is $600 plus $37.54 delivery. A smaller version of the tag is $110 per 1000
($380 per 5000), but I often find I need all of the writing space available: 7
cm for the large vs. 4.5 cm for the small, with overall lengths of just over 13
cm and 10.5 cm respectively.
Figure 1 "Best Plant Tag"
With the Canadian dollar at an
all time low, the tags are even more expensive; and we mustn't forget the 7%
GST (Goods and Services Tax) that will be added by Canadian Customs. The Best Plant Tag web page mentions that
tags can be wiped clean with household cleaners. From experience I know that some of the
pencil lead gets effectively etched into the aluminum over time. In the past I had tried unsuccessfully to
clean the tags and at one point I had even tried to sand them. That took too long and the ruined the tag's
As a result of the web page
suggestion I thought of trying the reasonably harsh CLR (Calcium, Lime, and
Rust Remover). I was quite pleased to
find this worked fairly well. Often a
ghost is left of the previously written text.
Now, as I finish off this report I have recovered about 1200 tags. They had been in buried in the ground to
separate my numbered Reticulata clones.
I recovered them this past fall when I replanted a number of the
seedling areas. In their place I used
strips of sheet aluminum (I used up almost a 30 cm x 10 m sheet; note: the
Retics now take up even more area than before).
These, plus 400 unused tags I found when I was cleaning up, should mean
I won't need any more for 2 years. I
still have two other Retic seedling areas to replant next year, so hopefully I
can stretch that to 3 years (maybe wishful thinking).
As well as using Hall tags to
mark crosses, they are used to flag individual clones (quite a few of those),
and of course all other plants. For
flagging individual hybrids I had been reusing old tags by turning them upside
down and marking the cross several times on the side facing the clone; the old
name was simply crossed out. The reason
for marking on several times is because when the tags are pushed in the ground
the soil rubs against the tag acting like an eraser. You want to be sure that the pencil you use
leaves a good strong letters. Until the
areas are replanted the individual clones are not marked on any of my maps,
so I want to do my best not to loose track of which is which.
The Hall version of the tags had
a curve along their length, which gave them added strength. According to John Zey of Best Plant Tag, "the
curve was taken out due to making the cost prohibitive, as it lead to stamping
problems." Instead slightly thicker
metal is used. "The gauge, I have been
told by users from the 70s is now the same as they originally got from England"
(now 25/1000 of an inch vs. 20 under the
The tags are made of anodized
Aluminum, which unfortunately corrodes if it comes in direct contact with
granular fertilizer. The corrosion's
particularly noticeable with potted plants that get fed every other watering
with liquid fertilizer. I can't say how
long the process takes, but the tags get extremely corroded; you can forget
about being able to decipher what was on them.
I do like the tags, but they are
without question too expensive. I did
get a sample of Paw Paw Everlast "J - Small Plant Labels" which are made of
pure zinc: 1/2" x 4". They
cost $59.45 per 1000, with discounts applying only to orders of 10,000 or
more. They are definitely made of a
thinner material (10/1000 of an inch), which can quite easily be bent, so the
soil would need to be loosened before pushing them in the ground. "B - Plant or
Shrub Labels" are much longer (1/2" x 7"), but only a touch more
expensive: $60.65 per 1000. Insurance
and foreign shipping are extra.
Figure 2 Paw Paw Everlast: "J - Small Plant Labels"
Their straight forward shape
makes you think you could easily cut your own.
You'd just need to find a source for zinc sheet. The problem with the aluminum sheet I was
cutting into strips is that it's got a shiny surface, so it's virtually
impossible to write on.
Incidentally, I bend over roughly
the top quarter inch of a label so that it can't get pushed all the way into
the ground. This also gives a quick clue
to where each planting is.
When I think of all of the
changes happening at my day job over the course of a year, the 5 years it takes
to go from a seed to blooming bulb seems like an impossibly long time. Perhaps genetic engineering will one day be
applied to Retic & Junos to speed up the process plus produce new patterns
and colours that are only hit and miss right now. Of course its first a matter of learning what
genetic switches exist.
This fall I became an assistant
leader with 2nd Willowdale Cubs (Scouts Canada). Both of my sons are now cubs (wolf
cubs). This is taking up a lot more time
than I expected it would. I thought I
was busy before. Now things are impossible! One casualty is my plan for having this
article finished by the end of November.
It's late January 1999, and I suspect our record 100 cm of
snow in the first 13 days of the new year will mean a later than normal bloom
as a result of how long it will take to melt.
Currently though we are having above freezing temperatures (as high as
9°C Jan. 23). Fortunately precipitation
over the past couple of days has been in the form of rain rather than snow,
though this isn't so nice for winter sports.
Who knows, if the mild weather keeps up for a while, a lot of the extra
snow could melt, and we'll end up with a typical bloom.
I have suggested in the past that
you can extend your bloom season a bit by planting bulbs in shaded areas. Taking this one step further, you could even
cover the area with extra snow and then put a good layer of straw on top for
insulation. It would be interesting to
try this sometime just to see how much additional delay it would give. Be sure to do this in a shaded area, since I
doubt it would be all that effective in a sunny spot.
This report keeps getting
stretched out... it's now February 22nd 1999, and I noticed one
Galanthus in "bloom" today: the first bloom of 1999. It's too cold for the flower to actually open
(-11°C in the morning, rising to -2°C by late afternoon), but the flower is
just above the straw and out of its sheath.
Two others are just "noses" sticking through the straw. The clump of Galanthus transcaucasicus is
about 35 cm (14") out from the house, and 20 cm (8") from the nearest pile of
snow. It gets both warmth from the
morning sun, and some heat coming through the uninsulated concrete block
basement walls. In the morning I could
work my fingers into the soil by the bulbs; it's frozen about 5 cm (2") from
In the early afternoon the
thermometer was reading -6°C, but the radiant heat from the sun was melting
snow on the concrete patio. Without a
doubt bright sunny days are much more invigorating than dull dreary ones. The only catch is I'm eager to go out and
start working in the garden, rather than sit indoors working on this report.