Romancing the Iris
The garden club president posted a sign-up list for members to do 5-minute presentations on the subject of their choice at the beginning of each monthly meeting. I promptly reserved the month of April to coincide with the blooming season of my irises. I had been waiting for years to see the results of my first attempts at hybridization and was gambling this would be the year.
Fortunately, I was able to display three of my first hybrids when I explained the process to club members. A visitor approached me after the meeting concluded and said how much she enjoyed my 5-minute talk. She was the program chairman for another club and wanted to know if I’d consider doing a full program for them.
She flattered me with her compliments and, in a weak moment, I agreed. I told her April would be the best month and she purposefully wrote down my address and phone number. My first wave of, "What have I got myself into?" hit within the hour. Five minutes wasn’t nearly enough time to share everything I wanted to explain about my experiments, but an entire program? I was in trouble now.
The year passed quickly and April was approaching. Late winter had turned very rainy and continued into early spring. The irises craved warm sunshine and didn’t seem to realize the calendar indicated they should be painting my yard with color by now. I was visiting my plants daily and encouraging, no, make that pleading for them to bloom. A week before my scheduled presentation, a few tight buds began to emerge on tall stalks. I was in business!
The day before my talk found me sorting photographs I had taken in past years and pasting them on poster boards for displays. Two new iris hybrids had bloomed in the morning and I was getting a crash course in digital photography from my husband, so I would be able to include their pictures on my display. I felt like a kid who had procrastinated on a science fair project until the last moment, as I hurriedly typed captions and glued them under photos. Everything was completed about 7:00 p.m. and I sighed in relief.
My husband then asked me, "What are the different parts to an iris called?"
Was this a test to see if I was prepared? It didn’t sound like him to suddenly show that level of interest in my plants. He noticed the confused expression on my face.
"What are the parts called that stick up and the ones that go down?" Mike gestured with his hands and fingers.
"The top petals are Standards; it’s easy to remember that because they ‘stand up’. The other ones are called Falls; they ‘fall’ downward," I answered. It amazed me to think he’d listened enough over the years to realize the parts even had names.
When I got into bed that night, he disappeared into the kitchen for a few minutes and returned with a piece of lined paper torn from a notepad. After observing me during years of pollinating, harvesting, planting and watching over seedlings until they reached maturity, Mike had immortalized the process by writing a poem:
My Standards aren’t standard,
My Falls are unique.
My creator is eager
To get her first peek.
I’m not a Hibiscus,
Rose or Papyrus.
"What am I?" you ask,
I’m a hybridized Iris.
I decided it would be a perfect opening to my program the next morning and would also help me fill some time. It was a wonderful icebreaker and the club members loved it. I was off to a good start.
My friend, Margie, had come along with me to help locate the meeting place and assist with anything else I needed during the presentation. I asked her to display the first poster board showing paired up pictures of irises I had used as parents for cross-pollination. The ‘mother’ is the pod-producing plant and the ‘father’ supplies the pollen. I encouraged the audience to look at the pictures and try to imagine what characteristics the seedlings would inherit. I promised to reveal pictures of the results at the conclusion of my talk.