Monday, February 24, 2014

Iris Hybridiser 'Michèle Bersillon'

Michèle Bersillon with her seedling, 9920R. (Sapphire Hills X Surf Rider) 

I’ve been asked to write about who I am and how I came to be an iris breeder. . . so I’ll start with where I’m from. I was born in south-eastern Michigan,USA in 1952, and moved to France in 1986, where I have been living for the last 28 years. I only began to garden actively in the early 1990s when no one else had time to renovate a severely overgrown flowerbed containing (what else?) irises in my mother-in-law’s garden in central France. Well, as previous non-gardener, perhaps I might be forgiven for not knowing anything about irises at the time, so this may explain why we lost a number of varieties after my energetic but somewhat inexpert endeavours. This left quite a sorry-looking gap in the flowerbed and since we had the advantage of proximity to Cayeux’s iris nursery on the other side of the Loire river, we went over there to see the plants in bloom and choose a few new ones to occupy the depleted flowerbed.

This went on for a number of years. . . we happily visited Ets. Cayeux every spring, adding a few new varieties each year, learning more and more about the care that the plants require throughout the growing year as well as basic gardening techniques.

It wasn’t until 1994, during our annual visit to see the iris garden at Ets. Cayeux, that I was shown how to make a cross.  We were admiring the flowers when I noticed a man walking around in the presentation garden with a few iris blossoms and poking at some of the flowers and I said, innocently enough, (What is that man doing to those flowers ?) My husband went over to ask what he was doing and, after introducing himself as Richard Cayeux, he informed us he was making crosses on selected flowers with the pollen of the blossoms he was carrying with him and he then proceeded to show us how to make a cross.  I had no idea that just anyone could do that and hybridizing would certainly have been quite a fancy name for my first-stab effort—and of course I went home and tried it right away, just to see what would happen. I was lucky, because the cross worked, produced 16 seeds and three of them eventually came up, something of a minor miracle. They certainly weren’t great plants by any stretch of the imagination, but it was the start of something.

I didn’t make any more crosses until 1997, as after the first plants came up, we moved across the country and were obliged to live in an apartment in Nancy (north-eastern France) for four years---the young irises also had less than ideal living conditions, since they were confined to their pots---but I rented a piece of land behind my mother-in-law’s garden in central France and began actively hybridizing, bringing the seedlings along in the eastern part of the country, hauling them all the way down to central France and then planting them out and cultivating them over 400 kilometers away from our home residence! We finally moved out to the countryside in eastern France, but unfortunately our soil there was certainly not conducive to iris cultivation, since it is heavy soil that holds too much humidity so I’ve continued to plant my seedlings in the garden I’ve created across the Loire river from Cayeux, dividing my time between home and iris garden.

My first iris to be introduced in the United States was 'Petit Frère' (BB) in 2007, eventually followed by 'Avant-Premère', 'Comédie Française' and 'La Part des Anges' in 2009 and 2010. 'Ecume de Mer', another of my irises, won a gold medal in the Munich International Iris Competition in 2009 and I was very pleased indeed to see 'Comme un Volcan' share the gold medal there the following year, with Richard Cayeux’s splendid iris 'Ciel et Mer', particularly since 'Comme un Volcan' is a direct descendant of one of my three very first seedlings, a second-generation descendant of 9401B (Pink Horizon X Royal Trumpeter). 'Avant-Première' won a bronze medal at Munich the year before last and one of my seedlings won a silver medal last year.  I am proud and very honoured that Ets. Cayeux decided to include my creation, 'La Part des Anges' in their catalogue last year.  

After much searching and a number of complications, I have finally found a new distributor to introduce my plants in the United States, Stout Gardens and I have plans to market more of my creations over there for their first commercial year in order to give them access to the American Iris Society’s awards. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Richard Cayeux for that very first iris-breeding lesson, something I’ll never forget and which changed my life forever. 

Michèle Bersillon 
Nevoy, France, February, 2014.

AIS Checklist 2009

AVANT-PREMIÈRE   Michèle Bersillon, Reg. 2008 Sdlg. 0554C. TB, 37" (95 cm), M;  S. and style arms blue violet; F. pale lavender; beards bright orange, white at end; slight sweet fragrance. 035B: (Coeur d’Hiver x Filardi BF-176: (Night Game x Romantic Evening)) X Fogbound. International 2009.Bronze Medal, 
Munich International Iris Competition, 2012; Award of Garden Commendation, 2014.

COMME UN VOLCAN  Michèle Bersillon, Reg. 2008 Sdlg. 0136A. TB, 35" (90 cm), M. S. blue violet (RHS 90B), narrow grey (N200C) border; style arms (90B), sides creamy tan (158A), darker (160B) center stripe; F. medium violet-blue (N88A), sides lighter (90B), hafts blended tan (163B); beards orange yellow (23A), very light blue at end, 3-4 cm long blue violet (90B) appendages ending in small flounce; slight sweet fragrance. Derviche X Special Feature. Stout Gardens 2012.

LA PART DES ANGES  Michèle Bersillon, Reg. 2008  Sdlg. 0423E. TB, 37" (95 cm), M;  S. blue violet (RHS N88C) at midrib paling to light blue-violet (92C) at edges; style arms (92C); F. very pale blue (lighter than 91D) aging to white; beards light blue (100D) tipped red (41B); slight sweet fragrance. Fogbound X 9920R: (Sapphire Hills x Surf Rider). International 2010.

Update 2015: Last year Michèle's iris 'Avant-Première' won an Award of Garden Commendation (AGC) a British Iris Society trail garden award which makes 'Avant-Première' now eligible to compete in the Dykes Medal Trial in Great Britain. Well done Michèle, and I am sure the whole of France send you their Congratulations.

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.

Reproduction in whole or in part of this article and including photo's without the expressed written permission of Michèle Bersillon is strictly prohibited. Photo credit and copyright Michèle Bersillon © .

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Tall Bearded Iris BLACK SWAN

How is this for a Classic 6o's Iris?? Tall Bearded Iris 'Black Swan' a red black of classic form, large blooms on well branched tall stems, with buds that open easily.Open standards and the edge of the falls are tightly ruffled, this coupled with its dark brown bearded and contrasting white stamens all help to make the Iris an easy iris to ID (the falls have that look like they have been rolled with a pastry crimper).  Fantastic plant health with generous increase, and clean green foliage that is accentuated with a beautiful purple base (PBF). There is a great Charles  Harrison studio photo taken under artificial light of Black Swan on the HIPS website which was published some forty years ago in the R.E. Harrison, 'Know your Bulbs and Perennials A book for Southern Hemisphere Gardeners', a very popular New Zealand written and published book at the time, but I think photos of Irises growing in garden situations using the natural light gives a better photo. But hey, Whatever floats yout boat!!!

The Iris Yearbook (BIS), 1960.
Black and Whites, Harry J. Randall, C.B.E.
In Mrs Anley's garden I saw BLACK TAFFETA (Songer, 1954) and BARNETT ANLEY, raised by Mrs Anley herself from (BLACK FOREST X EBONY QUEEN)X BLACK TAFFETA. Both are fine irises with wide petals and nice ruffling; but both have faint , white lines around the beards. This is not necessarily a fault, and to some growers it might be a virtue; but I mention it after seeing the very latest production from Orville Fay- BLACK SWAN. One must never judge an iris on its first-year performance in this or any other country. My provisional view, which is shared by many visitors to my garden , is that BLACK SWAN is the darkest and smoothest "black" we have yet seen in England. It has no haft markings, its dark brown beard harmonizes with the rest of the the flower, and the only contrast is provided by the pure white stamens which seem to shine like small, bright lights on a dark night. BLACK SWAN will be critically watched in 1961 when I hope that it will come up to my present expectations.

Bulletin of the American Iris Society, July 1960, Number 158. The George Shoop Garden, Hugo Wall.
BLACK SWAN, introduced by Orville Fay this year, is a rich red-black of velvety texture and great substance. The thick, wide beard, created by a blending of purple and yellow hairs, gives depth and richness to the lustrous dark flower. A 35-inch bloomstalk and five increase indicated the vigor we have come to expect from Orville's plants.

The Iris Yearbook (BIS), 1961    .
The American Scene - 1961 Barbara F. Walther, Director of the Presby Memorial Iris Garden.
By Sunday and Monday the weather had cleared a bit and a number of fine irises came into bloom and one which might be said to have taken the Convention by storm was BLACK SWAN (Fay). It continued to be the favourite of visitors throughout the blooming season of the gardens. It is a tall iris with a large flower which is beautifully formed, flared and lightly ruffled. Its colour is almost black. The standards show a underlying redness but the velvety falls are so dark that it is hardly discernible in them. It might be well to pause here and to state that the selections of irises and the opinions concerning them are those of the writer.

Cooley's Gardens, Silverton, Oregon. Iris Catalog, 1962.
BLACK SWAN (Fay, '60) Each $15.00
As sleek and as ebon-hued as the graceful bird for which it is named, with both Black Hills and Sable Night in its parentage. It will satisfy those looking for just about the ultimate in dark Iris, great size, very wide petals, smooth velvety surface and a brown beard tipped black. 35 inches. HM AIS, 1960

Bulletin of the American Iris Society, January 1962, Number 164. Irises We Liked, Ralph and Helen Lewis.
BLACK SWAN (Fay '60). An extremely large and very beautiful black flower, very well formed, with tight standards and semi-flaring falls. The beard is brown tipped black. Petals are beautifully waved. The stalks are tall, strong and well branched. Floriferous and vigorous wherever it was seen.

Bulletin of the American Iris Society, October 1962, Number 167.
Irises From North Carolina's Coastal Plains to the Foot of Pikes Peak, Ralph and Helen Lewis.
BLACK SWAN (Fay 1960). One of the largest and most spectacular black irises that we have seen. The form is excellent, with closed standards and broad, wavy falls. Stems are tall and strong and the plant is an excellent performer.

Schreiner's, Salem,Oregon, Iris Lover's 1965 Catalog.
BLACK SWAN (Fay, 1960) M, 35"
Several large copiously proportioned flowers open at the same time on a rugged, well branched stem. The petals are wide and of a deep blackish tone with a brown tipped beard. It's rich tones stand out dramatically when contrasted with light iris or green foliage. Highly recommended. HM '60. AM '62.

Wanganui Irises, Lynch's Lane, Putiki, Wanganui. Irises 1964-65.
Novelties 1964-65.
At last- a black iris with everything! Slowly over the years iris breeders have been improving this colour class, building up height and size of bloom until the "blacks" cold hold up their heads in any company and Black Swan may well remain the criterion of this class for many years. Huge blooms of ruffled black velvet stand tall on well branched stems with excellent petal substance, vigorous, free flowering- this is indeed the black iris you have been looking for- plant it now to offset those lighter tones. A.M. 1962. 3ft..............................................21/- 

Bulletin of the American Iris Society, July 1964, Number 174.
Reports From Region 15-Southern California.BLACK. Mrs. George M. Roach, Sr.
BLACK SWAN (Fay '60). Parts have adequate width. It must be remembered with color saturation we do sacrifice the extreme width found in other color classifications. This is a black from the red side with a bronze-tipped beard that has a tendency to bloom out in southern California.

AIS Checklist 1969
BLACK SWAN    (Fay, R. 1960) Sdlg. 57-18 TB 35" M RN1D    Reddish-black self; brown beard Sable Night X 53-68., Fay, Moldovan 1960. HC 1958, JC 1961, HM 1960, AM 1962

An iris was recently listed on Trade Me labelled 'Black Swan' and would you believe it the written description stated it came with a "Purple Beard". The seller in Martinbrough used a borrowed (stolen) photo from a Commercial growers web site in England of the correct 'Black Swan' and then mirror/flipped the image perhaps to confuse people into thinking it was her photo to use. Now I have no idea who purchased this iris but in a few years time they will be in for a surprise and so will the seller in Martinborough if she continues to steal photos that are not hers to use from the internet.

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version. Reproduction in whole or in part of this post, its opinions or its images without the expressed written permission of Terry Johnson is strictly prohibited. Photo credit and copyright Terry Johnson and Heritage Irises ©.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Keith Keppel Iris 2014 Catalogue

BOSTON CREAM Keith Keppel Reg. 2014 E 31" (Snow Lion X ((97-88A: ((Handshake x (Cross Current x ((Snowbrook x Blackout) (Snowbrook sib x (Rain Flurry sib x Charmed Life))))) x (Spirit World x Answered Prayers)) x Moonlit Water) x (High Master x (97-88A x (Spirit World x ( Fancy Woman x (( Goddess x (Mistress sib x ((Joy Ride x Roundup) x (April Melody x 68-40)))) x sib )))))
Frothy warm white glaciata that looks good enough to eat. Just a touch of soft apricot shows on the hafts, and white beards a faintly tipped flame orangs. Somewhat blocky, heavily ruffled form. Rapid increaser, stalks with plentiful buds. #07208C  ...............................................................$50.00

Oh yes...... the catalog season in America is off to a brilliant start.
Keith Keppels 2014 catalog arrived in the mail just yesterday and contains 8 Tall Bearded Iris Introductions, one Intermediate from Keith and an amazing new Intermediate 'Love's Moment' by Phillip W. Remare. Catalog back to its previous format with lots of Irises to choose from with back catalog irises from Keith and a great selection of Barry Blyth Irises. Comes with a welcome return at the back of the publication the thoughts and Hybridising advise of Keith.
As you will know if you are a regular visitor to Heritage Irises, I have a strong liking of White Irises so I have featured Keith's amazing and stunning 2014 Introduction 'Boston Cream' Let the good times roll!!!

Be sure to visit Keith Keppel's web site!! 

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version. 
Photo credit and copyright Keith Keppel.

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Tall Bearded Iris REAL DELIGHT

The blood lines of  both of parents of 'Real Delight' were widely used by hybridisers in the 60's and 70's,  producing Irises like Dawn Crest, Catalyst, Honey Rock, Love Letters, Pink Delight, Orange Bowl, and Marilyn C which also became a hybridisers favourite .
'Real Delight' is in the parentage of one of Schreiner's true masterpieces in the apricot orange tones the tall bearded iris 'Coral Sunset'.
There are two 'Real Delight's' in this story and I don't mean the image count. There is the above Iris which is truly a Real Delight and then there is the other special Real Delight and this is in reference to the lady who decided this iris has a special place in her garden and created a safe place for this iris to grow! Why because she knew its name? it parentage? Had an idea of its special place in Iris history? Well No!!  She grew the iris because she was captivated by it's beauty. Every year there are millions of irises grown without label by many thousands of gardeners around the world. People like these are among the real guardians of the iris gene pool, you could say super heroes of the iris world, and the Historic Iris world owes them a great deal of gratitude.

Schreiner's, Salem,Oregon, 1961, Iris Lovers Catalog.
REAL DELIGHT  (Walters 1960) M. 38"
A pleasing combination of blush-pink concentrates in the central part of the buffy cream standards while falls have a delicious apricots or peach sherbet coloring intensifying towards a haft and reflecting, as it were, the tangerine beard. In the recess of the flower there is a c00l whisper of chartreuse that no color film seems able to catch. A very subtle, iridescent Iris, full of exquisite nuances. Illustration on page 47. HM'60...................................................................$20.00

Courtesy Schreiner's 1961 Catalog

Cooleys Gardens, Silverton, Oregon. Iris Catalog 1965.
REAL DELIGHT  (Walters 1960)
A huge and gorgeous blend of blush pink and deep apricot. Petals are broad and thick in texture, the falls flaring and supporting a heavy, bright red-orange beard. There is a greenish chartreuse glow within the flowers. 3½ feet. HM AIS, 1960.

AIS Checklist 1959
REAL DELIGHT    Donald Waters, Reg. 1958. Sdlg. FW-156. TB 36" M. YO4P.    S. pink shaded deep apricot; F. deep cream, edged same as S.; red beard. Frances Kent X Top Flight., Schreiner 1960. HM 1960.

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.
Photo credit and copyright Iris Hunter.

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