The Louisiana Iris Suite
Images and reflections by Dick Sloan

From The Heart
Louisiana Hybridizers

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This is 'Cajundome' by Arny, in 1985. I love the contrast of the beetroot color with the brilliant gold signal. Charles Arny lived in Lafayette and his wife still lives there. He was the leading hybridizer of Louisianas for years, registering plants from the 1950's well into the 1980's. His 'Charlie's Michele', 1969, is regarded as bringing in the modern full formed, ruffled flowers. Any garden would look good today using the wide variety of colors included in his registrations.

'Creole Rhapsody', Mertzweiller 1998. Dr. Joe Mertzweiller was an oil chemist from Baton Rouge and was the first to create tetraploid Louisianas. Joe introduced a series of tetraploids, all with the names 'Professor ______'. He also produced notable diploids. He treated diploids with colchicine, a dangerous chemical obtained from colchicum bulbs. These are autumn blooming flowers somewhat like larger crocus blooms. The bulbs looksomewhat like larger tulip bulbs and are noted for blooming whether planted in ground the first year or not. Colchicine is probably the oldest drug still in use by the medical profession, dating back to at least Roman times. It is used for gout but dangerous and must be carefully controlled.

'Creole Rhapsody' resulted from a cross of a diploid with a tetraploid. Joe called it an interploid. It hasn't been checked under a microscope to determine its ploidy. Marie Caillet bloomed a chance seedling which looked so like it, except in a different color shade, that she was sure it was a seedling from it. However, we are not sure it survived transplanting last year, and must wait another bloom season to decide.


'Freddie Boy' is a 1974 Mertzweiler introduction, in commerce for almost 30 years. To me, it still looks modern and I really like the two-tone color. Here, some years late spring cold weather aborts the bloom, but this is infrequent and most years its beauty makes me forget the few bad years.


'Starlite Starbrite' was registered in 1985. It is one of the last of a line of doubles from Marvin Granger, of Lake Charles, LA. He found a double bluish iris growing in a swamp while on a collecting trip in the 1950's. From that, the only wild double ever discovered, he produced a line of double irises. Marvin died very recently, an elderly man. Those of us who knew him were so pleased the American Iris Society awarded him its Hybridizers' Medal last year. He also won the top SLI award, for a non-double, a few years ago. Doubles are difficult because most completely lack pollen. Marvin would out-cross and then back-cross to achieve double blooms. One, 'Rose Cartwheel', produces a bit of pollen, and some seedlings have been produced recently by collecting the pollen from more than one bloom and using that scant amount in crossing. Another hybridizer has crossed Marvin's irises with some Australians from different lines to produce different looking flowers with some doubling. They are interesting, and probably some new registrations will come from both these efforts to carry on Marvin's work.

'Acadian'. Sidney Conger, a mortician, introduced a number of Louisianas during the 1950's and1960's. His most widely grown today is named 'Marie Caillet', a purple bitone registered in 1967, named when she selected it from seedlings. Marie has five named with some variation of her name, a mark of affection for her. Mr. Conger also registered one in 1957 named 'Segregation', which shows how attitudes were in those years and also that at least some progress has occurred since that time.



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