The Louisiana Iris Suite

The Life and Times of Dick Sloan

by Dick Sloan
Click images to enlarge

I was born in 1929. My first nine years were spent in a small southern Iowa town. My mom had a goldfish pond and raised a perennial garden with many irises and peonies. We kept the fish in the basement during the winter in washtubs. She ordered bearded irises with other neighborhood ladies and grew a large number. This was the end of the diploid and beginning of the tetraploid era in tall bearded irises. Memorial Day came at the bloom season of these plants, and we carried large numbers of blooms to the cemeteries to decorate graves of family and friends. They remain precious memories. My home town still allows flowers at graves and I have planted two peonies at her grave and some of the naturalized bearded irises are also there.

Dick's Louisiana Irises in 2003

 When I was nine, the Great Depression caught up with our family. My dad was forced to take a much poorer paying job, problems between my parents intensified, and a split-up occurred. We moved frequently and I never again gardened up through my college years, but apparently gardening was imprinted on my mind by my childhood.

I was married in 1962. Our first house was in a central Illinois town, rented from the chemist I replaced. He and his wife had been members of the daylily society and had also planted a collection of ten or a dozen tall bearded iris

hybrids. When we soon moved on to another job north of Chicago and owned our own home, I got back into irises, joining the American Iris Society, becoming a judge and growing hundreds of varieties.

In 1975, I was transferred to a plant owned by the company in South Pasadena, California. I found that the micro-climate where we lived had winters too mild for the bearded irises to thrive, so I tried a few Louisiana irises in the overflow area of a fish pond at our house. I continued attending AIS conventions in

California and elsewhere during those years, met those involved with and hybridizers of Louisianas, joined the SLI -- Society for Louisiana Irises, and formed lifelong friendships with such stalwarts of this group as Marie Caillet.

 A short-lived section of AIS was formed for these plants, and I served one term as president. SLI has never been part of AIS and now is, with the Aril Iris Society, a cooperating society. These groups are part of the AIS judging and honors system, but also give their own recognition to hybridizers, members and flowers. I became treasurer last November.

Bubble Gum Ballerina
Last blooms of 2003

SLI has a website, , where information about the plants and society is presented, along with information about our current hard bound book, The Louisiana Iris published by Timber Press. It contains everything you ever wanted to know about the irises, their history and culture and many pictures in color. SLI publishes a quarterly bulletin of several dozen pages and articles from it are archived with color pictures on the website.

'Amber River'

 I registered and introduced three Louisianas in the mid-1980's. Another was registered last year and introduced this spring. Yet another has just been registered, to be introduced in 2004. A few other seedlings are under evaluation, but my output will remain small compared to serious hybridizing efforts currently in progress, particularly in Australia.

I was again transferred, to Irving, Texas, and retired from there in 1989 at age 60. My wife died that same year. I moved to Arkansas late that year. I live in Alma, a small town east of Fort Smith in the Arkansas River Valley. This is USDA Zone 7.

My other interests include listening to opera on CD's and I have a large collection of such recordings. I collect lightning rod balls. They were colored decorations sold to farm folk by traveling salesman from the later 1800's through to the depression, placed on the rods installed on barns and some houses, most notably in the mid-western states.

I don't know if helping some boys from impoverished backgrounds grow up, graduate from college and lead productive lives, can be called a hobby, but it has occupied much time and money since my own children were grown. I have/am succeeding with two out of six such attempts and the two young men have become my boys, as close to me as my own son and daughter. These efforts require more energy than money, but significant amounts of both, and that era will end with a college graduation in the spring of 2004.

I bought a galvanized tank late last year at a Wisconsin antique shop and am attempting to set up a water garden in it on my patio. I found this group in searching the Internet for related topics and have enjoyed being introduced to much new and enjoyable information. I grow my irises in a shallow ditch where they can be fertilized, mulched and flooded when the rains don't cooperate. I also grow a large number of daylilies. Arthritis and lowered energy levels must curtail these activities at some time -- but not yet!

 The water garden is in the foreground.

Dick has created a stunning collection of images of Louisianas which, together with his personal knowledge of the irises and their people, comprises what we call --

The Louisiana Iris Suite

Society for Louisiana Irises

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