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.
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
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
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
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, www.louisianas.org
, 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.
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
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
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!
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
for Louisiana Irises