For this article I was going to be a little nostalgic as I so missed my trip to Thomas Johnson at Mid-America Iris Garden, the visits to Lynda Miller’s of Millers Manor, the wonderful visits to Chad Harris at Mt Pleasant Irises, but Melissa and Bailey from Smokin’ Heights beat me to that…
By Ron Killingsworth and Patrick O’ConnorWhere, oh where, did that name originate? Iris names have always intrigued me. Some names are easy to figure out. Others defy reason. Another interesting subject is people’s names. Where in the world did the parents get the name they stuck on that poor child? Have you often wondered that? That subject…
A selection of irises I have grown that were introduced in the year 1926. In the United States Grace Sturtevant and Bertrand Farr were working in the east, EB Williamson and the Sass Brothers in the mid-west, and Mohr and Mitchell in California. England’s own Arthur Bliss was thrilling European gardeners, as were…
This is an introduction to three women iris hybridizers from the 20th century who are perhaps not particularly well known, but all created iris of great beauty.Our first hybridizer is from the earliest era of the American and British Iris Societies, in the early part of the 20th century.Miss Violet Insole was a…
Back in the spring of 2015, as we geared up for the celebration of the 90th anniversary of Schreiner’s Iris Gardens, and to welcome the Annual AIS Convention-goers, we received a message from Cathy Egerer of the Historic Iris Preservation Society. She proposed we plant an historic Schreiner Iris bed in our Display Gardens to commemorate our golden anniversary. While our 10-acre display garden contains beds filled with hundreds of Iris cultivars, seedling tests, guest Iris, Dyke’s Medal winners and more, surprisingly we had not yet dedicated a single bed to our own legacy of 90 years of Iris breeding.
We agreed that this would be a tremendous addition to the garden. Ms. Egerer then enlisted the help of dedicated Iris enthusiasts across the country. These generous individuals donated and shipped the historic Iris rhizomes from their own gardens to us here in Oregon. We received several dozen specimens of older Schreiner hybrids, dating back to 1936. Once cataloged and arranged, Ben Schreiner (4th generation owner) planted the “newcomers” and tended to them throughout that first winter.
“Confetti” Schreiner 1945
“Chatterbox” Schreiner 1978
Thus, our official Historic Schreiner Iris bed was conceived of and built. We would like to very sincerely thank Cathy and all of the folks who donated Iris and time and postage to this project (please forgive us if we have forgotten to list anyone by name): Carlos Ayento, Nancy McDonald, Linda Baumgartner, Judy Schneider, Arlyn Madsen, Lani Shooks, Patty Del Negro, Wanda Rezac, Charles Pickett. We are grateful to you all for helping to restore these historic Iris to their roots.
Do you grow historic Schreiner Iris in your garden? We would love to know.
A blast from the past… It’s springtime 1986. Schreiner’s Iris Gardens’ Iris Lover’s Catalog has a new seedling to announce.
“A knockout! Dusky Challenger has caught the eye of many garden visitors. We have been frequently asked when Seedling #1953-AA would be ready for introduction. And with good reason. This silky rich purple gem combines an absolutely gigantic flower with impeccable ruffled form on a beautifully branched stem opening four blooms as once. See for yourself what has caused this commotion in our photograph… This wonder raises the standards for dark Iris to a new level. Destined to challenge all comers and bound for glory. Order early. AIS Highly Commended Award, 1984.”
Thus was Dusky Challenger introduced to the Iris world in 1986 in our 61st Iris Lovers Catalog. Since that time it has gone on to prove itself a champion, winning the Dykes Medal in 1992.
Like a dark knight rising from an obscure past to the heights of glory, Dusky Challenger continues to glorify gardens far and wide (despite its unknown parentage — a little mishap that occurs from time to time in the Iris world). Bernard (Gus) Schreiner would have made the initial hybrid cross in the early 80’s and was duly impressed in subsequent bloom seasons with the seedling’s blossoms. Gus likely consulted with his brother Robert and the two agreed it would be a good introduction for the 1986 season. Gus’ son, Ray Schreiner, impressed with the rich color and fantastic stature of the seedling, christened it Dusky Challenger. Our very knowledgeable colleague from down the road, Mr. Keith Keppel, has theorized that Titan’s Glory must certainly be in the parentage.
Dusky Challenger has appeared on the American Iris Society’s (AIS) annual popularity poll numerous times, including landing first place more than a dozen years. Iris judges have reported to us that Dusky Challenger and Silverado(Schreiner, 1987) are two Iris that judges consider to be “perfect”. The popularity Dusky Challenger has enjoyed is a clear indication of its vigor and success in gardens in all regions of the United States. Dawn Mumford, contributor to the AIS blog “World of Irises”, included Dusky Challenger in her “super achiever” list. She writes, “My husband and I like to recognize those irises that can always be counted on to bloom well, resist disease, provide beautiful blossoms, make big clumps…” Enjoy the fun read in her April 25, 2016 post on the AIS World of Iris blog.
In a May 21st interview with Garden Time TV host William McClenathan, Steve Schreiner compared Dusky Challenger with another high-achiever from eight decades prior, The Red Douglas (introduced by J. Sass in 1934). See in the photo here the contrast of the two (Dusky Challenger on the left), representing the progress made in Iris hybridizing over 80+ years. As the photo illustrates, the flowers are large, with excellent substance. The color is a deep dark purple. The form is the epitome of excellence, with standards shaped ideally, not open too much or closed too much. The falls are equally admirable in form, with slight ruffling, wide hafts. And no sign of fading even in the warm spring weather we experienced this year. The plant is a healthy one, the stalks are thick, and again, it grows well for everyone as far as we know. One online review exclaims, “I would not want to have a garden without it!” (found on Dave’s Garden).
So, Happy Birthday Dusky Challenger! May you continue to amaze and delight garden visitors for many a decade more.