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Development of Red Tall-Bearded Irises

From the "The World of Irises" Chapter 4 by Melba B Hamblen and Keith Keppel. © 1978 AIS



Just as the impression of brown in irises is due to the visual interaction of two different types of pigmentation, so it is with red (AIS 196&). There is no spectrum red pigment present, and the hybridizers of red irises are, in effect, masters of illusion. I. variegatahas falls lined with red; the red lines coalesce to form a patch of red in some varieties. The color is bright, but the stems are short and the flowers small. Much larger were the early tetraploid tall beardeds; many were purplish in color and some had a reddish or rosy purple cast. Bliss used his famous blue-purple bitone 'Dominion' with 'Trosuperba' to produce the redder 'Cardinal'. Despite its name, it was a far cry from red, but it was an improvement in color over its predecessors at the tetraploid level. 'Cardinal' was introduced in England in 1919 and soon made its way to America. In Tennessee, Clarence Connell crossed it with 'Rose Madder' and received the dark bitone 'Dauntless', winner of the Dykes Medal in 1929. 'Dauntless', in tum, was a parent of Ayres's 'Coralie', the 1933 Dykes winner, and Gage's 'Rosy Wings', the 1939 winner.

‘Dominion' (1917) TBDominion X ‘Trosuperba’ (1912) no image = ‘Cardinal’ (1919) Cardinal
‘Cardinal’ (1919) Cardinal X ‘Rose Madder’ (1920) no image = ‘Dauntless’ (1929) Dauntless
‘Coralie’ (1932) Coralie   ‘Rosy Wings’ (1935) Rosy Wings    

Ayres used Cardinal to produce 'Indian Chief', and 'Cheerio' came in the next generation. Kirkland named 'Junaluska', a 'Dominion' descendant. Shull selected 'Morning Splendor' from a cross of I. trojana x 'Lent A. Williamson'. Nicholls's cross of 'Morning Splendor' and 'Cardinal' gave 'Red Robe', with 'Red Valor' appearing in the next generation. Williamson introduced the iris 'Ethel Peckham'. These developments of the 1920s and early 1930s gave working material in the search for true red.

‘Indian Chief' (1929) TBIndian Chief ‘Junaluska' (1934) TBJunaluska ‘Morning Splendor' (1923) TBMorning Splendor  


From breeding involving variegata-patterned seedlings with the Vilmorin violet bitone 'Alcazar', Hans Sass was rewarded with two red siblings noted in his seedling records as "Red Wonder" and "Next Red Wonder." Red Wonder was registered as 'Redwing' and introduced in 1926. The variegata 'King Tut' was crossed to 'Redwing', 'Cardinal', and other red-toned irises. The 'King Tut' seedling 'Joycette', used with a seedling of 'Cardinal' and "Next Red Wonder," gave Jacob Sass 'The Red Douglas' in 1937. Its red color was decidedly purple, the falls overlong for their width, but it was tall and showy; it won the Dykes Medal in 1941. From related but increasingly more involved lines came 'Solid Mahogany' in 1943, and 'Huntsman' in 1955.

‘Alcazar' (1910) TBIndian Chief ‘King Tut' (1926) TBKing Tut ‘Joycette' (1932) TBJoycette ‘The Red Douglas' (1937) TBThe Red Douglas ‘Solid Mahogany' (1943) TBSolid Mahogany

 Agnes Whiting crossed Grinter's 1936 introduction, 'Garden Magic', with 'The Red Douglas' to create 'Garden Glory'. Not large or tall, and not an overly good grower, it nevertheless found immediate popularity for its smoothness of color and finish. Crossing it with her orange-yellow 'Rocket' gave Technicolor, a red of more brownish tone.

‘Huntsman' (1955) TBHuntsman ‘Garden Magic' (1936) TBGarden Magic ‘Garden Glory' (1940) TBGarden Glory ‘Rocket' (1945) TBRocket ‘Technicolor' (1946) TBTechnicolor

Kleinsorge bred 'Garden Magic' with a seedling involving 'King Tut' and his own red 'Rebellion' as grandparents to produce 'Ranger'. Introduced in 1943, this crimson-toned iris with conic standards was one of the best reds of its era. Fred DeForest's mating of 'Garden Magic' with 'Casa Morena' resulted in the large brown-red 'Orelio'. With 'Argus Pheasant', 'Garden Glory' gave 'Bright Gem' in the first generation and the tall, well-branched smooth red 'Tall Chief' in the second.



It was in Indiana, however, that a major portion of the reds of the 1940s and 1950s were originating. Both Paul Cook and Greig Lapham evolved red lines of quality. Cook started with the same purplish red seedlings he used in his black line, but for his red line he crossed them with 'Morning Splendor'. Sibbing the resultant seedlings for several generations resulted in his 1942 introduction 'Redward'. 'E. B. Williamson' was from an earlier generation of this line, 'Captain Wells' was a contemporary of 'Redward', and 'Relentless' sprang from a later generation. Lapham's first red introduction, 'Belle Porter', appeared in 1929. From 'Troost' and 'Seminole', it was a parent of 'Jerry', and 'Jerry' in turn was a parent of 'Christabel' and 'Frank Adams'. 'Red Sails' came from 'King Tut' and 'Ethel Peckham', and 'Red Gleam' involved 'King Tut' and 'Redwing', among others. The line continued for many generations: 'Lights On', 'Red Waves', and 'Pacemaker' were some of its products. Outcrosses produced 'Dress Rehearsal', 'Town Talk', 'Happy Wanderer', and 'Forward March'.



One parent of 'Forward March' was Chet Tompkins's 'Defiance'. At the national convention in Sioux City a red seedling of heavy substance and smooth color created much comment. Named and introduced as 'Defiance' three years later, this seedling established the Tompkins reds as a major breeding line. A seedling from pollen of 'Technicolor', 'Defiance' carried, through its pod parent 'Manana', genes from 'Casa Morena', the Whiting orange yellows 'Damascus' and 'Rocket', and the reds 'Garden Glory', 'Cheerio' and 'Junaluska'. For nearly 30 years reds have continued to come from the Tompkins line. 'Ebony Echo', 'Great Day', 'Rampage', 'Privateer', 'High Barbaree', 'Starburst', and 'Uproar' are but a few. Hazel Schmelzer's 'Captain Gallant', a 1959 introduction of great popularity, can best be mentioned as a postscript to the Tompkins story, for it is from 'Privateer' and a Tompkins seedling.

Craig's cross of 'Prairie Sunset' and 'Sultan's Robe' produced the coppery rose blend 'Molten', introduced in 1950. A 'Cordovan'-'Molten' seedling crossed onto the red blend 'Savage' gave 'Bang', a brown red of excellent growing qualities and good height.'Garden Glory' with 'Molten' gave the wine-red 'Port'. These were the beginnings of a red line that, like the Tompkins line, was to continue for decades. Of the many named from the line, one of the best is 'Red Boat', which has the red-black 'Edenite' as a grandparent, thereby incorporating 'Great Day' and the Cook red line in its heritage.



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First Patented Iris

At the Boston convention in 1953, another red made its mark: McKeeMcKee's smooth brown-red 'Trim'. Purchased by Schreiner's gardens and introduced in 1956, 'Trim' was the first bearded iris to be patented. It was the product of line breeding, from reds and the dark yellow 'Moontide', which came from 'Red Gleam' and the variegata 'Mary Vernon'. .

The Schreiner's Red Line

The Schreiners had a red line of their own under way. 'Ethiop Queen', 'Ranger', 'Garden Glory', and 'Cordovan' were combined to produce 'Caldron' which, with 'Trim', gave 'Velvet Robe'. Other 'Caldron' children and grandchildren include 'Brasilia', 'Gypsy Jewels' and 'Vitafire'. At this point something important began to happen: the reds began to show a bit of ruffling. Meanwhile, 'Trim' had been used with a seedling to produce 'Fire Magic', a tall coppery red with good branching, qualities sorely lacking in most reds. 'Gypsy Jewels' and 'Fire Magic' were combined to produce 'War Lord' and 'Fireball', which gave the glossy 'Spartan' in the next generation, and 'Vitafire' and a 'Fire Magic' seedling combined to give the smooth, ruffled brown-red 'Post Time'. Other 'Trim' derivatives include 'Frontier Marshall', 'Jewel Tone', and 'Ruby Mine'.

Other reds which are proven good parents or good garden subjects include Melvina Suiter's 'Tomeco', important in the pedigree of 'Jewel Tone' and 'Vitafire'. 'Tomeco' comes from a combination of reds plus 'Tobacco Road' and the red fancy plicata 'Rich Raiment'. Schortrnan's 'Seeing Red' is derived in part from 'Tall Chief', 'Savage', and 'Tobacco Road'. C. M. Reynolds's 'Wonderful One', a short glossy garnet red, is from 'Savage', the arilbred 'lb-Mac', and 'Red Slippers', a child of 'Garden Glory' and 'Ebony Echo'. A sibling to 'Wonderful One', it, when used with a 'Fire Ruby' seedling, gave the taller 'Royal Trumpeter'. Luihn's 'Caliente', a tall wine red of exceptional vigor, is from 'Forward March' and a seedling involving 'Defiance', 'Bang', 'Oriental Glory', 'Huntsman', and others.

'Tomeco' (1959) TBTomeco ‘Rich Raiment’ (1949) Rich Raiment ‘Seeing Red’ (1967) Seeing Red

====================================================================================================== The World Of Irises continues with The Early Day Browns ====================================================================================================== For more information on historic Irises visit the Historic Iris Preservation Society at

-- BobPries - 2015-10-20
Topic revision: r14 - 14 Jan 2016, BobPries
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