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Hybridizer Dr. Harold "Hal" Stahly (1926- 2015)

Grand Blanc, Michigan, USA

AIS President 1981-1983; Hybridizer Award 2006; Knowlton Medal 1987.

By Carol Morgan   (Published in AIS Region 6 newsletter, Spring 2014.)

Hal Stahly’s iris activities began when as a boy; he was exposed to growing and harvesting on the family farm. As is the case with many farms, not only did the family have fields producing, but they also maintained personal gardens for vegetables and flowers. One of the flowers prominent in the family flower patch was the tall bearded iris. These were historic irises that were abundant in country gardens throughout the US. It was an important influence on Hal because his mother was particularly fond of irises.

As a young adult, Hal met and married his charming, witty wife, Dorothy. When they established their own home and gardens, Hal discovered the more modern forms of iris in a Schreiner’s catalog. He sent for some of these and began growing with six or eight iris of different colors.

Hal’s interest in irises drove him to do a little research. He visited a local library where he found a reference devoted to the iris. In 1954 he checked out Garden Irises and began reading about the tall bearded iris; its growth habits; its propagation and the like. Hal’s curiosity was begging an eager gardener to explore growing iris from seeds to see what the outcome might be. This book was responsible for teaching Hal the processes he would need to pollinate and germinate iris from seeds. One of Hal’s first crosses was A La Kala (a nice yellow) by Casa Morena (an interesting brown). The resulting seeds were planted, grown and they produced some very pretty irises. Hal was hooked. He made other occasional crosses and got other nice iris. He did not expect such good results.

The next turn of events that helped Hal begin his iris hybridizing career was a move to a new job in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Once there, by happy chance in church Hal met one of his mentors, and now, close friend, Dave Niswonger. It was Dave who encouraged Hal to join the American Iris Society in 1962. Dave encouraged the Stahlys to go to the Region 18 meetings and to explore crossing irises.

Dave Niswonger and Gene Buckles received awards from the AIS for their work. These friends always encouraged and assisted Hal to pursue his hybridizing. At other AIS meetings and tours Hal met and became friends with the Schreiners, Joe Ghio and Nathan Rudolf, who were very active. These hybridizer-friends offered advice, support and most importantly, encouragement.

When Hal left Cape Girardeau, a hybridizer asked what kind of irises Hal liked. Black irises were of interest, and so he was sent seed. Licorice Stick (Schreiner, 1960) and Black Swan (Fay, 1960) led to some plants that began a line of blacks. Two generations later a Border Bearded black was produced that did very well. Drum Solo (1980) received an Award of Merit and later the Knowlton Medal for outstanding Border Bearded Iris. Another generation produced Black Flag (1984), a tall bearded ebony which received an Award of Merit. Black Flag is a good performer in the garden and is enjoyed by many growers.


Border Bearded: 'Allie Sunshine', 'Combustion', 'Drum Solo', 'Fiddler', 'Ignition', 'Proxy', 'Up Tempo'.

Intermediate Bearded: 'Beeper', 'Cool Kate', 'End Zone', 'I Hear Music', 'In The Chips', 'Obligato', 'Smuggler', 'Wrangler'.

Siberian: 'Active Duty', 'Backstage', 'Carina', 'Four Winds', 'Frosted Emerald', 'Laughing Allegra', 'Moon Silk'.

Standard Dwarf: 'Chip Shot', 'In The Red'.

Tall Bearded: 'Access Code', 'Affirmative', 'After Eight', 'Andiamo', 'As You Were', 'Back Roads', 'Backwater Blues', 'Baltic Elegy', 'Baltic Star', 'Black Flag', 'Black Madonna', 'Blazer', 'Body And Soul', 'Born To Shine', 'Breath Of Morn', 'Call Waiting', 'Celtic Glory', 'Celtic Harp', 'Celtic Lady', 'Chalet', , 'Charger', 'Covert Action', 'Dawn's Music', 'Defender', 'Easy Mood', 'Ebony Dream', 'Embraceable You', 'Fast Break', 'Follow Your Dream', 'Frostbite', 'Haversham', 'High Five', 'High Street', 'Lieder', 'Magic Song', 'Maker's Mark', 'Midnight Vigil', 'Night Lady', 'Northern Mist', 'Ocean Fury', 'On The Road', 'Rain Check', 'Rhythm King', 'Rising Tide', 'River Patrol', 'Satin Song', 'Sea And Mist', 'Shadow Of A Smile', 'Starlight Sonata', 'Starlit Velvet', Sun King', 'Winter Sonnet', 'Wiz Liz'.

-- AdamCordes - 2010-07-23
Topic revision: r86 - 10 Jun 2019, AdamCordes
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