Heat and Drought…No Problem! Reblooming Iris a Winner.

Mike Lockatell, Owner Roots and Blooms

Mike Lockatell of Roots and Blooms in Powhatan, Virginia specializes in breeding hybrid Siberian Iris and reblooming Bearded Iris.

The following article, written by Lockatell, was published in the AIS (American Iris Society) Region 4 Newscast publication in which he documents the results of several reblooming iris throughout the state. The results indicate that reblooming iris have a promising future. In spite of record heat and drought during the summer of 2010, the iris continued to perform.

Encouraging news for gardeners!

Visit the Joyce Lockatell Memorial Gardens in Powhatan where you can see many of Mike’s award-winning flowers on display. Roots and Blooms specializes in heirloom perennials for today’s garden including Irises and Peonies. 
Roots and Blooms is a member of the 35 Mile Drive Association. Visit our website at www.35miledrive.com .




 By Mike Lockatell

Rebloom was put to the test this past summer in Region 4. Record heat and dryness wilted many gardeners and their cherished plantings. Prospects for summer and fall flower were dim. Against all odds, consistent rebloom did materialize. Survival had some unexpected pleasant blessings.

 The Richmond area saw its hottest summer on record. The National Weather Service considers summer to be June, July and August. The average daily temperature for the three month period was 81.3° F, which eclipsed the previous record of 79.6° F posted in 1900!!

 Meager summer rainfall added to the misery. Only 5.93 inches were recorded during the span. Summers with drier readings were 4.46 inches in 1921 and 5.24 inches in 1912. Lack of rainfall was one factor contributing to abnormal summer warmth according to a meteorologist interviewed by Rex Springsten for the Richmond Times Dispatch.

 The bleak growing conditions however did not discourage rebloom in my garden. My daily diary indicates summer flower began appearing during the second week of June. SDBs Double Overtime (Tasco, 2004) and Sailboat Bay (Zurbrigg, 2001) kicked off the early parade TBs Summer Radiance (Wilkerson, 1996), Anxious (Hager, 1992), Durham Dream (Zurbrigg, 2000) and Northward Ho (Zurbrigg, 1991) flowered on multiple bloomstalks until crushing heat arrived in early July.

 July heat was oppressive. Daytime temperatures frequently hovered between 90° F and 100° F. As August approached, rebloom suddenly reappeared on both named varieties and seedlings. ‘Northward Ho’ without any prodding resumed summer flowering.  The strawberry pink plicata has now turned in solid summer rebloom in consecutive years.  A combination of ‘Northward Ho’ and Double Vision (Ghio, 1999) has produced children with summer and early September flowering. They had performed well during the same time frame in 2009. It was encouraging to see similar results under more challenging conditions during the past year.

 The big surprise in August was finding bloomstalks on offspring featuring Gate of Heaven (Zurbrigg, 2004) mated with Zurbrigg Seedling Nos.# TT109 and 20360A-L. The extreme growing conditions clearly affected stalk height, branching and flower quality. An important Zurbrigg breeding goal was to develop reliable late summer and early September remontants. The performance of both ‘Northward Ho” and ‘Gate of Heaven’ seedlings in my garden indicates future rebloomers can acquire this valuable genetic trait.

 Lois Rose from Partlow, VA has dedicated a large portion of her bearded iris plantings to remontants. The FAIS member has worked with me over the years to use her garden results as an important check against mine in Powhatan, VA. We strive to test new selections and chart rebloom consistency on well known varieties. Micro climate quirks still confound our best intentions. Lois however was able to water, so she did have good fall results despite Dante’s Inferno.

 Outstanding rebloom was obtained during September on IB Low Ho Silver (Byers, 1989). The white median had a whopping eight plus stalks through October.  The late Sterling Innerst’s tall bearded rebloomers turned in solid efforts. Lois recorded four stalks on Again and Again (Innerst, 1999), seven on Lunar Whitewash (Innerst, 2003) and six on Over and Over (Innerst, 2000). Sterling effectively used Hager, Hall, Mahan and Zurbrigg breeding to create a rich rebloom legacy to benefit both iris gardeners and future breeders.

 Solid September-October median performers were SDBs Rosalie Loving (Spoon, 2003) and ‘Sailboat Bay’, IB Tawny (Pray, 1974), BB September Buttercup (G.P.Brown, 1962) and MTB Lady Emma (F.P. Jones, 1986). Maryland Ho (Hornstein, 2003) was an exceptional Region 4 origination. A tall bearded plicata out of ‘Northward Ho’, it produced four stalks during the period. Past Zurbrigg TB favorites also did well. Earl of Essex (Zurbrigg, 1980), I Do (Zurbrigg, 1974), Jennifer Rebecca (Zurbrigg, 1985), Renown (Zurbrigg, 1992) and Youth Dew (Zurbrigg, 1980) had an average of three bloomstalks per clump. The late Bernice Miller’s ‘Born Again’ (1977) was a prolific fall bloomer. The dark crimson bitone tall bearded had seven stalks!!

 FAIS president Doug Chyz and member Sue Shackleford filed encouraging reports. Doug found median bloom on SDBs Blueberry Tart (Chapman, 2002), Giggler (Spoon, 2001), Pretty Girl (Spoon, 2001), Sky Willow (Spoon, 2004) and Smell the Roses (Byers, 1988). He also reported fall bloom on TBs Queen Dorothy (Hall, 1984) and Witch of Endor (B. Miller, 1978).

 The Shackleford garden had rebloom on both older and recent releases. Four recent tall bearded introductions from Kentucky remontant breeder Betty Wilkerson made the grade. Fall flower occurred on Another Bridge (Wilkerson, 2005), Echo Location (Zurbrigg, 2007), Star Gate (Wilkerson, 2005) and Tara’s Choice (Wilkerson, 2004). Zurbrigg releases reblooming for Sue were Clarence (Zurbrigg, 1991), ‘Earl of Essex’, English Cottage (Zurbrigg, 1976) and ‘Gate of Heaven’. Innerst TBs mentioned were ‘Again and Again’ & Lunar Whitewash. Older selections in fall flower were TBs Buckwheat (Byers, 1989), Istanbul (Byers, 1990), Rosalie Figge (McKnew, 1991) and ‘Queen Dorothy’. 

 CVIS members reported the following fall bloom in their November 2010 Newsletter. June and John Rosini had June rebloom on IB Double Your Fun (Aitken, 2000). Other median rebloom in their garden was Plum Wine (Weiler, 1986) and MTB ‘Lady Emma’. TBs Perfume Counter (Zurbrigg, 1972) and Iceland (Byers, 1991) reached fall flower. A number of additional remontants had developing stalks and buds. Jim Diggs enjoyed rebloom on TB (Daughter of Stars, 2000) and Shirley Shelton had multiple fall bloom on ‘Again and Again’.

 Don Rude from Blacksburg, VA saw rebloom on ‘Gate of Heaven’ for a month. Initial flowering started on September 1st. Don also saw fall bloom on TBs Mango Parfait (Spoon, 2008) and Frost Echo (Aitken, 1995). Linoa Adams from Raleigh, NC had November/December flowering on TB Matrix (Hall by Zurbrigg, 1992).

 Extreme summer heat and drought for the most part delayed bloomstalk formation on most reliable rebloomers until the latter stages of October throughout Region 4 in 2010. Hard frosts started materializing in the beginning of November damaging most developing stalks. This report tried to focus on reports of actual bloom. We still however appreciate any emerging fall bloomstalk reporting. This information is still tabulated and available to any interested member or rebloom breeder. Results indicate many recent introductions seem to be consistent in any weather condition. Lets focus on the positives in an otherwise brutal year.  If some of the current reporting trends continue, rebloom still has a great future ahead of it.

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