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Seed Time - Hybridizing Bearded Iris


By siris


I was asked if it took a long time to grow Iris germanica from seed? The answer is a big Yes. And did I grow many? No. If you wish to try, there are many hurdles to jump over.
First choose a mother parent, and a male pollen parent for the characteristics for which you are looking, assuming you have a choice! Not all parents are compatible. My Solid Mahogany never produced any decent pollen, and is slow to increase.

Remove the anthers and place the pollen, by rubbing the anthers on the upper surface of the 3 stigmatic lips.
Each is located above the beard, where the anthers were, above the V where pollen would be brushed off a bee’s back. Although I have not used Jane Phillips this photo shows the parts quite well.

Then wait to see if fertilization is successful. This year was so wet that many of the my pods failed.
Immortality turned out to be a good mother and I had 3 good crosses, but can you believe I knocked off all three pods, well before they were ripe! I got 13 pods from various crosses, unlucky for some, as only six have survived me, cats and other hazards.

Wait until the pods are ripe and begin to split. This pod, which is beginning to split has only 2/3 fertilization. I think because rain spoiled some of the pollen. There was only seed in 2 out of the 3 pod chambers.

Do not go on holiday in August or turn your attention elsewhere or the seeds will be lost on the ground, and you might see the ants marching off with the spilled beans. This year I put sockies over the remaining pods at the last minute just in case, but you stand the risk of them rotting or snails hiding around them.

Seeds from the above pod. Some of the seed was ready in late July.

Sow in Autumn. When is Autumn? I put mine in pots on dry seed compost somewhere cool, protected by netting against mice etc. and leave till spring to see if leaves develop.

Plant out the little plants in rows, if you have space and 5 years later they might flower.

The 2 plants above were from bee pollinated Sultans palace, same pod. I have had to lift these as they were sitting on top of each other as they developed thro’ lack of space.
The plants from 2 years ago have been moved twice because of lack of growing space, not good for growth continuity. Last year I didn’t bother making any crosses because of bad timings.
As Iris need a period of cold to break their dormancy, this year I put some pots in the fridge for a couple of weeks after sowing in July as a trial, then put the pots under the car port. Would you believe it this little green shoot appeared, certainly looks like a Iris seedling, not grass, one out of 20 in the pot, so I carefully put it in its own pot. I will put the original pot back in the fridge for another chilling.
This is an imposter, a Gladiolus from an adjacent pot!

Here is a picture of the mother – Chantilly pink and yellow with frilly edges.

And the father – Role Model
I would like the frilly edges of the mother with the darker pink of the father. I hope he lives up to his name.

September 13, picture of 2 Iris seedlings that I spotted yesterday.
They actually resemble mini Iris!

But hurdle 5, where do I put this little seedling to over winter? Just as well it is still the only one to germinate since otherwise there would be another 200 plus hurdles to cross.

Watch this space 2019!

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liked your blog :-)sockies over the pods good tip :-)

1 Sep, 2014


Thanks Maryb,
I also sometime use new tea bags to put over small seedpods. I take the tea out first and use that loose.

1 Sep, 2014


Wow Siris you certainly deserve to succeed - what patience! All the very best with it all and I hope I'm still around to see the resulting flowers!

1 Sep, 2014


Brilliant blog. Well worth printing up to keep.

1 Sep, 2014


in favs.

1 Sep, 2014


Very interesting Siris, I wonder if you'd get any surprises from way back in the breeding I know I've found that this year with the daylily seedlings, some that show different colours and characteristics passed on from grandparents or even further back.
5 years!! crikey you certainly need patience for those.
Like the idea with the tea bag I might pinch that :-)

2 Sep, 2014


Steragram , where are you going then? More likely they will fall by the wayside.
I know the immediate parentage of one or 2 of the commercial Irises. My S2, with the blue blotch on the fall is similar to Boss Tweed with a white blotch, but I didn't have it flowering at the time.
How nice to imply I'm patient, OH would disagree! Only for gardening, sow and forget.

2 Sep, 2014


I hope I'm not going anywhere for a long time but nobody lasts for ever!

2 Sep, 2014


That was interesting. You need time and patience but it's an exciting thing to do :)

3 Sep, 2014


The excitement comes when there are flower buds!

5 Sep, 2014


The seedling, picture 8 is an imposter, a Gladiolus from a near by pot!

14 Sep, 2014

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