Each year the American Iris Society (AIS) judges to award the Award of Merit (AM) to a group of irises. Eligibility for the AM beings the second year after the iris variety has recieved the Honorable Mention Award (HM), and eligibility continues for three years.
The AM is one of the AIS's most coveted awards and is given each year to a limited number of iris varieties in each of the classifications of iris.*
SOCIETY FOR LOUISIANA IRISES -- Mary Swords DeBaillion Awards --- 1948 to present
The highest award an Louisiana iris could receive from 1948 until 1985 was the Mary Swords DeBaillon Award. During that period, SLI was an independent unit with no affiliation whatsoever with the American Iris Society (AIS). SLI became a Cooperating Organization of AIS in 1986 and in 2012 became a section of AIS. After 1986 the "award" was discontinued and replaced with the Mary Swords DeBallion Medal, the highest award exclusively for Louisiana Iris. The MEDAL is a part of the AIS award system and is awarded to the eligible Louisiana iris receiving the most votes on the official AIS judges ballot conducted each year. All AIS medalists, including the DeBaillon medalist, are eligible for the Dykes Medal, the highest award presented by AIS. So far, the AIS Dykes has been awarded mainly to Tall Bearded irises and no Louisiana iris has ever won the Dykes award.
I have seen Louisiana irises come and go for more than 50 years. I have seen not-so-good ones make it to the top and then disappear from gardens. But worse than that are the really excellent varieties that have never received awards nor become generally known. What makes the difference and what can a hybridizer do to elevate these good ones from the ordinary to the winner's circle? Nothing I am going to suggest will be news to you and some solutions will not be possible, but perhaps one or two will give you an idea. Each are things I have observed and some are things I know have worked for some Louisiana iris winners in the past.
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