It would take a book-length article to write about and describe all the things and people that influence hybridizing of the Louisiana iris. It all began after World War II, around 1946 or a little later, when I got into the field of serious hybridizing. My sister and I had been collecting the blue GC's (I.giganticaerulea) whose main habitat was in the marshes of Cameron Parish, that was a short drive south of Lake Charles, Louisiana in Calcasieu Parish.
About the same time we heard of the "Abbeville Red" now named I.nelsonii, just south of Abbeville, Louisiana. After inquiries were made to find just where these larger forms of Iris fulva were located, we made a trip to Abbeville and found the irises growing in a pasture and adjoining swamp. Those in the swamp were in about one foot of water and were really looking great. Altogether we gathered about one and a half grass sacks full of plants before returning home. What I didn't know at the time was that these irises, the blue GCs and the "Abbeville Reds" were the two main ingredients that the hybridizers of Louisiana irises were using at that time. Hybrids from other hybridizers were later brought into my program to try for new colors, forms and size of blossoms.
In 1954, 1955, and 1956, on one of our collecting trips to Cameron Parish to try to find something new and different, or maybe find an elusive white, a sport of the blue GC, I found a blue double growing through a huge clump of GCs. At the time I didn't realize the importance of this discovery but decided this would be my direction - hybridize to try for doubles in colors other than blue. Twelve years later a yellow double showed up. I named it 'Creole Canary' . To achieve this, a lot of "out crosses" were made. The crosses were made with good hybrids of different colors, forms and substance, then seedlings from the these crosses had to bloom before the “backcrossing” started.
Time and patience are needed in hybridizing Louisiana Irises, or maybe in any hybridizing program. But if you love what you are doing and have a goal in mind, time is not important.
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the SLI Newsletter in the Spring 2002 edition.