Congratulations to John Taylor, our Louisiana Iris hybridizer from Rainbow Ridge Nursery in Dural, NSW, Australia. Taylor has been voted the Hybridizer Medal of the American Iris Society at their Fall Board Meeting.
He is only the third all-Louisiana iris hybridizer to be given such an award by the American Iris Society since it was started in 1941. The other two were Charles W. Amy, Jr., in 1967 and Joseph K. Mertzweiller in 1984. Mary Dunn, who also hybridized bearded irises, was given the award in 1992. The same was true for Ben Hager in 1973 and Joe Ghio in 1979. Both were primarily bearded iris hybridizers who introduced a limited number of Louisiana irises.
Recommendations for this medal are sent to the AIS Honorary Awards Committee, where they are screened and voted on by the committee members. Their choices are then presented to the AIS Executive Committee for a final vote. This is a very prestigious award with only a few recipients each year and none being selected in some years. There will be three recipients this year: one from the United States, one from France and John Taylor from Australia.
Taylor began hybridizing Louisiana irises over 20 years ago and won his first recognition for the iris 'Edith Fear' in 1981. Since then he has introduced close to 200 cultivars and has won hundreds of special awards in Australia and in the United States. He won the Australian Dykes Medal for 'Helen Naish' in 1986, for 'Dural Charm' in 1987, for 'Koorawatha' in 1988, for 'Jazz Ballet' in 1990 and for 'Dural White Butterfly' in 1993. His introductions have won the Sydney Louisiana Iris Spectacular, an international competition, eight times and won the Society for Louisiana Irises Popularity Poll twice, for 'Koorawatha' and 'Dural White Butterfly.'
John Taylor is a co-owner of Rainbow Ridge Nursery with Graeme Grosvenor, who specializes in bearded irises and daylilies. They, representing their nursery, were awarded the Distinguished Merit Award by the Society for Louisiana Irises in 1996. Both are life members of the American Iris Society
and the Society for Louisiana Irises and are accredited judges of the American Iris Society. The iris business is actually just a hobby for John Taylor, who
earned a Master's Degree in Economics and Statistics and has worked with the Reserve Bank of Australia since 1972.
Taylor's hybridizing has been quite varied with work done in all color ranges with interesting signal patterns and extensive ruffling. Thus far he has stuck to
diploids. His earliest successes came in the yellow and white groups with 'Helen Naish' and 'Koorawatha' being the most popular, but many others deserve mention. The very ruffled 'Classical Note' and 'Obvious Heir' are outstanding. He began turning out irises with signals on all flower parts, such as 'Jazz Ballet" and 'Good Vibes,' followed by many of the newer introductions. Wide, overlapping segments with extensive ruffling and fluting then became a trademark of his irises. The iris 'Margaret Lee' is a good example and has been used for much of the recent hybridizing. Other innovations are irises approaching a near pink, those . with multiple flower parts, with marbled coloring and some so ruffled as to appear like peonies.
Improvements in Form
Other aspects of iris hybridizing have not been neglected. Although Taylor's attention to flower color and form may seem the most important goal, he has not neglected the stalk and bud count. Some of the early introductions had stalks too tall to hold up the large flowers, but this has changed over the years. Side branching and bud count reached a high point in the iris 'Koorawatha' , with a possible 18 buds.
We in the Society for Louisiana Irises love to see one of our members recognized by such an organization as the American Iris Society. With the thousands of iris growers trying their hand at hybridizing all groups of irises, being selected as one of the outstanding hybridizers in the world is quite an honor.
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the SLI Newsletter in the Summer 2001 issue.