Members of the American Iris Society and espe­cially those that grow Louisiana irises were sad­dened by the death of Mary Dunn of North High­lands, California on October 5, 1997. She died in her home after a long bout with lung cancer. Many of her iris friends had a chance to visit with Mary during the Sacramento Convention in 1996 and the beautiful Dunn garden was on tour during the Con­vention. There is probably no one growing Louisiana irises that does not have some of the fine irises hybridized by Mary during the past 20 years. Her first Louisiana iris introduction was MONU­MENT, which won the Mary Swords DeBaillon Medal in 1984. She has since registered close to 100 cultivars, many of which have won MS Awards. Three of her Louisianas have won the DeBaillon Medal and she was voted the AIS Hybridizer's Medal in 1992 on the basis of her work with the Louisianas.

To quote from the April 1993 MS Bulletin (#289 p 9): "Louisiana irises are Mary's domain at the Dunn's M.A.D. Iris Garden. Although she has many quality Tall Bearded introductions, it is fitting that Mary's greatest achievements to date have been with the Louisianas. The Sacramento area is a long way from the swamps of Louisiana where these iris­es originated, but Mary's success shows off their adaptability to different climates. Mary's quest for improvements of the Louisiana and her significant contributions to the Tall Bearded iris world have led to her Hybridizer's Medal. It should serve as an incentive to others, because it shows that one need not have abundant space to create award-winning irises.

Mary Dunn was born in Los Molinos, CA on December 14, 1930. She was married to Robert Dunn, who grew and hybridized Tall Bearded irises. Their small city lot was planted from the front side­walk to a back fence in irises, iris seedlings and many other flowers. The house was filled with their many medals and trophies and with iris pictures and artifacts. When you saw Mary at a convention or iris show, she always had on a blouse, dress or jacket with irises painted or printed on it. She was a great promoter of Louisiana irises.

Joe Ghio of Bay View Gardens in Santa Cruz, CA, sent the following remarks about his memory of Mary Dunn.

"In 1964 I judged The Sacramento Iris Show and encountered my first Louisiana cultivar: a tall specimen of BLACK WIDOW. This young judge pontificated that the creped appearance obviously meant the bloom was folding." A figure in the back­ground silently fumed her disapproval. After the judging, the figure, Mary Dunn, told this judge he better grow some Louisianas so he knew something of which he spoke.

"From the Carnhan sisters in Sacramento, a col­lection of Louisianas were obtained to educate myself. The sisters were responsible for populariz­ing Louisianas in our area. They were also responsi­ble for saving and ultimately distributing the fine Claude Davis cultivar BLUE SHIELD.

"I had first met Mary Dunn in the Terrell gar­den in Wasco, CA in 1962. From there we visited the Neva Sexton garden a few blocks away. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship

"Mary and Bob's garden in North Highlands (just north of Sacramento) was an eclectic mixture of whatever plant took Mary's fancy at the moment, from ivies to orchids. She grew all types of irises, but she and Bob concentrated on Tall Bearded. But slowly Mary concentrated on the Louisianas, breeding them with ever increasing intensity and success. Her first Louisiana iris introduction was MONUMENT, which became an award winner par excellence and the first of many award winning Louisiana irises. She looked for the unique with garden value. Her latest efforts were to combine the refined form of the John Taylor cultivars with the size typical of her own irises.

"I am growing Mary's re-selects. There are many fine things waiting for release in future years. We will enjoy her efforts, as she did, for many years to come."

Ben Hager of Melrose Gardens in Stockton, Cal­ifornia sent this information about Mary Dunn and her garden. Ben, who hybridized all types of irises and won many AIS Awards, named one of his Louisianas for her. This iris, MARY DUNN, won the Mary Swords DeBaillon Medal in 1977 when Mary was just beginning to hybridize Louisiana irises.

"Mary Dunn and her husband Bob have through the years brought to market some very beautiful and important irises from their seedling beds. That is not so astonishing since it has come from many another diligent and devoted iris breeder, but in the case of Mary and Bob there is an astonishing feature — that is the limited garden area within which this was accomplished.

"The garden was Mary and Bob's garden but it was Mary who spent most of her time developing and caring for it. Bob worked at a military base so a great deal of his time was spent in that effort — but not all until he retired. But the size of the garden, or perhaps it should be said, gardens, was limited to their small back yard (of a small city lot) and part of the equally small back yard of a cooperating neighbor. For a time there was a part of a third neighbor's small back yard and it was there that I remem­ber a densely planted, floriferous seedling bed of Louisiana irises. From there the Louisianas were transferred to their much smaller front yard, after the elimination of shrubs, lawn and a tree or two!

"Nor was the entire area of the back yard dedi­cated to seedlings. Centrally located raised beds grow named Tall Bearded, Median and selected Louisiana and Tall Bearded seedlings. A large, more or less, sunken bed set aside for Japanese irises and, of all things, daffodils. Fence and founda­tion beds overflow with Louisianas, spurias, Pacifi­cas and various non-iris plants.

"Where did Mary and Bob grow all their seedlings? It is difficult to remember, but they had to be there! Bob did Tall Bearded irises. Mary did Tall Bearded also, but the Louisiana were hers alone and she produced no ordinary varieties among these beautiful irises that were so far from their home in the swamps of Louisiana and all along the shores of the Mississippi River. Her Louisiana irises regularly accumulated the highest awards, such as the DeBaillon for MONUMENT, RHETT and BAJAZZO. Mary's COUP D'ETAT and BAYOU MYSTIQUE were the runners-up for the DeBaillon Medal in 1997."

NOTE: This article first appeared in the "SLI Newsletter", Winter 1997 edition.