I have taken a long path to this particular project. When thinking back, I believe it all began with my grandfather. He was a sugarcane farmer living about an hour south of my current home here in South Louisiana. He loved showing me his gardens and fields, teaching me how to drive his tractor, and showing me the ways in which he seemingly grew his plants with so little effort. The most impressive thing I saw was when he showed me how sugarcane was reproduced. He didn’t use seeds. He didn’t buy small plants. He simply saved a portion of the year’s harvest and laid it back into the soil. Sugarcane looks a bit like a bamboo stalk with a large grass growing from its top. When the stalks are cleaned and placed back into the soil, it begins to send up shoots from each node, or section, of the stalk. I was absolutely blown away. He then explained that each new plant would be identical to the plant it grew from. It was at this point that I believe I was hooked.
As I grew up, I got away from the thoughts of plants and farms and lived an adolescence of the average mid-sized city kid. During my first year of high school, I took a Summer short course with my mother at LSU when she wanted to learn a bit about landscape design so that she could remake her backyard. Despite my desires to be elsewhere getting into trouble, I reluctantly learned about ornamental plants and the basics of design. We got to work implementing her plans and I found that I somewhat enjoyed the work and the satisfaction of helping to create a beautiful area with plants .
Years later, as I floated through various areas of discipline at LSU, I found myself studying horticulture and truly found my niche. It all seemed to make sense to me. I learned to appreciate plants for their similarities, differences, and needs. I was always amazed at the sheer quantity of variations and cultivars in a given species. I was impressed with the work that breeders put into creating new, improved, and differing offerings for the public. Most of all, I was excited about the massive industry that handled getting these plants into the hands of the public.
When I finally graduated from LSU, I immediately went to work in the wholesale nursery business. I was technically called a “grower”, but my main task truly involved managing people and supervising processes around my assigned half of the nursery. I lucked out and I was assigned to the propagation portion. That’s where my true interest was. We reproduced and grew out hundreds of varieties of perennial and tropical plants. Virtually all of this propagation was done using ”cuttings”, which are just pieces of a mother plant that are cut from the parent, placed in soil, and carefully maintained until they form roots in order to be further moved into larger pots and sold to retail nurseries. I loved watching the magical process. I loved the art and science of it. It was always a challenge. Every plant type was different. Every change in weather required tweaks to the process. It was great. We used a combination of technology and sheer manpower to do what we did and no day was identical to another. After 5 years, however, I realized that there was no future in being a ”grower” for someone else’s business. It was time to think of the financial needs of my future and move on.
I went back to school and went into the medical field, but maintained my passion for growing plants by purchasing young plants from growers and growing them out for yearly sales at the house and online sales. It was here that I stumbled across newer varieties of Louisiana Iris. Iris were absolutely perfect for selling online. They are easy to grow, hard to kill, and ship easily. Even here in south Louisiana, the local nurseries only carry the older, common varieties, and my supplier opened my eyes to varieties from Kevin Vaughn, Heather Pryor, and Bernard Pryor. They were fantastic. The colors, the forms, and the progress in breeding was something I was completely unaware of in our native iris. I stocked up and sold out repeatedly. I probably sold a few thousand before I went to the source and had a few dozen varieties shipped from Australia. The Pryors had some great things going on and I wanted to start my own breeding program.
By 2012 I had nearly 100 varieties from assorted breeders in the United States and Australia (now Including John Taylor and Peter Jackson). In the Spring of 2013 I went all-in and made about 40 crosses. I patiently grew them out and finally saw the results in the Spring of 2015. Out of the 1000+ seedlings, I saw some definite “keepers” and tossed the rest. I have repeated this process each year in lesser quantities but still had some fair results. I made a large number of crosses again in 2016, but never saw the results of 99% of them, as we sold our home and the purchaser insisted that the large bed of seedlings remain as-is. I managed to save a small group of maybe 8 seedlings from that year, but it was nearly a total loss. I also gave away many pots of seedlings that had never made it into the ground. They were gifted to a group in New Orleans. Some have survived, although the parentage info has understandably been lost. Small groups of crosses have been made since then, but not in large numbers until 2019 And 2020. I expect to see some interesting things in the Spring of 2021 and 2022.
So far, we have registered 14 Louisiana Iris. Mostly from the original 2013 crosses. I have at least 2 more that I plan to register in the Spring when I can get a few more data points, and more still under observation. As always, I do extensive parentage research prior to making crosses and try to focus on particular goals. You will see that I tend to gravitate towards the unusual, but I won’t register an inferior quality plant. I will be adding an offering of “novelty” Louisianas that I believe are out of the realm of “desirability“ for the vast majority of the public, but I feel their traits need to be released so that others can work with them further If desired.
We had a successful first year of shipping in 2020 and look forward to continuing the operation for the near future. I never planned on getting into the business of selling and shipping plants again. I am currently opening this site solely for the purpose of getting our plants out to the public. I have family responsibilities that require my focus. For now we will continue to offer what I believe to be high quality Louisianas in very limited quantities. We appreciate the interest from everybody so far and look forward to serving our customers with the best Louisiana iris we have to offer. Thank you to everybody who has shown an interest in our plants, and a huge thank you to the people who have supported me along this journey.