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The following diagram shows the various parts of the bearded iris flower.

To begin the process the pollen from the stamens of one variety is transferred to the stigmatic lips of another variety.  The easiest way is to remove the stamen with a pair of tweezers and then rub it over the three stigmatic lips of the receiving flower.  The pollen resembles white powder and usually transfers easily to the receiving flower – you will notice that some stamens do not always have pollen.   It is best to choose the freshest possible flowers and preferably pollinate early in the mornings and make several crosses as fertilisation can be spasmodic at best and you will find that a percentage of your crosses do not come to anything.

Label the crosses you have made (we tie a “ribbon” of plastic at the base of the pollinated flower which has a number written on it, then record the number and relevant details of the “parents”  -mother (receiving flower) x father (pollen) - in a book, together with date the cross was made, etc).

The flower will die as usual but do not break off the spent bloom.   If you have had success, you will notice some swelling at the base of the flower (ovary) after about a week.  This swelling will continue to grow to approximately a walnut size growth, with the seeds ripening after 2-3 months, when the pod begins to split.   There are varying schools of thought about when to plant the seeds – some people plant the seeds immediately after harvesting the pod, others wait for cooler weather (autumn) as it is vital that the seeds be kept moist at all times in order to germinate.  If you leave the planting until autumn you will need to soak the seeds in water for about a week (changing the water each day) to reconstitute the seed.  The germinating seeds resemble blades of grass and should be planted out into the ground the following spring in order to maximise growth and hopefully produce flowers the following year, so it is either two or three years from crossing to flowering.

As far as what colours to cross, this is all a matter of personal choice.  Some people breed in the hope of producing a specific colour or mix of colours, others for beard colour, some for rebloom etc etc – it is a matter of personal choice.   Breeding from your own crosses and seeing a particular trait develop is particularly satisfying.  Of course it often happens that you think you have made what on paper would appear to be a really interesting cross to find that you have produced an extremely ordinary  flower – oh well, all the more for the compost heap!


Article - courtsey of  Yarrabee Iris Gardens




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Last modified: 30/4/2010.