GLADIATORS GET OUCHIES (Kanarowski 2018), TB, M-L, 37”

FRACTURED FACTS …. from history

With a name like Fred, you’d have to guess that the story of this particular gladiator is going to be a little different.  Battered, bruised, bleeding and bandaged; such was the brutal life of the involuntary Roman gladiator.  However Fred was rather odd to be in this profession.  True to form, he bled and bruised normally …. note the copper-red standards and falls (suggesting blood), plus the large orchid-violet zonal (suggesting bruising). 

But, Fred was a bit wimpy …. actually a lot wimpy.  He was abundantly prone to nicks, cuts, scrapes, scratches, splinters, sprains, rashes, slashes, bite marks, poison ivy, punctures, thorns, insect bites, sunburn, heat stroke, headaches, and bee stings.   So Fred was a gladiator, just not a very good one.  He made no secret that he was afraid of heights, fearful of spiders, terrified of snakes and was hopelessly claustrophobic …. or so it seemed.  Had there been airplanes in that day …. well …. you’re getting the picture now.  Apparently …. GLADIATORS GET OUCHIES.

Once on the training field or in the actual arena of combat, one or more of his shortcomings inevitably kicked in. Because there were so many possibilities, you could never determine exactly why Fred always gave up and just sat down …. a pattern that was repeated in each and every match.

So why keep a guy around that was so easily incapacitated by everyday ouchies?

REVISIT I LOVE LUCY …. remember the neighbors, Fred and Ethel Mertz?

Actually, Fred the gladiator was much like Fred Mertz in the outrageously successful, 'I Love Lucy' sitcom.  While primarily playing the role of a penny-pincher, Fred Mertz was also cast as a quiet, kind, gentlemanly and loveable old guy.  Both Fred’s were well-liked by their immediate peers.  So the other gladiators adopted the habit of looking out for him and just tolerated his many shortcomings.

As you will see, they didn’t really understand him.  But how can you sincerely dislike a guy that never actually intended to hurt you or anyone else .... and listed Pepto-Bismol as his beverage of choice?

IN THE ARENA ….  things were not the same

But in the arena, in front of the blood-thirsty crowds of that era, IT WAS DIFFERENT.  Actually, it was MUCH different.  In the arena, Fred the gladiator was viciously hated and intensely despised.  After all, no Roman worth his salt would have any use for such a wimp, a wuss, a weakling, a sissy or a quitter.  It wasn’t the Roman way.  If one was going to die …. die gloriously on your feet.  The vengeful crowd saw Fred as an embarrassment and a blatant disgrace to the gladiatorial sport …. not even worthy of being in the same arena with their favorite champions.

Before long, larger and larger curious crowds started attending the amphitheater events just to see how long it took “Fred The Wimp” …. as he was then called …. to quit.  So inclined, the very moment that he entered the ring, the crowd immediately broke into a rabid, riotous uproar.  Obscenities were yelled, insults were shouted, and wagers were placed over his elapsed time …. QUITTING TIME!  If hate was paint, it would have been visible everywhere.  So intense their hatred, the riotous crowd was difficult to maintain, even for the Roman guard.  In retrospect, it was probably a very good thing that “Fred The Wimp” was separated from the inflamed crowd …. otherwise things would have gotten a lot uglier.

THE THIRD HAND SIGNAL …. just for Fred

Prior to Fred, there were two separate hand signals that the crowd routinely used at the conclusion of every match.   Thumbs Up meant approval; the combatant would be spared. Thumbs Down, the opposite; a sentence to die.  No one can recall who started using a third hand signal.  When Fred quit as usual ….. the entire amphitheater crowd of 50,000 simultaneously came to their feet, raised their hands and pointed to the exit …. thus ordering him to leave the arena while simultaneously yelling in near-deafening unison …. “MAN UP!  MAN UP!  MAN UP!  MAN UP!”  

Bowing to the unanimity of the crowd, Fred lifted himself up from his slumped position and slowly walked through the open gate …. head held low.  But …. but if you looked very closely …. he actually had a broad smile and a wide, sneaky smirk on his face.  He knew …. HE WAS STILL ALIVE!  Yes, he was still alive while the majority of his comrades had died or would soon meet their fate.    

We don’t actually know any more about Fred’s life except for what was discovered marked on his headstone; which included for the first time, his entire true name:  “Frederick Maximus .... Longest Lived Gladiator …. Died of Natural Causes …. age 64.”

The inscription was followed by 6 additional words that correctly summarized his life: 

                                STRONGER than few ….

                                                SMARTER than all ….

GLADIATORS GET OUCHIES …. Formal description

TB, 37“, M-L

STANDARDS: copper-red blend throughout

STYLE ARMS: copper-red-bronze

FALLS: copper-red blend, large orchid-vio zonal marked with discrete cream centerline & copper-red veining

BEARD: white base tipped golden-orange

FINE TUNING …. Not-to-be overlooked attributes

ü  Beautiful, vibrant color combination (copper-red and orchid) not seen in the traditional red-self iris

ü  Modern orbicular form, touching hafts; good proportions; no serious weaknesses noted

ü  Attractively flared falls; clean, observable golden-orange beard; every flower is picture perfect

ü  Minimal fading with age and heat; rhythmic artistic pie crust ruffles (see photo below)

ü  As many as 10 buds; frequent triple sockets and an occasional quadruple at the terminal position

ü  Average of one stem and 3 increase per each fall planted rhizome; slight musky fragrance

ü  Breeds both ways but is easier to set seed; diamond dusted; well liked by many garden visitors

     …. Unforgettable!


Like most hybridizers, I have been working with red iris for many years but had never produced a seedling that I thought was 20% better or different from the usual fare.  Who wants the same-old, not-really-a-red iris with only slight variation?   Happily, GLADIATORS GET OUCHIES changed all that.

In it’s maiden year, a sibling to seedling #0503 looked like the superior choice.  But to my pleasant surprise, in every subsequent year …. seedling #0503 looked better …. while its sibling looked worse.  So just as in real life, the prettiest baby doesn’t always go on to become the homecoming prince.

GLADIATORS GET OUCHIES …. an Iris From The Past as well as From The Future.


All pictures are quite accurate.  This beauty is a pleasure to photograph.

Seedling #0503:  Spooktacular X Why Cows Gossip

Two rhizomes:  $55