KEEP CALM GROW IRIS (Kanarowski 2021), TB, Mid-Late, 34”

KEEP CALM GROW IRIS (Kanarowski 2021), TB, Mid-Late, 34”

THIS STORY WILL START …. at the beginning

First off, I imagine you’ll want to know more about the peculiar iris name …. KEEP CALM GROW IRIS.  Well, unless you spent 2020 in a coma, you know that 2020 was the year that much of the world seemed to go crazy.  People spontaneously began to act like they had escaped from the set of the “Twilight Zone.”  There were major catalysts like Covid and the Presidential elections …. plus a lot more.  But in the end, a single unifying reason for the spontaneous outburst of mass craziness hasn’t been revealed.

So why KEEP CALM GROW IRIS?  2020 wasn’t the first time in history that an otherwise stable civilization got up-ended.  An experience with several similarities began in 1939 in pre-war Great Britain.   In 1939, the Ministry of Information produced a series of publicity posters …. including the simply worded, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”   The slogan/posters were intended to “Strengthen moral” in anticipation of various wartime disasters that were soon to befall Britain.  The motivation was “To bring out the best in everyone” and “To put the general population in an offensive mode.”  (Americans certainly got a lot more “offensive” in 2020.)

It is assumed that the posters helped to re-directed the concerns of the populous.  So, could a simple flower garden do the same for us?  Here is some evidence.

Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing” is a common form of relaxation and medicine in Japan. Studies demonstrate that being in the forest and walking among the trees lowers your stress levels.  The effects are so powerful that this practice is now government-endorsed policy in Japan.  But you don’t have to live near a forest.  Research has shown that immersion in nature (or in a flower garden or iris field) has the same effect.

Why …. Go on?

Surprisingly, there are many positive things to say about this semi-inconspicuous creation.  So let’s begin.

1.  OUTSTANDING …. growth characteristics

Plant a selection of one dozen roses or fruit trees and the result will often be:  2 died, 3 just sat there, 3 performed satisfactory, 2 were good performers and the remaining 2 performed outstandingly …. giving you more joy than you expected.  As most Irisarians have experienced, our flower of choice can perform similarly.

This is the first time that I have ever made this statement.  KEEP CALM GROW IRIS is one of the single best-performing iris cultivars that I have ever produced.  Whenever and wherever I have planted it, this one always grows and performs spectacularly.  When I walk through a mixed planting of iris, I can invariably identify KEEP CALM GROW IRS simply because my eye automatically travels to its superior plant growth.  I sometimes laugh at myself, because I routinely identify this cultivar without even glancing at the plant tag names beforehand.

By the way, superior plant growth is not to be confused with producing an excessive number of increase.  Per the Handbook for Judges, pg. 56, “A plant should produce three to five increase per year.  If it does not (produce within this range), it should lose most of the 15 points.”

Superior plant growth is a robust plant that grows vigorously and is in good health.  It will THRIVE under good cultural conditions with attractive foliage but without pampering.  It will bloom reliably for two or more weeks on a stalk with good strength and proportions.

Most iris lovers don’t know this but the PLANT (30 pts.) and the STALK (35 pts.) are evaluated by certified iris judges to be even more important than the actual FLOWER (25 pts.)  Without a good plant and a good stalk, the flower cannot be displayed properly.  (The remaining 10 out of the possible 100  points are reserved for flower distinctiveness …. more on that point below.)

2.  Emma Cook …. you may have heard of it, but what exactly is it?

The Emma Cook iris pattern is often spoken of in higher iris circles.  But I can  never remember seeing the term precisely defined.  With my accumulated facts to date, here is my current working definition.

An Emma Cook patterned iris would be a lighter colored self iris, most often white, with a well defined fall rim of a darker color.  A good and familiar, poster-child example would be the Dykes Medal winner, Queen’s Circle.  Registered simply as a white self with a dark blue edge.  The effect is to present a clean yet much more interesting flower …. as attested by it’s medal status.  But white isn’t the only color to work with.  Now there’s a clue.

Another thing that can be said about this beautiful pattern is that the iris world still doesn’t have very many pure Emma Cook patterned iris.  This special color class is under-represented which gives it a much higher level of distinctiveness.

In the iris breeding world, we find that there are two, much-loved colors, that have recessive genes …. the colors orange and pink.  So iris of these two colors are more difficult to develop and much less often observed in the seedling patch.  Without hardly thinking …. putting two and two together …. an orange or pink Emma Cook patterned iris would therefore be quite rare today.  You are correct.  They are.

3.  Enter ….Roger Duncan

I will miss Roger Duncan for reasons that you might not think of.  A spring has never gone by in the past 25 years, where I didn’t visit the remarkable, Rick Tasco & Rodger Duncan, Superstition Iris Garden at least twice.  Roger always made the 40 minute, down-hill drive well worth the effort.  Many of Roger’s “off the cuff” anecdotes were like little iris treasures.  Take this one …. “We don’t like orange iris because they’re all the same …. orange selfs.”

For a budding hybridizer, looking for a new focus for his breeding program, a comment as deceptively simple as this has great potential.  So, I paid close attention to what Roger had said and invariably my thinking process would begin.  I thought, “Well, how about an orange Emma Cook iris?  Wouldn’t that create a new look?  It just might work.”  And, as I’ve discovered in actual practice …. it does work!

Roger could always be counted on to say things that sounded inconspicuously simple, yet were profound.  And I don’t think that he even realized it half of the time.

Knowing his views on iris as well as I did, I think that Roger would have loved this particular re-created orange.

KEEP CALM GROW IRIS.  A pumpkin orange self with an attractive toasted-rose fall band.  Simple, elegant …. Emma Cook.

4.  SIZE ….Matters

Many of today’s iris buyers assign extra value to a large flowered iris …. if for no other reason than it’s size.  Given two similar iris, the larger will almost always garner more attention than the smaller.  So the market appears to be moving more toward larger and larger flowers.

I’m sure that everyone can figure out which plant has the largest flowers.  But the official way to measure the width of an iris flower is determined by ”Measuring, in the natural position, from center fall tip to center fall tip.”  And while I’m at it, the “Height is measured on the vertical from the highest point of the standards to the lowest point of the falls.”

Measuring as much as 7 inches in width, KEEP CALM GROW IRIS will be one of your largest and therefore one of you’re more desirable flowers on that point alone.

THE RESULTS …. are in!

As promised near the beginning of this discussion …. with 4 major taking points outlined above …. there are many positive yet semi-inconspicuous things to say about this new introduction.

So let’s move on.

BASIC FLOWER DESCRIPTION ….  the facts and figures please

TB, 34”, Mid-Late

STANDARDS:  pumpkin

STYLE ARMS:  pumpkin

FALLS:  pumpkin with half-inch wide and well-defined toasted rose band

BEARD:  sizeable and brilliant, fully saturated tangerine-red (with the emphasis on red)

EXTRA’S …. lot’s of extra’s

Modern pumpkin-orange, Emma Cook banded self, clear colors; Deceptively simple and yet elegant;

Ultra Clean with no visible haft marks; Beard robust and complementary; Fall Shape pleasingly orbicular;

Form perfectly modern and highly desirable; Hafts significantly overlapping; Diamond dusted;

Fall Position semi-flared, ruffled and pleated; Branching Quality very good; Curb Appeal very good;

Flower Size usually large; Stem Strength and Proportions good; Height 34” which could be taller;

Overall Proportions great; Bud Count primarily double socketed with an occasional triple terminal;

Highest Bud Count Observed 7; Stem To Increase Ratio usual 1 to 4 but can have extra stalks;

Substance very good; Sunfast and Heat Tolerant yes; Breeding To Date good, vibrant pollen only;

Plant Vigor exceptional; Fragrance slight, sweet; Attention getting beauty; Distinctive sparse color class



This is one of the few flowers that keeps calling me back and grabbing my attention again and again.

AND WHAT DOES …. she say?

One of the final authorities around my house as to what to introduce …. or not …. is my wife.  Here’s a little secret.  She normally doesn’t like the color orange so, imagine my reaction to her 4-word summary:  “It’s a gorgeous flower.”  I think she was right.

This one is both 20% different and 20% better.  A true Iris From The Future.


Pictures seem to be quite accurate.  This one is fairly easy to photograph and the majority of its flowers are picture perfect and nicely displayed.

Seedling #0660: Tijuana Taxi x #0603  

Seedling #0603 derived from a line of saved seedlings going back to my earliest years as a hybridizer.  It’s linage includes:  Phasers On Stun, Starring, Gypsy Woman and Conjuration

Two rhizomes:  $65