Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pete DeSantis - SFVIS Hybridizer

Pete at Portland AIS Convention 2006
Pete at Portland AIS Convention 2006
Pete DeSantis was born February 28, 1917 in the town of Long Branch, New Jersey to Italian parents, who were avowed gardeners.

His father grew tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, all salad plants and pole beans. His mother had her own flower garden with all types of flowers including iris. In those days iris were called blue flags and one could only find blue, white and yellow iris.

As a child, Pete loved to work in the garden, helping his father and mother. He also liked to read all types of books. His favorite was about Luther Burbank, who was a hybridizer of fruits and vegetables. Burbank’s work fascinated him.

Pete’s first gardening experience started when his father gave him a small plot of land and told him that he could plant anything he wanted. Pete chose to plant popcorn. The popcorn plants grew tall and plentiful and it was a big success.

Several years later Pete served in the U.S. Army for four years during World War II, including eleven months on Okinawa, Japan. Even after returning to New Jersey, his heart was still on California where he had spent time training in Camp Santa Anita before going overseas. Pete finally returned to California where he married Frances, who unknown to Pete was also an avowed gardener. He purchased a home in Reseda with a nice backyard and started a garden.

Pete and Fran were invited by her sister (also an iris grower) to an iris show at the Los Angeles Botanical Gardens. There were all types, colors and arrangements of iris, and as of that moment they were hooked. They went home and planted all the iris they had purchased.

In the early 70’s through Fran’s sister, Pete and Fran joined the Southern California Iris Society and that started what Pete called “the wonderful world of iris.” They also joined a new Iris Society in the San Fernando Valley, closer to their home in Reseda, where they attended all the functions and activities. Later they became officers.

Before becoming a hybridizer Pete first participated in the artistic arrangements section of the annual iris shows. At one of the first shows they attended, Pete and Fran saw an iris arrangement. In Pete’s opinion, it was awful and in a loud voice said to Fran, “it was an awful arrangement.” Unbeknownst to Pete, the woman who made the arrangement was next to him and in an unfriendly voice said, “I suppose you can do better?” Pete replied that he had never made an arrangement, but that he thought he could. Being a fierce competitor, he started looking up books on flower arrangements and at the next show he entered seven arrangements. To his amazement, he won best of show, sweepstakes, and best theme. The woman (who later became a good friend) said to him, “you don’t have to get so mad that you win everything.”

Pete later gave up arrangements and let Fran take over so he could focus on the horticulture section and hybridizing of irises. Since the late 70’s to early 90’s Pete received 14 silver medals, 13 bronze medals, 3 queens of shows, hundreds of ribbons, and a show case full of trophies. He also hybridized and introduced 12 irises. The most well known Tall Bearded Iris Pete has introduced is Schoonchee, named after his grand daughter. Pete also introduced the following Spuria Irises: Franakins, Hasarya, and Hocka Hoona.

Spuria Iris Franikins (DeSantis 1995)

Spuria Iris Hasarya (DeSantis 1999)

Spuria Iris Hocka Hoona (DeSantis 1999)

Frances has passed away and Pete at age 91 does not compete, but helps his grand daughters make iris arrangements. He still grows iris and has Spuria and Tall Bearded Iris seedlings, which he continues to work on.

Pete also is a life member of the Southern California Iris Society, the San Fernando Valley Iris Society, and is a member of the Aril Society International, the American Iris Society, the Spuria Iris Society, the Louisiana Iris Society and the AIS Region 15.

Tall Bearded Iris Scoonchee (DeSantis 1997)

Tall Bearded Iris Reseda Moon (DeSantis 2004)

Friday, May 18, 2007

SFVIS Spring Garden Trek 2007 - Karen Sussman's Garden

Karen Sussman's Garden

Tall Bearded Iris Local Color (Keppel 1995)

Who knew? Peonies, yes peonies in L.A.!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Spring Garden Trek 2007 - Zeldin's Garden

Zeldin's Garden

A picture-perfect day for a Garden Trek

Spuria Iris Evening Dress (Ghio 1983)

Tall Bearded Iris No Doubt (Lauer 2004)

Tall Bearded Iris Stairway to Heaven (Lauer 1992)

Tall Bearded Iris Lovely Senorita (Shreiner 2002)

Tall Bearded Iris Changing Seasons (Shreiner 2004)

Spuria Iris Custom Design (Hager 1981)

Rosa Mermaid

Tall Bearded Iris Supreme Sultan (Shreiner 1988)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Spring Garden Trek 2007 - Fred Dragan's Garden

Fred Dragan's Garden

Fred Dragan and Peggy Carpenter

Pete DeSantis

Unknown Tall Bearded Iris

Dykes Medal Winner Tall Bearded Iris Conjuration (Byers 1989)

Tall Bearded Iris Michigan Pride (Berg 1976)

Tall Bearded Iris Vibrations (Dunn 1989)

Tall Bearded Iris Vanity (Hager 1974)

Classified as Tall Bearded Iris Thornbird (Byers 1989)

Judith Gasser

A huge blooming euphorbia

Black Calla or Corpse Flower (don't they call this one stinky plant?)

Spuria Iris Imperial Gold (McCown 1978)

Spuria Iris Janice Chesnik (McCown 1983)

Spring Garden Trek 2007 - Al Denney's Garden

Al Denney has created in the San Fernando Valley, a replica to his house in Manaus, Brazil (center of the Amazon Rain Forest). Many of us who have never been to Al's house were pleasantly surprised by this very unusual garden.

Al Denney's Garden

A proud gardener, Al Denney

Baby hummingbirds were the center of attention

Club members Betty Squires and Pat Tjosaas

Dietes iridioides, or Fortnight Lily (was called Morea, and still is by many gardeners, although it is no longer Morea) has been reclassified as Iridaceae or part of the iris family

There's a house in there somewhere!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Spring Garden Trek 2007 - Carole Kyle's Garden

Carole Kyle's Garden

In the absence of blooms, a picture made a welcomed replacement

Tall Bearded Iris Vibrations (Dunn 1989)

Randy and Mary Anne having a serious conversation

There are many tools in this garden!

Judith Gasser

Pete DeSantis, Peggy Carpenter and Jon Lauritzen

"Yes, there is an iris blooming in this garden!" -- Carole and Harriet