Friday, August 9, 2013

Historic Tall Bearded Iris GREAT LAKES

Perhaps one of 'thee' most popular Dykes Medal Irises that became equally popular among breeders as a fertile parent. This is one of the few classic looking historic irises in the true light blue colour, grows tall and vigorous and is a must for the back of the ultimate classic Iris display. A truly restful colour that mixes well with modern irises by adding a piece of classic Iris Royalty.

Cooleys Gardens, Silverton, Oregon. Iris Catalog, 1938.
GREAT LAKES (Cousins, 1938)
In our 10 years experience of introducing Iris novelties, we have never placed an Iris in commerce without having seen it.We are making the first exception in this case, for reports from Canada indicate that here, at last is the perfect blue.
"It has all the attributes of a good Iris.............. tall ( 42 inches) and well branched. Color is a light blue, about the same depth of tone as 'Shining Waters' but nearer true blue. Standards are closed, no veining at the haft, and the shape of the flower is excellent. We have been hybridising Iris ever since Vilmorin introduced Ambassadeur and Ballerine, and of many thousands raised this is the first one considered for introduction". So says Lyman Cousins, London, Ontario,the hybridizer.................................Each $10.00

Carl Salbach, Berkeley, California, Iris and Selected Seed Catalog, 1942.
GREAT LAKES (Cousins, 1938)
Clear light blue self of large size and perfect form. Tall, well branched stems. Hardy and vigorous grower. Awarded Dykes medal in 1942. Mid season. 48"

Hill Iris & Peony Farm Lafontaine, Kansas, Irises, Peonies and Hemrocallis catalog, 1945.
GREAT LAKES (Cousins, 1942)
Dykes medal winner for 1942. Flaring, widely branched, ideal blue...................$2.00

Stevens Bros. Bastia Hill Wanganui. Irises 1947-1948 Catalogue.
Novelties 1947-48
GREAT LAKES (Cousins, Canada)
This is the famous Dykes Medallist which was raised in Canada in 1938. Very pure in it's lovely light blue,it is one of the new blues which are becoming so extremely popular in America. The flower is huge, but has such perfect form and balance that one does not feel that it is a giant. Classically formed and flared, the flower is carried with exquisite poise on well branched for foot stems. Very lovely and very blue......................25/-

Schreiner's, Salem,Oregon,  Iris Lovers Catalog 1947.
GREAT LAKES (Cousins, 1938) M., 40"
Winner of the Dykes Medal 1942, this is about our finest light pure blue. Of splendid mien with a pronounced flare, stiff, crispy petal texture it is strikingly fine. Fine stems of good height, well branched. Rugged and hardy, we highly recommend it. Present day pre-eminence and popularity surpass practically every other iris. 

The Iris Yearbook (BIS), 1949.
Bearded Irises in Blue Shades, C. P. Raffill.
This Iris is one of our greatest and finest varieties in spite of the fact that it is 11 years since it was put on the market. It won the coveted Dykes medal in the USA in 1942, and has been in the first three of the American Hundred Borest Iris symposium in most years since. Constitutionally it is most vigorous, it is perfectly hardy and free flowering and thrives in most types of soil. The flowers are a shade of Cambridge blue, the falls being knitted with a darker tint. This character is a dominant one in its progeny. The flowers of great Lakes are of green substance, with perfect poise and balance.

Fairmont Gardens, Lowell, Massachusetts,Irises, Hemerocallis, Hostas, Poppies, 1950.
GREAT LAKES (Cousins, 1938) M.
Clear in color, and with ideal form and carriage this iris is one of the best in the light blue class. The standards are firm and roundly domed. The falls are very flaring.  Dykes Medal in 1942. HM A.I.S. 1938, AM., A.I.S. 1940;  40in.

Tells Iris Gardens, 691 8th North, Provo, Utah, 1951 Iris Catalog and Hybridizers Handbook.
GREAT LAKES (Cousins, 1938) M. (Domonion seedling X Conquistador seedling) Quality blue that has been widely used as a parent and with great success. Dykes Medal '42....................................$ .75

Lyons Iris Gardens, Van Nuys, California. Lyons Irisland, Iris and Hemerocallis for 1951
GREAT LAKES (Cousins, 1938)
1942 Dykes Medal winner. A striking pure, clear medium light blue. One of the bluest and best. Its stately flaring form and crisp heavy texture give this Iris an above average keeping quality. Excellent in every way. Mid-season. 38"

Edenwald Gardens, Vincennes, Indiana. Iris, Summer and Fall, 1959.
GREAT LAKES (Cousins, 1938) M 42"
Crisp and flaring light blue, rugged and hardy. Bold in flower and foliage, of stately height and perfect branching. Dykes Medal, 1942.

Marble Iris Gardens, Grandview, Washington. Iris Colorama Catalog, 1961.
GREAT LAKES (Cousins, 1938) M., 44"
An Iris that comes from Canada near the Great Lakes and is a hardy,tall, medium blue of very pure colour. The flowers are of perfect form, good texture and on strong, well branched stems. Winner of H.M. in 1938, A.M. in 1940, Dykes medal in 1942. Number one Iris in the A.I.S. symposium for four years and now in the Hall of Fame.

Irises, Judith M. Berrisford, Choosing your Irises.
GREAT LAKES (Cousins, 1938) 48", M.
A very popular Iris still. 'Great Lakes' is perfect in form and habit, with size and quality that make it the perfect back row plant. A healthy Iris and a fine grower.

The Tall Bearded Iris, Nicholas Moore, Chapter seven, Blue Irises.
But the real beginning  of blues as we know them came in 1938 with the introduction of GREAT LAKES from Canada. This plant,raised by L.W. Cousins, proved a great success from the first. A magnificent grower, its flowers of mid-blue were considered blue than those of ALINE (Stern 1933), and it was of magnificent form, texture and substance. It subsequently had a great influence as a breeder...........Encouraged by the advent of GREAT LAKES, and in many cases using it as a parent, a number of American raises devoted themselves to the breeding of blues and whites ( the two usually go together), and, though the progress towards real blue has been slow, a number of great irises have been raised.

THE TALL BEARDED IRIS, Nicholas Moore, Chapter six, Yellow Irises - See more at:

The World of Irises, Chapter 4, Tall Bearded Irises, Keith Keppel, Melba B Hamblen.
The exact pedigree of Great Lakes it is not known. Registration records indicate that came from seedlings of Dominion and of Conquistador. The hybridise acknowledged that his records were incomplete and that the unrecorded portion of the pedigree could have been either named varieties or seedlings. Crusader and/or the lavender bitone Lady Foster could have been involved. Regardless of its precise lineage, Great Lakes was an important breeder. Great Lakes with Missouri yielded Chivalry for Jesse Wills- across of two Dykes medal winners had produced a third winner. Other first generation Great Lakes derivatives include, Sylvia Murray, Distance, Keane Valley, and Blue Valley, the latter two varieties serving as the basis for the famous Kenneth Smith line of blues.
Graves crossed Sensation and Gloriole; the resultant pale lavender blue Cloud Castle crossed with Purissima, produced Helen McGregor. Helen McGregor crossed with a seedling of Great Lakes and Pale Moonlight, gave Jane Phillips. Another famous blue line had began.

AIS Checklist 1939
GREAT LAKES TB-M-B1L. (Cousins,1938 ). Cooleys 1938, R. 1938, (Domonion x ............. X Conquistador x .................), HM., 1938. ☐ M.

 As usual, clicking the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.
 Photo credit and copyright Iris Hunter. 


  1. Are these available for purchase anywhere?

    1. Not sure where you live but if you live in the US of A try Winterberry Iris Gardens


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