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 Meet Our Hybridizers

Benny Trahan, Sr.

Benny Trahan

Benny Trahan, Sr. resides in Slidell, La., and grows his iris in “The Iris Patch’—the affectionate name by which he refers to his iris garden. 

About 25 years ago, after attending an SLI show (Society for Louisiana Irises) his love of gardening made it easy for him to get hooked and begin the journey into the world of Louisiana Iris. While studying the results of natural crosses made by the bees, his desire was sparked to begin hybridizing. His first registration, “Simply Fantastic”, was a bee pod and, in his own words, what he thought was the best ever at the time. He soon became more selective by choosing specific cultivars to make his own crosses by hand. His goal was to produce quality irises that grow well and are different from what was already in the market.

His accomplishments include many blue, purple, red, and yellow ribbons, as well as metal and crystal vases given as awards. He has also written several articles on Louisiana Irises that have been published.

He is very active in working to restore Native Species Irises to their natural habitats where they have been decimated by salt water incursion and destruction of habitat by draining of swamps for building purposes. Even after 70 years of gardening, his love for it hasn’t diminished one bit. Benny is a life member of SLI and a board member of the GNOIS.

Here are two links to published articles by Benny Trahan.

Joe Musacchia

Joe Musacchia

Joe Musacchia hails from about 60 miles south-east of New Orleans between Houma and Thibodaux. He is a Master Gardener, having completed the program with the LSU Ag Dept. His love of Louisiana Iris started when he began looking for a garden plant that could handle the growing conditions where he lived, such as hot summers, wet cold winters, late freezes, and frequent flooding. His first encounter with them was in 1997 at Bois d Arc Gardens in Shriever, La., and he knew he found what he was looking for.

Joe began hybridizing in 1999, after watching the process of Dorman Haymon and Patrick O’Connor. His first registered and introduced iris was “Pure Water”, which was sent to Japan and New York for the Pacific Flora Exposition.
His goal is to produce a Louisiana iris with ruffles that have good bud placement and will open well in our damp climate. His hope is to produce a nice ruffled red specimen.

Joe’s irises have won awards, such as the AIS (American Iris Society) President’s Cup for “Acadian Sky”, SLI, (Society for Louisiana Iris) Award of Merit for “Choctaw Ridge”, Marie Caillet Cup for “Princess Anna Maria”, “Garden Diva”, “Acadian Sky” and “Mama Janice”.

Patrick O’Connor

Patrick O’Connor

Patrick O’Connor resides in Metairie, LA, a close-in suburb of New Orleans, La.
His interest in Louisiana irises began when he bought a house in Baton Rouge in the mid-1970s. A previous owner had an interest in native plants and had grown I. fulva, one of the Louisiana iris species. Being unfamiliar with red, or wild native irises, he started reading and found a Southern Living article on Louisiana iris that had contact information for Dick Goula and Charles Arny. He visited Dick while in Lafayette about that time, joined SLI and began reading old publications on the irises. In one, he found a reference to Frank Chowning, a Little Rock hybridizer. Little Rock was his original home, and he contacted him on a visit and for a number of years visited him on every trip home. Frank Chowning was a sort of mentor, and he gave him plants to use in a hybridizing program. From there it developed into a lifelong hobby
He made his first crosses in the mid to late 1970s. Those were not successful, so he planted seeds from some bee crosses. Several turned out to be nice, including ‘Feliciana Hills’.

His first registration was ‘Spanish Town’, which has been lost over time. Since the beginning, Patrick has registered about 120 irises.

His first goal is to develop good garden irises. His goal is not refining some particular attribute, but on developing irises that do well in the garden and have good qualities such as good stalks and floriferousness. He likes the multiple forms found in Louisiana irises, including the full, modern irises popular today, but also the flaring, open forms reminiscent of the species that are the heritage of the Hybrids. He said it makes him happy each season to see a new distinctive iris bloom that would make a good candidate for registration and introduction.

Many of his irises have won awards. ‘Deja Voodoo’ won the DeBaillon Medal in 2018. ‘When Pigs Fly’ received the Charles Arny Award in 2019 as the winner of the SLI Popularity Poll. His irises have won the Caillet Cup several times, which is an award voted by those on convention tours. Patrick said gardeners should recognize that there are far more excellent irises on the market than the few that win awards, and like the irises of all hybridizers, a larger number of worthy ones have not been sufficiently noticed.