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Hybridizer Carl Salbach(1870-1962) Berkeley, California, USA

*Carl Salbach Retires* Salbach

Roy OLIPHANT, Calif.

Bulletin #156(Jan. 1960), pp 15-19.

On October 1, 1959, Carl Salbach celebrated his eighty-ninth birthday in his garden in the Berkeley hills above San Francisco Bay. In the thirty-five years that have elapsed since he issued his first small iris catalog, he has won many of the awards that the iris world has had to offer. With his retirement from an active role as a nurseryman it is time, perhaps, to pause and look back over the contributions that he has made to horticulture and, particularly, to the iris. Carl did not win the Dykes Medal, though there are those of us who believe that his Lady Mohr well deserved the honor. Neither did he make that other mark of distinction, the front cover of "Time," though one of his irises, Radiant, was used by the magazine as an example of what that admirable race, the English, concerned itself with in one of the intervals between wars. He did receive the American Iris Society's Gold Medal (1944) for achievement in hybridizing and the Foster Memorial Plaque (1948) of The Iris Society (England). He has, too, a roomful of cups and trophies won by his dahlias and gladiolus as well as both the Gold Medal (1945) of The New England Gladiolus Society for his work in hybridizing gladiolus and the Achievement Award (1948) of the North American Gladiolus Council for "meritorious work in promoting and bettering gladiolus."

Carl's interest in flowers was too great to be confined to one alone, though the iris came to be closest to his heart. His early hybridizing was with the dahlia and gladiolus, and by 1919 his fine dahlia, Mrs. Carl Salbach, had received a gold medal and a Trial Garden Certificate of Merit. Many other fine dahlias and gladiolus were to follow. Salbach introduced forty-four first-line Tall Bearded or oncobred irises. (He listed, in three of his catalogs, a total of eighteen others that he felt were too good to discard but which were not quite good enough to match the high standards set by the others. Nine of these were sold only as part of a set). Of the forty-four, twenty won Honorable Mention and six of these went on to win the Award of Merit-a respectable record for a country boy.

From the first, and at a time when much hit-or-miss hybridization was being done, Carl firmly believed in the value of planned hybridizing. His Lady Mohr, for example, was the result of a direct campaign to breed a light-colored "Mohr" iris from Capitola. The pod parent was chosen both for its form and color and for its proven ability to yield seedlings from "hard to take" crosses. The results he obtained show the value of this planning. Beyond his introductions, he has won the affection and respect of the iris growing world for his keen and sustained interest in helping others-running the gamut from grass-green amateurs through beginning hybridizers to harassed show chairmen. For this he will long be remembered. He has introduced the creations of a number of hybridizers. Essig, Rees, Jory, Reinelt, and Brehm are the first five that come to mind. In addition, Sydney Mitchell introduced his own and William Mohr's irises through the Salbach Gardens.

Carl Salbach was born on a ranch near Stockton, California, in 1870. After finishing high school he served as the local Deputy County Clerk for seven years before moving on to a field that was to absorb much of his interest for many years: the selling of typewriters. He worked for, managed, and owned typewriter companies in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In 1922, while living in Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco, his growing interest in horticulture became too much for the typewriter business, and Carl issued his first plant catalog, devoted to dahlias and gladiolus. Not long before this he had been introduced to the modern Tall Bearded iris, and the introduction not only bowled him over but also made a confirmed enthusiast out of him. By 1924 he had accumulated enough iris stock to venture a small iris catalog in addition to the annual dahlia-gladiolus one. This catalog listed only eighty-nine varieties, many of them European in origin, but including nine of William Mohr's creations.

In the meantime, Professor Sydney B. Mitchell had established his Campos Altos Iris Gardens on the tip of a ridge back of Berkeley, one thousand feet above The Bay. The Professor found, however, that operation of a commercial iris establishment left him too little time for the hybridizing that he delighted in as a relaxation from his academic duties, and so, in 1925 he sold four and a half acres of land and his commercial stock to his friend, Carl Salbach. Salbach moved his office to the new Woodmont Avenue address in July of 1925, and the catalog of that year is of particular interest. Professor Mitchell, in his inimitable style, introduced Carl Salbach to the former Campos Altos customers. The number of iris listed had grown to two hundred and twenty-four, and twenty-three of these were Mohr varieties. Chief among them was that year's introduction, the fabulous William Mohr plants, offered at fifty dollars apiece.

The years passed swiftly for Carl and his reputation in the iris world kept pace. He and his son Edward, toured the iris-growing centers of the United States, and his list though never an extensive one, always offered the best. In 1933 he listed his first three iris introductions: Gold Cup, (an unregistered) variegata; Tioga, a velvety blue-violet; Yellow Pearl, a large yellow plicata. In 1933 his first iris to receive an award, Eleanor Blue, was introduced. 1933 also found him adding a select list of seeds to his catalogs; many of these were unusual. He introduced Reinelt's strain of delphiniums which was to become world-famous as the Pacific Hybrids. Seed of Sydney Mitchell's new hybrid brooms (Cytisus) was listed as was Frank McCoy's Santa Maria Inn strain of Iceland┬Ě poppies, and the Nichol Scotch strain of helianthemums. Salbach had taken out the first plant patent to be awarded to a gladiolus, on October 3, 1933, for his gladiolus Golden Goddess. In all, he patented some six of the many gladiolus that he introduced, and these patents had been so satisfactory that in 1939, upon the introduction of Clara Rees' Snow Flurry and his own Deep Velvet, he announced that he was applying for patents on these two and that they were to be sold subject to patent rights. For some reason, perhaps because of the difficulty in controlling the patents, he never went through with his plan. If he had done so, they would have been the first irises to receive this protection.

Carl had married Ella Stockwall in 1900 and their only child, Edward, was born in Los Angeles in 1907. Edward grew up to take as keen an interest in iris as his father. He had become well known in his own right and was beginning to assume an important share in the management of the Salbach Gardens at the time of his tragic death, in an automobile accident, in 1939. In 1940 Salbach introduced Frank Reinelt's Capitola-an iris that had so disappointed Reinelt that he thought of throwing it away! In 1944 Carl was awarded the American Iris Society's Medal For Achievment In Hybridizing. Cited were Golden Majesty, Deep Velvet, Brunhilde, Eleanor Blue, Radiant, Lighthouse, Bronzino, and Monadnock. In 1945 Carl discontinued the commercial growing of dahlias due to a shortage of labor and a lack of growing space. 1950 marked the last year that he issued a gladiolus catalog. Here again, the impossibility of getting responsible help to grow the bulblets to maturity forced the decision. In 1945 and 1946 Carl had the pleasure of introducing Sydney Mitchell's new series of plicatas for which the Professor coined the term "fancies." 1952 marked the last Salbach introduction, Gold Dust. To bring things full circle, it was again a yellow (yellow and gold) plicata. He did not stop hybridizing, however, and in 1956 won Region 14's Seedling Cup with a fine ruffled chartreuse-yellow Tall Bearded. This he finally decided not to introduce.

Carl Salbach's own three favorites among his introductions are Lady Mohr, Oriental Glory, and Gold Dust. His interest was not confined to the Tall Bearded and the oncobreds. He grew and offered many types of iris. One of his introductions, Phillippine Mahogany (1942) was listed as a Dwarf. He found time to explore the possibilities of hybridizing the bulbous Dutch iris. By using pollen of Iris fontanesii from Sydney Mitchell's garden on his own collection of Dutch varieties, Carl raised a fine dark, rich purple, named National Velvet and introduced by the Oregon Bulb Farms. This same firm introduced another of Salbach's Dutch irises, Edward Salbach. A story (and a true one) that amuses Carl was that of a representative from Holland of the Dutch bulb growers who, visiting the Salbach garden, discovered a small patch of Carl's unintroduced Dutch iris hybrids, totaling about six varieties. Carl was asked if he would sell them and, more to end the discussion than anything else, replied that they were for sale for that day only and that the price was one thousand dollars. The tables were turned on Carl when the Dutch representative handed him a check for that amount.

Carl is now subdividing his acreage, as homes are beginning to press in on the hills. It seems a great loss to those of us who remember the many fine things that came from his gardens and who remember the beauty of the gardens themselves with their fields of iris, the banks of wildlings, the great bushes of fragrant rhododendrons, the superb spectacle of the flowering cherries in full bloom and who, above all, remember Carl in his garden.

Won Hybridizer Award 1944

List of registrations: (Note; "Not introduced" does not mean an Iris never got into circulation but that the registrar did not recieve the documentation of introduction)

Arilbred: 'Lady Mohr', 'Miss Muffet',

Intermediate Bearded: ´╗┐ 'Berkeley Blue', 'Copper Orange', 'Pink Jewel', 'Rose Pearl', 'Spring Delight'.

Miniature Dwarf Bearded: 'Philippine Mahogany'.

Tall Bearded: 'Ace of Spades', 'Amber Gem', 'Berkeley Ace', 'Berkeley Bronze', 'Berkeley Cream', 'Berkeley Dawn', 'Berkeley Elegance'. 'Berkeley Evening', 'Berkeley Festival', 'Berkeley Fire', 'Berkeley Gold', 'Berkeley Nugget', 'Berkeley Queen', 'Berkeley Sunshine', 'Brilliant Amber', 'Bronze Beacon', 'Bronzino', 'Brown And Gold', 'Brown Boy', 'Brunhilde', 'Bugle Call', 'California Peach', 'California Rose', 'China Rose', 'Chippewa', 'Cinnamon Bear', 'Comstock', 'Dark Knight', 'Dartmouth', 'Dawn of Gold', 'Deep Velvet', 'Desert Skies', 'Diablo', 'Discovery', 'Eleanor Blue', 'Fluffy Ruffles', 'Gay Senorita', 'Giridlian's Choice', 'Golden Majesty', 'Gold Dust', 'Gold Top', 'Happy Gift', 'Hapsburg', 'Harlem', 'Hartford', 'Harvard', 'Haverhill', 'Hawaii', 'Honey Chile', 'Ignacite' 'Indian Love Call', 'Lighthouse', 'Lilac Lady', 'Lotus', 'Lucerne', 'Lucida', 'Magic Melody', 'Midnight Glow', 'Miss California', 'Miss Oakland', 'Miss Sally', 'Monadnock', 'Moon Mist', 'Natoma', 'Neon', 'Old Rose', 'Orange Flame', 'Orchid Lady', 'Oriental Glory', 'Pacific Sunset', 'Princeton', 'Radiant', 'Radiant Knight', 'Red Lion', 'Rosy Ruffles', 'Sultan's Robe', 'Sutter's Gold', 'Tioga', 'Tipo Red', 'Top Score', 'Tower of Jewels', 'Vienna', 'White Sails', 'Yale', 'Yellow Pearl'.

-- Main.RPries - 2011-08-02
  • Salbach.jpg:
    Salbach.jpg
Topic attachments
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
Salbach.jpgjpg Salbach.jpg manage 64 K 11 Jan 2014 - 15:03 Main.davepote A.I.S. Bulletin No. 156(Jan. 1960), p.14.
Salbachbust.jpgjpg Salbachbust.jpg manage 45 K 11 Feb 2014 - 14:09 BobPries salbach
Topic revision: r19 - 06 Jan 2018, Harloiris
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