Potter Valley, California.
by Ben Hager
It is always tragic to witness a creative mind obliterated by the dysfunction of the physical body that gives it sustenance It is an irreplaceable loss to us and to all the Earth, no matter how limited the niche which that mind occupied. In this case that niche is, to those of us remaining, an important part of our lives.
Monty Byers filled his niche fully. He was truly one of the most original and ardent breeders of irises in the iris world. In that world his niche was expanding both with accomplishment and promise--until death cut short all inspiration and activity. But his iris creations still remain to pleasure our gardens and to remind us of his gifts to us.
Monty's iris catalog business, Moonshine Gardens, in association with his business partner, Bill Gibbs, was an almost immediate success, sparked by Monty's ebullient enthusiasm and drive. His breeding interest centered around two classes of irises not altogether at the top of general popularity: the horned, spooned and flounced (Space Age-and designated SA in the catalog) and the section of irises that is steadily growing in popularity, the reblooming irises (identified in the catalog as RE). His development and insistent promotion of these two sections through his catalog and voluminous correspondence was a decisive factor in raising them to the rank of popularity and wide acceptance that they now hold.
The first of Monty's irises to appear on the Awards List appeared there in
1990: BLOWTORCH (SA), PAGAN PINK (SA), CANDYLAND (BB-RE), and SMELL THE ROSES (SDB-RE). His variety MAGIC KINGDOM (SA) was listed among the FAVORITE IRISES at the Omaha convention.
In 1991 Monty's awards and popularity listings grew even more. THORN-BIRD was in #1 place on the Popularity Poll for the Washington, D.C. convention. DUSKY CHALLENGER was second. DUSKY CHALLENGER won the President's Cup but THORNBIRD was a close runner-up. His CONJURATION was in sixth place on that poll. So it was only to be expected that both THORNBIRD and CONJURATION won HM's in 1991. Three lB's also won HM's that year: LITTLE BIG HORN (SA) LOW HO SILVER (RE), and SIXTEEN CANDLES (RE).
All that recognition and his first introduction was in 1986! A quick start, for sure. $ When I last spoke with Monty, his thoughts were all with the spring blooming of his beloved irises--but medication was unable to control the too late diagnosis of pneumonia.:
A remembrance by Ben Hager including a number of his irises and awards can be found at: http://www.worldiris.com/public_html/rogues_gallery/Monty.html.
Standard Dwarf: 'Baby Boom', 'Baby Cakes', 'Cinders', 'Dark Crystal', 'Darkling', 'Ever Ready', 'Flower Child', 'Frankincense', 'Golden Child', 'Gray Poupon', 'Haven', 'Hot', 'Inkling', 'Smell The Roses', 'Sparkplug', 'Stinger', 'Twinkle Twinkle'.
Tall Bearded: A-L: 'All Aflutter', 'All American', 'All Lit Up', 'Aspen', 'Banana Cream', 'Barn Dance', 'Batman', 'Be Mine', 'Billionaire', 'Blatent', 'Blowing Bubbles', 'Blowtorch', 'Blue Moonlight', 'Branching Out', 'Buckwheat', 'Cantina', 'Cape Horn', 'Caroline Gibbs', 'Class Act', 'Conjuration', 'Curtain Up', 'Dance For Joy', 'Dashing', 'Deity', 'Doublemint', 'Duke of Earl', 'Easter Lace', 'Edith Bubbles', 'Eggnog', 'Egyptian', 'Eternal Bliss', 'Fire Within', 'Floorshow', 'Frappe', 'Genteel', 'Gilded', 'Gladys Anna', 'Glass Wings', 'Godsend', 'Good Fairy', 'Gothic', 'Grand Style', 'Halloween Pumpkin', 'Hand Painted', 'Hands Up', 'Happy New Year', 'Heart of Ice', 'Heavenly Bliss', 'Her Royal Highness', 'High Ho Silver', 'His Royal Highness', 'Howdy Do', 'Iceland', 'Imagine That', 'Istanbul', 'Jazzy Razzy', 'Juicy Fruit', 'Jungle Cat', 'King of Angels', 'Las Vegas', 'Late Liftoff', 'Let's Pretend', 'Lichen', 'Lilting', 'Loch Ness', 'Lovebird', 'Luminosity', 'Lurid',
Tall Bearded M-Z: 'Magic Kingdom', 'Maiden', 'Marquee', 'Mauvelous', 'Mesmerizer', 'Midnight Caller', 'Mil Byers', 'Monty's Sweet Blue', 'Moonlit', 'Northern Flame', 'October', 'Open Arms', 'Pagan Pink', 'Passion Flower', 'Phenomenon', 'Pinkness', 'Platinum', 'Potion', 'Pronghorn', 'Reincarnation', 'Rock Star', 'Rotunda', 'Saxon', 'Scented Bubbles', 'Scorpio', 'Sea World', 'Second Act', 'Second Show', 'Second Wind', 'Shadowman', 'Shoot The Moon', 'Silver Screen', 'Silver Spoons', 'Space Pirate', 'Spirit', 'St. Petersburg', 'Stars And Stripes', 'Starship'., 'Stingray', 'Surreal', 'Sylvan', 'Tea Leaves', 'Then Again', 'Thornbird', 'Triffid', 'Waterspout', 'Waves of Grain', 'Weldon Gibbs', 'Winesap', 'Winterland', 'Wondrous', 'Zurich'.