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Hybridizer Mrs. J. R. (Melba) Hamblen --(1910-1992)

Mission Bell Gardens, Roy, Utah, USAMelba Hamblen


Clay Hamblen

On January 17,1992, one of the great hybridizers passed away at her home in Roy, Utah. Melba Bills Hamblen was born April 6, 1910 in Utah. Her interest in flowers and in irises in particular was a lifelong passion. She started growing irises in 1936 and learned to hybridize in 1943 when she met Tell Muhlestein. Tell was instrumental in her early pursuit of growing irises. Melba married her grade school sweetheart, James Robert Hamblen, Sr., on April 20, 1927. Together they raised five children. Fortunately, Jim shared her love of flowers and gave in to her request for space on the farm to plant the irises and a "few" other flowers.

Melba was a lifetime member of AIS, an award she won by getting the most new members to join when she served as RVP of Region 12. She served on the Board of Directors for many years. Melba also served on the Board of Directors for the AIS Foundation as President. She was a Judge Emeritus for AIS. As Co-Editor and contributing author, she spent many long hours working on THE WORLD OF IRISES. I can remember proofreading galley sheets and looking at photos of irises as we sat at the dining room table. One of her personal triumphs in life was when the book was finally published.

In 1960, Melba was featured in Life Magazine for her outstanding contributions in hybridizing. The Governors of Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma made her an honorary citizen of their respective states, and the City of Tulsa presented her the keys to the city for her major contributions to iris hybridizing. Melba was awarded the British Foster Medal, the highest award possible for hybridizing in Britain. She was the 18th American and the only woman ever to receive this outstanding award. She also received the Gold Medal from The American Iris Society. Mission Bell Gardens was the creation of Melba and Jim Hamblen. Together, they created grounds of impeccable tastes and entertained visitors from around the world. Melba had the distinction of knowing all of the Presidents of AIS personally. She had many friends around the country and the world because of her life with irises. She was a popular speaker with irisarians and traveled frequently to see as many gardens as possible. Of course, the annual convention was a must so long as her health permitted.

Melba was a compassionate and wonderful individual. She never hesitated to offer her knowledge and inspiration to those who asked. Melba Hamblen will be remembered as liThe Lady of Irises" by friends and family alike. Melba's husband, Jim, died in 1989 and many of us still mourn his loss. We have lost one of the great people in the iris world, and her loss will be mourned by many of you, I know. Fortunately, we still have her creations here as living and timeless tributes to her life.

Melba is survived by her son, James R. Hamblen, Jr., and his wife, Ailene; Beverly Holmes, and Carol Gunderson; 11 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. Finally, I would like to say: "Goodbye, Grandma. I love you."

(The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Jan Hamblen in preparing this article.)

She was the third of three hybridizers featured in World of Irises, July 22, 2019, Jean Richter, "Three Twentieth Century Women Iris Hybridizers", retrieved January 26, 2020.


Border Bearded: 'Blond Angel', 'Butter Girl', 'Copper Glaze', 'Fairy Jewels', 'Gypsy Wings', 'Happy Song', 'Honey Spice', 'Ladybug', 'Little Swinger', 'Manzanita', 'Recital', 'Robby', 'Sienna Star', 'Teen-Age', 'Tulare'.

Intermediate Bearded: 'Baby Ribbons', 'Butterscotch Frills', 'Fairy Fashion', 'Genie', 'Ivory Touch', 'Kilkenny', 'Pepper Rim', 'Pixie Skies', 'Raspberry Blush', 'Raspberry Bonnet', 'Raspberry Rose', 'Small Ripple', 'Tender Years'.

Miniature Dwarf Bearded: 'Arctic Elf', 'Dainty Belle', 'Garnet Elf', 'Penny Candy', 'Small Gem', Tom Thumb', 'Wee Willie'.

Standard Dwarf Bearded: 'Apricot Elf', 'Azure Gem', 'Blue Canary', 'Canary Isle', 'Candy Apple', 'Caramel Candy', 'Elfin Duet', 'Fairy Touch', 'Goblin', 'Gold Buttons', 'Grace Note', 'Inglenook', 'Little Miss Muffet', 'Noisemaker', 'Pansy Raye', 'Pansy Top', 'Pixie Plum', 'Rangerette', 'Sapphire Jewel', 'Satin Lustre', 'Starflight', 'Tawny Tone'.

Tall Bearded (A-L): 'Adventuress', 'Azure Gold', 'Banjo Man', 'Beautiful Dreamer', 'Beauty Is', 'Betty Simon', 'Blue Clif', 'Blue Mink', 'Bonneville Surf', 'Bright Forecast', 'Butterfly Kiss', 'Canyonlands', 'Capricious', 'Carrie Rebekah', 'Charmaine', 'Cherry Accent', 'Christmas Rubies', 'Coraband', 'Coral Clouds', 'Coral Satin', 'Cosmopolitan', 'Country Lilac', 'Dance Away', 'Enchanted Violet', 'Enchanting', 'Evening Echo', 'Extravagant'. 'Fair Luzon', 'Fashion Show', 'Fern Maw', 'Fifth Avenue', 'Flamingo Blues', 'Flamingo Fling', 'Fontaine', 'Fountain Blue', 'Frances Gaulter', 'GardenParty', 'Gay Adventure', 'Gift of Dreams'. 'Glittering Amber', 'Glorious Sunshine', 'Glory Be', 'Golden Chord', 'Golden Claret', 'Graduation', 'Gypsy Prince', 'Heather Halo', 'Heavenly Harmony', 'Henna Accent', 'Hilight', 'Indian Princess', 'Infinite Grace', 'Inga Ivey', 'Instant Love', 'Janni', 'Jazz Swinger', 'Jeweled Flight', 'Jeweled Ivory', 'Jo Vallery', 'Joyce Meek', 'Karen', 'King's Castle', 'Le Cygne', 'Lilac Champagne', 'Lilac Flame', 'Love Sonnet', 'Lovely Jan', 'Lovely Kay',

Tall Bearded (M-Z): 'Mary D', 'Matinee Idol', May Melody', 'McKay', 'Michelin', 'Mission Glory', 'Mission Melody', 'Mission Starlite', 'Misty Dawn', 'Mollie Emms', 'Music Hall', 'Nancy Glazier', 'New Rochelle', 'Ora Burton', 'Orange Parade', 'Orange Star', 'Orchid Wings', 'Panoramic', 'Paris Pastel', 'Pink Rose', 'Pink Sapphire', 'Potpourri', 'Pretty Carol', 'Pretty Karen', 'Pretty Nancy', 'Private Stock', 'Promising', 'Radiant Sun', 'Ragtime', 'Rippling Clouds', Rocky Mountains', 'Ron', 'Rosabelle V', 'Rosecraft', 'Royal Gold', 'Ruffled Pinafore', 'Ruffled Snow', 'Ruffled Starlite', 'Ruffles And Lace', 'Ruffles Galore', 'Saffron Flame', 'Sandra Lee', 'September Song', 'Sienna Waltz', 'Silent Majesty', 'Silkwood', 'Silver Chalice', 'Song of Spring', 'Sophistication', 'Spring Concerto', 'Star Spangled', 'Strange Melody', 'Sugarplum Fairy', 'Summer Prelude', 'Sun Fire', 'Sunday Chimes', 'Sunset Sonata', 'Tacey', 'Threshold', 'Tipperary', 'Touche', 'Treasure Lane', 'Tropic Sun', 'True Bliss', 'Valimar', 'Valley West', 'Valvouche', 'Vegas', 'Venetian Dancer', 'Violet Fire'. 'Whirl Around', 'Whispering', 'White Torch', 'Windborne', 'Wine Dynasty', 'Winifred Ross'.

-- BobPries - 2012-05-18
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
MelbaHamblen1.jpgjpg MelbaHamblen1.jpg manage 98 K 10 Jan 2014 - 22:15 UnknownUser A.I.S. Bulletin No. 285(April 1992), p.47.
Topic revision: r23 - 26 Jan 2020, WayneMesser
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