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.