Tom Waters

Tom LittleMy interest in irises began in the 1970s, when I was a teenager in Las Cruces, New Mexico. (My name was then Tom Little). My mom and I stumbled onto the iris rhizome sale of the local club, the Mesilla Valley Iris Society, and in less than a year I was an iris enthusiast. The club had many knowledgeable and helpful members who soon became friends: George Bryant, Gus Seligmann, Ann Wright, Margaret Dean, Sharon McAllister, and Maxine Perkins, to name just a few. I grew over 1000 varieties of iris on our quarter-acre lot north of town, served as the club's secretary, show chairman, and president, went through the American Iris Society judges training program, and received the AIS Youth Achievement Award. This was an exciting time - so much to learn and so many friendly people to meet and know. I have fond memories of visiting Keith Keppel, Joe Gatty, and Ben Hager in Stockton, all of whom were delighted to open their homes and gardens to a visiting youth and his family. I began hybridizing, focused primarily on rebloomers but trying a bit of everything. With a friend, I started a small commercial garden, New Dimensions, which introduced Gus Seligmann's first irises in 1983.

That same year, I received a scholarship to attend Oxford University for two years. Upon my return, I was busy with graduate school (PhD in astronomy from New Mexico State), and my iris hobby remained on hold for many years, as education and then career kept me moving from place to place.

Tom Tadfor LittleIn the early 1990s, I settled in Los Alamos with my wife. Soon we had a baby girl. (I was Tom Tadfor Little during the marriage.) I was able to take up gardening again, and returned to growing irises and participating in iris societies. I started the first internet discussion group for irises, the Iris-L mailing list. During this time I was yearbook editor (and briefly acting president) for the Aril Society International, and my hybridizing interest became focused on expanding the fertile families, particularly the tetraploid arils, the arilpums, and the 48-chromosome dwarfs and medians. It seemed a very promising time for this kind of work: the Norris and Holden tetraploid oncogelia seedlings were in circulation, and the ongoing success of the aphylla lines of Hager and the Craigs gave hope that new fertile families of arils and arilbreds were imminent. A move from Los Alamos to Santa Fe gave me a larger garden and room for seedlings. I found kindred spirits in Francesca Thoolen and Harald Mathes, whom I corresponded with regularly.

Life changes again intervened in my hobby. My marriage ended in 2002, and for some time I was living in apartments and small rental houses with little or no garden space.

Tom WatersI remarried in 2007 (becoming Tom Waters), and in 2009 bought a house on 1.1 acres in Cuyamunge, New Mexico. It didn't take long for my fascination with irises to resurface. (Perhaps the tipping point was finding those irises I introduced for Gus almost 30 years ago for sale from Malevil Gardens in Texas.) Even better, I have the time and financial resources to build my dream garden. My focus is on hybridizing, working with the same families of irises as before, and also with ensuring that some of the genetically important species and hybrids are preserved for future generations to enjoy and work with. As they say, third time's a charm! For now, my goal is to acquire as much breeding material as I can, make crosses, and learn. I hope these web pages will serve as a resource for those interested in expanding the fertile families of beared and aril irises.

I am presently serving as vice president of the Aril Society International, and active in the Dwarf Iris Society of America as well.

I currently work as a radiation protection manager at Los Alamos National Laboratory, looking forward to retirement in 2021. I live in Cuyamungue, New Mexico, with my wife Karen, fiber artist and photographer. My other interests include writing science fiction and fantasy, cooking, Pagan spirituality, and the study of languages.


 September 2010

Updated March 2019

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