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.
In the early 1990s, I settled in Los Alamos with my wife. Soon we had a baby girl. (I was Tom Tadfor Little during my 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.
I 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! Although I benefitted greatly from serving as an AIS garden judge and in various iris society offices in the past, I am now more aware of the danger of trying to do too much and hence doing nothing well. So 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 currently work as a radiation protection manager at Los Alamos National Laboratory. I live in Cuyamungue, New Mexico, with my wife Karen, Miraline, a sly and sleek dragon cleverly disguised as a goofy black and white cat, and Rumi, a spherical blue-point ragdoll mystic. My other interests include writing science fiction and fantasy, cooking, Pagan spirituality, and the study of languages.
Updated February 2012