Bennett C. Jones Award
2008 Recipient: O. David Niswonger
The Bennett C. Jones Award for Outstanding Median Hybridizing this year went to Dave Niswonger of Cape Girardeau, MO in recognition of his many contributions to median iris hybridizing.
Dave’s contributions to the genus iris include 40+ years of effort to produce brighter colors, different patterns and improvements in form in a wide range of irises. His numerous noteworthy and award-winning SDB, IB and BB introductions include at least 17 median AM Award winners, 2 Cook-Douglas Medal winners, 2 Sass Medal winners, 4 Knowlton Medal winners, and the first median Dykes Medal winner, ‘Brown Lasso,’ which he selected from the late Gene Buckle's seedling patch and introduced in 1975. Dave’s work has brought us brighter, clearer colors — especially pinks and oranges — improvements in form and ruffling, increased bud count and, perhaps most important, improved “growability” in median irises of all types.
His dedication to the promotion of median irises in his region and elsewhere has included mentoring and AIS Youth members and fledgling hybridizers, providing everything from gifts of irises to encouragement and practical advice. He has served as a spokesman for AIS and MIS as well as other AIS sections, and has contributed generously of his time, effort and irises over the years to help these organizations thrive. And his advice and counsel has been sought by the major iris hybridizers of our time as well as of previous generations.
Dave’s body of work, which has not been limited to median classes, includes nearly 400 irises that he has introduced into commerce. He has used his knowledge of genetics and iris species to further advance the genus in a wide range of areas. Among his introductions are species and species crosses, together with irises in almost every bearded and beardless classification grown in the United States. Many of his award-winning irises are still grown in many gardens, including his TB Dyke’s Medal winner, ‘Everything Plus’ (‘83); his Knowlton Medal winners ‘Raspberry Sundae’ (’72), ‘Marmalade Skies’ (’78), ‘Apricot Frosty’ (’92) and, of course, ‘Brown Lasso;’ his Cook-Douglas Medal winners ‘Little Black Belt’ (’80) and ‘Raspberry Jam’ (81); and his Sass Medal winners ‘Honey Glazed’ and ‘Prince of Burgundy.’
Thank you, Dave, for your many contributions to the advancement of our favorite flower!
Nomination forms for this award are due each year by December 31. To make nominations, click on the link below to obtain a copy of the Nomination Form (PDF).