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Paul Black Laurie Frazer Bennett Jones David Niswonger
Twyla Olmstead Tony & Dorothy Willott

Tony and Dorothy Willott

Tony and Dorothy
Biography of:
26231 Shaker Blvd.
Beachwood, OH 44122
(216) 831-8662

To the Left: Tony and Dorothy Willott at a family wedding.

Dorothy grew up with all kinds of flowers, but especially with irises. She accompanied her mother, Virginia McClintock, to their first AIS Region Six meeting in Columbus, Ohio, in 1950. An Ohio State University horticulture student showed Dorothy how to make crosses. She went home and pollinated some of her mother's irises and two years later had a lot of seedlings bloom. She also bought her own first irises in 1950. They were PRAIRIE SUNSET, ALDURA and SQ-72. The seedlings bloomed just before Tony and Dorothy were married in 1952. Most of them were inferior in form, although there were some nice, bright yellows. Tony didn't want to see them composted, so took them home and planted them in his parents' yard.

Lemon Spot
The Willotts didn't get any worthwhile tall bearded seedlings over the next few years. It wasn't until they obtained some dwarf iris seedlings from Walter Welch that they began to have some interesting results. Their first introduction, LEMON SPOT (SDB), in 1968 was the result of crossing two of those seedlings. Other dwarf iris specialists encouraged them and gave them irises to use in breeding dwarf irises. Especially helpful were Earl Roberts, Bee Warburton, Bonnie Dunbar, Helen Doriot and Wilma Greenlee. Several SDBs introduced in 1971 were from a cross of Earl Roberts' EYE SHADOW by LEMON SPOT.

Since the introduction of their first SDBs, they branched out into a number of classes, which includes 62 MDB, 211 SDB, 38 IB, 4 BB, 8 MTB, 14 TB, 1 Arilbred and 2 Siberians. Awards for their irises include 107 Honorable Mentions, 16 Awards of Merit and 3 Caparne�Welch Medals. The medals were for MDBs ALPINE LAKE in 1989, PUSSYTOES in 1990 and LITTLE DRUMMER BOY in 2005. Willott varieties have won Best Specimen of Show in 10 AIS Regions a total of 35 times. In addition to AIS awards, a number of Willott irises have won medals in competitions in Orleans, France; Munich, Germany; and Vienna, Austria. They also won the Dr. Loomis Memorial Iris Trial Gardens cup for best 2nd year SDB variety, BALLET SLIPPERS, in 1995.

Alpine Lake (MDB)

Alpine Lake (MDB)

Pussytoes (MDB)

Pussytoes (MDB)

Little Drummer Boy (MDB)

Little Drummer Boy (MDB)

Ballet Slippers (MDB)

Ballet Slippers (MDB)

In 1987, Tony and Dorothy both retired from jobs with the U. S. Department of Defense to devote more time to irises. The following year Tony became a Master Gardener volunteer for the Ohio State Extension Service in Cuyahoga County. At the same time, Dorothy trained for and became an income tax preparer. Dorothy finally found time in 1994 to take the formal Master Gardener training.


Through fellow Master Gardeners, Tony and Dorothy were asked to donate some iris plants to the City of Cleveland Rockefeller Park Greenhouse Peace Garden. With the sandy loam soil, this garden multiplied until they ended up maintaining a couple of thousand iris plants in that location.There went all of that spare time they thought they would have after retiring. The Greenhouse is open to the public every day of the year with no entrance fee. MDBs start blooming in mid-April following in May by SDBs, then IBs, and on into early June by BBs, MTBs, TBs, and Siberians. Thus they have a two month display of irises in the spring and some rebloom in the summer and fall.

The Willott home garden is from 5 to 7 days later than the bloom at the Greenhouse.Here they have to continually amend the clay soil which remains too wet in the spring to work in the iris plantings. During the summer and fall of 2001, they did a lot of work making new raised beds for the guest irises (mostly TBs) for the 2002 spring regional meeting. In 2002 they added a lot of recent TB introductions from west coast hybridizers of which most bloomed in 2003 and bloomed very well.There are a lot of seedlings planted in rows.
Tony Weeding

Apricot Fancy (SDB) 2005

Apricot Fancy (SDB)

Aztec Gown (IB) 2006

Aztec Gown (IB)

Berry-Go-Round (IB) 2006

Berry-Go-Round (IB)

Blackberry Jam (SDB) 1995

Blackberry Jam (SDB)

Beloved Infidel (AB) 2005

Beloved Infidel (AB)

Brownberry (BB) 1987

Brownberry (BB)

Calico Vista (MTB) 2006

Calico Vista (MTB)

Festive Glow (MTB) 1996

Festive Glow (MTB)

There are several rock gardens which are ideal for growing MDBs. Since the Willotts moved to Beachwood, Ohio, in 1958, their trees have grown and increased the amount of shade in the one acre yard.This has created ideal areas for hostas. Unfortunately, the deer have come to love the hostas, among other things, and are a constant nuisance. Visitors are welcome, but should contact then to see if they will be home.They are very busy during iris season with the AIS National Convention, Regional Meeting, two local iris shows, visiting other gardens and shows, and splitting their time between their two gardens.

Caramel Frosting (SDB) 2002

Caramel Frosting (SDB)

Cinnamon Circles (SDB) 2005

Cinnamon Circles (SDB)

Crystal Wings (TB) 2006

Crystal Wings (TB)

Dewy Fresh (SDB) 2004

Dewy Fresh (SDB)

Dottie's Doll (MDB) 2006

Dottie's Doll (MDB)

Druid Circle (SDB) 2005

Druid Circle (SDB)

Enchanted Princess (SDB) 2003

Enchanted Princess (SDB)

Exotic Artistry (IB) 2005

Exotic Artistry (IB)

Besides caring for iris and other perennials at their home, and maintaining iris at the Cleveland�s Rockefeller Park Greenhouse, they also donated iris plants to the Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, and the Betty Ford Alpine Garden in Vail, Colorado.New in 2005 is an iris garden on the grounds of the Ohio Governor�s Residence in Bexley, Ohio.

Fiery Dawn (SDB) 2005

Fiery Dawn (SDB)

First Lady Hope (TB) 2005

First Lady Hope (TB)

Governor Taft (TB) 2006

Governor Taft (TB)

Fairy Jester (SDB) 2006

Fairy Jester (SDB)

Hallucination (SDB) 2006

Hallucination (SDB)

Ice and Indigo (SDB) 1991

Ice and Indigo (SDB)

Laurelwood (SDB) 2005

Laurelwood (SDB)

Love Triangle (SDB) 2006

Love Triangle (SDB)

Magic Bubbles (IB) 1994

Magic Bubbles (IB)

Flashing Neon (MDB) 2005

Flashing Neon (MDB)

Garnet Jewelry (MTB) 2006

Garnet Jewelry (MTB)

Joyfullness (TB) 2006

Joyfullness (TB)

Sabrina's Kiss (SDB) 1997

Sabrina's Kiss (SDB)

Tony and Dorothy are Life Members of AIS and many sections including Dwarf Iris Society, Median Iris Society, Society for Siberian Irises, Society for Pacific Coast Native Irises, Species Iris Group of North America, Historic Iris Preservation Society, and North American Rock Garden Society.They also belong to the Northern Ohio Perennials Society, Society for Japanese Irises, The Aril Society International, Reblooming Iris Society, and Akron Area Iris Society.

Mentor Marsh (SDB) 2003

Mentor Marsh (SDB)

Mister Roberts (SDB) 1979

Mister Roberts (SDB)

Moonlit Crystal (TB) 2006

Moonlit Crystal (TB)

Opal Blush (MDB) 2005

Opal Blush (MDB)

Orange Zest (SDB) 2005

Orange Zest (SDB)

Prince of Thieves (SDB) 2002

Prince of Thieves (SDB)

Quail Hollow (SDB) 2001

Quail Hollow (SDB)

Vatican Flag (TB) 2005

Vatican Flag (TB)

Velvet Skirts (MTB) 2006

Velvet Skirts (MTB)

They are charter members of the North East Ohio Iris Society which Dorothy's mother founded in 1958. Both are officers of the Akron Area Iris Society and are AIS Emeritus Judges. Both have served as Regional Vice-president of AIS Region Six (Ohio, Michigan and Indiana). AIS Region Six presented them with the Region Six Distinguished Service Award in 2002.

Ruby Elf (MDB) 2005

Ruby Elf (MDB)

Velvet Echo (SDB) 2005

Velvet Echo (SDB)

Wee Viking (MDB) 2005

Wee Viking (MDB)

Western Reserve (IB) 2005

Western Reserve (IB)


On April 20, 2000, Tony and Dorothy were honored by the American Iris Society at its annual convention in Dallas, Texas, by being presented the prestigious Hybridizers Medal.


Both are Past Presidents of the Median Iris Society. Dorothy is Vice-president of the AIS Foundation and a director of the Dwarf Iris Society. Tony is also a director of the Dwarf Iris Society and Treasurer of the Akron Area Iris Society. They have chaired many iris shows over the years and have won numerous bronze and silver medals competing in shows. The Willotts actively promote irises by frequently giving programs to garden clubs, local iris societies around the country, and other organizations. Tony and Dorothy are primarily hybridizers rather than a commercial enterprise. Their goal was not to make money, but to have their irises grown and seen by AIS judges. After introducing 340 new iris varieties between 1968 and 2006, this is still their goal.