by Ben Hager
It is always tragic to witness a creative mind obliterated by the dysfunction of the physical body that gives it sustenance It is an irreplaceable loss to us and to all the Earth, no matter how limited the niche which that mind occupied. In this case that niche is, to those of us remaining, an important part of our lives.
Monty Byers filled his niche fully. He was truly one of the most original and ardent breeders of irises in the iris world. In that world his niche was expanding both with accomplishment and promise--until death cut short all inspiration and activity. But his iris creations still remain to pleasure our gardens and to remind us of his gifts to us.
Monty's iris catalog business, Moonshine Gardens, in association with his business partner, Bill Gibbs, was an almost immediate success, sparked by Monty's ebullient enthusiasm and drive. His breeding interest centered around two classes of irises not altogether at the top of general popularity: the horned, spooned and flounced (Space Age-and designated SA in the catalog) and the section of irises that is steadily growing in popularity, the reblooming irises (identified in the catalog as RE). His development and insistent promotion of these two sections through his catalog and voluminous correspondence was a decisive factor in raising them to the rank of popularity and wide acceptance that they now hold.
The first of Monty's irises to appear on the Awards List appeared there in
1990: BLOWTORCH (SA), PAGAN PINK (SA), CANDYLAND (BB-RE), and SMELL THE ROSES (SDB-RE). His variety MAGIC KINGDOM (SA) was listed among the FAVORITE IRISES at the Omaha convention.
In 1991 Monty's awards and popularity listings grew even more. THORN-BIRD was in #1 place on the Popularity Poll for the Washington, D.C. convention. DUSKY CHALLENGER was second. DUSKY CHALLENGER won the President's Cup but THORNBIRD was a close runner-up. His CONJURATION was in sixth place on that poll. So it was only to be expected that both THORNBIRD and CONJURATION won HM's in 1991. Three lB's also won HM's that year: LITTLE BIG HORN (SA) LOW HO SILVER (RE), and SIXTEEN CANDLES (RE).
All that recognition and his first introduction was in 1986! A quick start, for sure.
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