An Engineer by Day and Night
A profile of Al McMurtrie
By Kathleen Garrett
day, Al McMurtrie is a Business Information Solutions engineer participating in
the development of Real-time Web Interfaces and exploring various portal
technologies. By night, however, Al takes on a whole different role - that of
an avid and passionate gardener, planting seeds and bulbs by floodlight into
the wee hours of the morning. It's all
part of his hobby. "A hobby gone
overboard," in his own words.
avid Iris hybridizer for more than 20 years, Al traces the roots of his passion
for irises to a 1979 vacation in Switzerland.
It was there that he discovered a rainbow of bearded Irises unlike any
he'd seen before. This led him to
investigate the Canadian Iris Society, where the true breadth of Iris types,
colours and origins was revealed to him. He found himself becoming increasingly
fascinated with the Reticulata Iris...
time went by, Al set about hybridizing the Reticulatas he loved so much, hoping
to bring some more beauty into the world, and relishing the excitement of
watching new things come into bloom.
While others settled for standard blue and purple hues, Al constantly
strove for more - including genetic material from the wild in his crosses.
Although the risk was high that muddy yellow-blue messes would be the result,
such was not the fate of Al's hybrids. Vibrant and robust, you can view some
for yourself at www.Reticulatas.com
Al makes more than 1000 crosses each year, yielding 10, 000 or more seeds. He claims that not a day goes by that he
doesn't do something connected with his hobby.
His Irises keep leading him toward international pursuits. Al is
currently having his hybrids evaluated by Dutch bulb growers and has just
started working with a lab in Holland to begin commercial production. While the initial bulbs won't be introduced
until 2005 or 2006, he anticipates signing his first commercialization
agreement next year.
hundreds of milestones along the way, not the least of which include:
collecting rare and unnamed species in foreign countries, seeing previously
unheard-of crosses for the first time, speaking at high-end conferences to
fellow enthusiasts, and a proposal to have certain crosses named for him ("x
mcmurtriei"), Al has achieved levels of success that most breeders never will.
you ask Al about his future goals for crossing and inter-crossing, the answer
is poetic. "To develop beautiful new
colours that were not possible before and that will bloom in your and my garden
for years and years to come."
he will be the first to tell you, Al has opened up a whole new world for
Reticulata Irises. And it's a very beautiful world.