The Payne Medal

by Clarence Mahan

This medal is restricted to Japanese irises. It is named in honor of W. Arlie Payne (1881-1971).

W. Arlie Payne was born on a farm near Terre Haute, Indiana. He graduated from Central Normal College in Danville, Indiana and studied pattern making. Payne worked as a lumberjack, photographer, real estate agent and pattern maker until he established a landscaping business on sixteen acres of land south of Terre Haute. He was at first especially interested in peonies, but in the late 1920's, he "discovered" Japanese irises. He started hybridizing Japanese irises in 1932. Over the next three and a half decades, he raised many thousands of seedlings.

During the 1930's and 1940's, there was a sharp decline in the popularity of Japanese irises in the United States, especially during the period of World War II. One of the few nurseries on the West Coast that continued to offer them for sale renamed them "Pearl Harbor irises." Arlie Payne continued his extensive breeding program striving to produce "a race suitable for outdoor American plants." He sought a beautiful flower of symmetrical form and a plant that demonstrated exceptional vigor. One of the most exceptional aspects of his breeding program was that it was developed in the early years using only six cultivars of the Edo type. Payne took line breeding to a new level of intensity.

Arlie Payne did not start introducing his irises until the early 1950's. When he did, it was apparent that he had developed a strain of wonderful new Japanese irises. He ultimately registered 170 cultivars, most of which were of exceptional quality. When his new cultivars were sent to Japan, the Japanese were astonished to see their diversity and quality. The gigantic maroon 3-fall cultivar 'The Great Mogul' (1958) was especially admired by Japanese specialists. Payne cultivars took the Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals in the Internationale Garten Ausstellug in 1963.  'The Great Mogul' won the Silver Medal at the Vienna Internationale Gartenschaus in 1964 and 'Confetti Shower' won the Bronze Medal at the same event.

The American Iris Society awarded Arlie Payne its coveted Hybridizers Medal in 1964. When he died at the age of 90 in 1971, he was universally revered as the world's premier breeder of Japanese irises.


The Payne Medal, named for W. Arlie Payne, is the highest award given by the American Iris Society that a Japanese iris can receive in its class. Payne Medal winners are then eligible to win the Dykes Medal, which is the highest award an iris can receive from The American Iris Society. Prior to 1992 the highest award a Japanese Iris could receive was the Payne Award. This award has now been elevated to a medal status. Below is a list of Japanese Irises which have received the Payne Award or Medal. The hybridizer and year of introduction are in parentheses.

Year Iris Name Hybridizer (Introduction Year)
2016John's Fancy
John's Fancy
Jill Copeland (2008)
2015Lake Effect
Lake Effect
Bob Bauer & John Coble (2008)
2014Lady in Pink
Lady in Pink
J.T. Aitken (2006)
2013Bewitching Twilight
Bewitching Twilight
Chad Harris (2000)
2012Coho
Coho
Chad Harris (2005)
2011Lake Effect
Lake Effect
Bauer/Coble (2004)
2010Sue Jo
Sue Jo
Donald Delmez(2003)
2009Little Bow Pink
Little Bow Pink
Donald Delmez (1999)
2008Raspberry Candy
Raspberry Candy
Coble/Bauer (1999)
2007Dirago Pink Milestone
Dirago Pink Milestone
White (2000)
2006Sing the Blues
Sing the Blues
Reid (1997)
2005Blue Spritz
Blue Spritz
Delmez (1996)
2004Epimetheus
Epimetheus
Innerst (1992)
tie 2003Lion King
Lion King
Bauer/Coble (1996)
tie 2003Raspberry Glow
Raspberry Glow
Aitken (1992)
2002Electric Glow
Electric Glow
Aitken (1992)
2001Picotee Princess
Picotee Princess
Reid (1992)
2000Bellender Blue
Bellender Blue
Bauer/Coble (1993)
1999Geisha Obi
Geisha Obi
L. Rich (1989)
1998Butterflies in Flight
Butterflies in Flight
Aitken (1991)
1997Electric Rays
Electric Rays
(Aitken 1990)
   tieIapetus
Iapetus
Innerst (1988)
1996Edge of FrostDienstbach 1988)
   tieKalamaazooHazzard (1998)
1995Cascade Crest
Cascade Crest
Aitken (1988)
1994Caprician Butterfly
Caprician Butterfly
Marx /Rogers (1994)
1993Oriental EyesVogt (1984)


The Payne Medal


Year Iris Name Hybridizer (Introduction Year)
1992Japanese Pinwheel
Japanese Pinwheel
McEwen (1988)
1991Lilac PeaksVogt (1987)
1990Caprician Butterfly
Caprician Butterfly
Marx (1985)
1989Blueberry Rimmed
Blueberry Rimmed
McEwen (1983)
1988Oriental Eyes
Oriental Eyes
Vogt (1984)
1987Freckled GeishaReid (1981)
1986IpsusInnerst 1981)
1985Blue Marlin
Blue Marlin
Copeland (1981)
1984- - No Award - -
1983Raspberry Rimmed
Raspberry Rimmed
McEwen (1979)
1982Returning TideMcEwen (1976)
1981FujiAbel (1977)
1980Purple ParasolMcEwen (1977)
1979Prairie VelvetHazzard (1972)
1978Tuptim
Tuptim
Rich (1974)
1977- - No Award - -
1976Stranger in ParadiseHager (1970)
1975Prairie Love SongHazzard (1970)
1974No Award
1973Hue and Cry
Hue and Cry
Maddocks (1970)
1972- - No Award - -
1971NumazuHazzard (1965)
1970Worley Pink
Worley Pink
Worley (1966)
1969Star at MidnightRich (1964)
1968Dancing WavesPayne (1964)
1967Leave Me Sighing
Leave Me Sighing
Maddocks (1964)
1966Strut and FlourishPayne (1964)