After working behind the scenes on this project since last year, I have decided to make some changes for the better. I am going to make this more flexible and even easier to work with. Same as before, You can leave your name and the iris you are going to photograph for our composite pictures. [...]
Who remembers Mike Lowe’s very first HIPS website and all the interesting information he put out there? We may remember it as the ‘World of Iris’ and after Mike’s passing most of us believed it also had disappeared seeing the original website is no longer in operation.
However, thanks to a HIPS member some of the original material has been FOUND! The content on this site, is now owned by David Joyce and Clark University who has given us permission to post a link to his page.
The page has not been updated since 2003, so many links in the link section no longer work. But some do, and there are interesting ‘gems’ to be discovered there.
In addition the lovely reproductions from Dykes’ The Genus Iris is a real treat.
Thank you David Joyce for safekeeping this information and allowing us to share it with HIPS members and their friends.
Click here: David Joyce’s page of World Iris Information
This year HIPS will be changing the way we run our annual rhizome sale. We believe these changes will enable you to get the rhizomes you ordered from our sale without waiting and wondering if they are really going to be available in that package you get late in the season.
We are also requesting rhizome donations. The Rhizome Sale is our only major fundraiser. It supports our website, our twice yearly journal ROOTS, and helps promote the programs we know are critical for the protection and preservation of our historic iris. We count on our iris gardener friends to be generous with their contributions of extra rhizomes. Unlike in previous years, you do NOT have to guess what you might have available in the middle of Winter. You will be able to determine in June what you will be able to donate.
Many of our members enjoy NOIDS too, so we would welcome donations of these iris for which you […]
Our Iris ID Committee has been tasked with evaluating every new iris photo that has been posted in our Iris Gallery. Since in most cases the hybridizers of these historics are no longer available to ascertain that a photo is actually of the stated iris, the mission of the ID Committee is to determine if such photos are indeed correct and to what degree of accuracy. It should be noted here again, that the Committee is dedicated to making a decision as close as can possibly be determined for each iris, with all and any tools available. A determination of 100% accuracy will probably never be available without a hybridizer’s blessing, so we can merely approach with greater degrees of accuracy, a decision on each iris presented to us.
It is here you will find the results of each iris evaluation, as well as ‘why’, ‘who’, and ‘how’ a determination has been made. Please feel […]
HIPS Iris ID Committee now being formed – Looking for interested ID’ers
HIPS is in the process of assembling an ID Committee which will include representatives with ‘expertise’ or familiarity for each of the classes of iris and is seeking candidates and/or referrals for potential candidates . Ideally, we would like to have teams for each class who could debate the identities of iris varieties submitted for identification. Most classes of iris have less than 2000 introductions of which half are likely extinct and in some classes, up to 80%. TB and SDB are the two largest classes, 38,000+ and 5000, respectively and for those classes several teams will be necessary. Individuals who have collections focused on a particular class, hybridizer or color pattern (amoenas, plicatas, luminatas, etc.) would be a great asset to the ID Committee. A lot of experience identifying iris is not a requirement. Please contact Charles Carver: email@example.com or (360)-376-6109.
The 2016 American Iris Society Convention will be held in Newark, NJ, near the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. A number of garden tours, workshops, speakers, and other activities are being planned. The HIPS Annual Meeting will take place on Wednesday, May 25th at the convention. We’ve posted the AIS Convention flyer and the Convention Registration form here on the website. Please take a look, and we hope to see you there!
We consider that part of our mission at HIPS is to provide you with the most accurate identification of the iris cultivars presented in our gallery. Because the historic irises we love are 30+ years old, and many much older, that task becomes more difficult with the passing of time. Those who hybridized the earlier iris are in many cases long gone, and along with the descriptions, an occasional faded photos or artist’s depiction, we only have provenance to guide us.
So that we do not provide inaccurate information, we are particularly careful with the vetting of of any iris photo that gets placed in our gallery. In some cases identification is virtually impossible based upon the scant traces from the past that we have at our disposal.
Because this is such an important job, HIPS has appointed Charlie Carver Chairman of the ID Committee, who will lead a team of ID […]
M. Alain Mermier has given us permission to link to his wonderful and very unique site. He collects old fashioned post cards which feature iris , and has more than 3600 different postcards to browse! If you enjoy viewing antique iris depictions this is a must-see site. I hope you enjoy it.
Richmond, Virginia, is an old town and amazing things are growing in the byways and alleys of some residential neighborhoods. In bearded iris season we enjoy peering over fences to see what blooms have emerged from the many clumps of otherwise anonymous foliage that are found scattered in gardens, and along alleys, and tucked beside [...]
(Editor's Note: The late Sheldon Butt was well known for his show exhibitions. These words of wisdom should help others.) The first step in preparing your irises for successful entry in an iris show is to cut the stalks before the buds open. Why cut them in bud instead of waiting until the flowers open? [...]
Photo courtesy of Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, Mt; all rights reserved - Experimental Iris Garden (maintained by the Missoula Iris Garden Society) In 1981, the Missoula Iris Society established a display garden located near the Missoula Historical Museum and toward the rear of a large parcel of land owned by the federal government/state of [...]
Here's how this magnificent strain of Flamingo Pinks was developed - an entirely new color in iris One morning in 1942 while inspecting our iris seedlings I was startled when I saw that one of the buds just opening was a deep pink, almost rose red. I had never seen a pure pink iris before, [...]
For some of us, the 1940s are not a decade from remote antiquity; we were there. It is surprising, however, that so many 1940s irises, very popular in their own day, seem to have vanished off the face of the earth. Why? It isn't really that long ago and many of them were widely grown. [...]
I occasionally have someone ask "What do you want those old things for?" as I am curiously begging for a bit of some old iris growing by their alley, that happened to catch my eye as I wandered past. I just mumble something about being a collector and not having that color - I mean [...]
Louis Van Houtte's nursery introduced SANS SOUCI in Belgium in 1854. Soon after it was imported into the United States SANS SOUCI became confused with another iris, namely HONORABILE, which was introduced in Paris in 1840 by Jean-Niclas Lémon. SANS SOUCI is still grown all over North America and even wins top awards in iris [...]
If there existed somewhere in the world a tapestry into which were woven all the stories, legends, beliefs, symbols and facts concerning the Iris - it would be a very long tapestry indeed; and the end of it would not be visible, for the weavers are still at work. Surely, somewhere near the beginning of [...]
Fortunate breaks in hybridizing rarely occur. But, at some time during experimentation, if the breeder keeps at it diligently enough, a mutation or break comes up which adds something distinctly new and exciting to the floral pattern. Such an event took place twelve years ago in the tiny iris garden of Mrs. Jean Stevens, far [...]
It would be no exaggeration to say that, of all iris breeders, Mr. Arthur John Bliss did as much to improve irises in our gardens as any other person who has hybridized and raised irises. Sir Michael Foster and Mr. W. R. Dykes did most for straightening out the tangles in botany and horticulture in [...]
There are so many species, varieties and hybrids of rhizomatous Irises in cultivation that it is impossible to give within reasonable limits of space more than mere suggestions as to those which seem most interesting for some reason, or are of special value in the garden. Considering all points, there is no group of Irises [...]
Almost everyone who has been growing Iris for some time eventually gets the desire to try growing some from seed. There are many gardeners who would like to try their hand at hybridizing. You can do it with little trouble whether your ambition is to produce a fine new hybrid or just to see exactly [...]
[Gibson Girl - Flora Zenor - Rameses See gallery for credit and full varietal info.]Shall we ever see Autumn Sunset again? This old 'red' blend out of Rosy Wings X Rameses, registered in 1939 by E.G. Lapham, appears in the genealogy of some of our best and most dependable modern reblooming irises, such as Immortality, [...]
From New Orleans to New Zealand The Saga of Sam Rix and ‘Frances Elizabeth’
New Zealanders figure prominently in the history of iris culture, exhibition, education and breeding. Many Kiwis, such as Jean Stevens, are well known; however, few people today recognize the name Sam Rix nor the irises he developed. While his iris interests ranged far and wide, Rix's contribution to the world of Louisiana irises is particularly [...]
These are the selections of the Association of Iris Growers of America for the five outstanding iris for 1957. They are chosen by the growers for their excellent growth habits, their known quality, and their popularity with customers. All are fairly new varieties, having been introduced within the last ten years. They have all become [...]
In 1929 John Ravel, foreman of the 'digging gang' at Bertrand Farr's Iris farm wrote this first hand account of his work at the farm. His recollections were included as an appendage to the AIS checklist, 1929. The following account is taken from this article and takes us back to what it must have been [...]
All photos from Cooley's Garden catalogs. In order: Far West, Tobacco Road, Treasure Island, Mexico. This could be many stories, It could be the story of a young doctor who built a new home in 1914, and who employed Howard Weed to landscape the yard. Among the landscape plants were some irises advanced for that [...]
What do I mean by season of bloom? I ask that question in all sincerity, not for the reason that I think others might be confused, but rather that I myself am not sure I understand what I mean when I use even the three simplest terms - early, midseason, and late. There was a [...]
Little wonder that a plant so boldly decorative in outline and bearing a flower of exquisite coloring so marvelously formed should make its strongest appeal to the artistic Japanese. From these foremost gardeners of the world has come a strain of irises that neither orchids nor lilies can rival in beauty of form, texture, coloring, [...]
There are new frontiers to explore in the flower garden and you are advised to keep a wide open eye on the new varieties of iris. They help you to recapture that delectable thrill of discovery and accomplishment. Cover photo by Shostal Studios of New York. The adventurous soul finds precious few frontiers left to [...]
In 1922 AND 1923 the American Iris Society published abbreviated check lists (Bulletins 4 and 8) of Irises considered to be in commerce but omitting, for reasons of expense of printing, several thousand older Irises that were believed to be obsolete. Research, however, has been continued and this present work attempts to publish all that is know about Iris names that have appeared in gardening literature during the last hundred or more years. The officers have felt that this information which had been compiled by much hard work, was of great value for students and ought to be placed in permanent and available form.
Before the abbreviated lists were published, seven typewritten editions appeared in the years 1919 to 1921. It is from the seventh edition that much of the material in the present list has been drawn, but continued research has brought to light much additional information. Many new species and hundreds of […]
Up to about 1910 the Iris in American gardens were loosely known as Flags or German Iris. The word German came from the plant Linnaeus had named Iris germanica, because it had been sent to him from a German garden. It was to be seen in many gardens blooming in mid-May along with Florentina and a purple self similar to what we now know as Kochii. In early June in New England there were to be seen such varieties as Albert Victor, Flavescens, Aurea, Honorabile, Mme. Chereau, Victorine, Neglecta, Sambucina and Jacquesiana.
Most of the persons who had these in their gardens did not know these names or their origin. They were just “flags” and they bloomed year after year with little attention.
Between 1910 and 1920, new varieties began to appear in European and American catalogs. The […]
In 1925, popular garden magazine ‘The Flower Grower’, asked its readers for input as to the best 25 Iris for American growers, regardless of color, price or rating. Mr Robert Wayman, well regarded iris collector and commercial grower responded with his list of 25. The list gives us some interesting insights into what constitutes a ‘good’ iris in those days. Here is Mr Wayman’s response published in Oct 1925 by ‘The Flower Grower’.
“In the list given below, while I am ignoring price, I am not including the very expensive recent introductions, which have not yet proven themselves entirely reliable. All of those mentioned are perfectly hardy, free flowering, easy to handle, and are quite dependable. There are one or two that require special care, but this is noted and they are worth it.
AMBASSADEUR: This variety, in my opinion,.comes at the head of the list, having received a rating by the American Iris […]
The 1991 National Convention showed us more than a few Siberian Irises in bloom, many of which were gen-u-ine antiques. Since several of the tour garden owners are active HIPS members, it is not surprising that a number of older Siberians are grown in Region 4.
For example, Caesar’s Brother was seen blooming uniformly well in almost every tour garden – further evidence of what a stellar performer it is! I found several beautiful oldies which I had ‘seen’ only in print and I came away with at least a dozen of these antiques on my 1991 iris Want List. How wonderful that Siberian cultivars don’t go “out of Style;” that the form and color of Nigrescens (1875) is just as pleasing as any of the more recent offerings – that Nigrescens is a proven survivor is a real plus for the Sib fancier.
Back to the subject at hand: OK, so beauty is in […]
Crown Jewels are always the finest in the realm. The famous Koh-I-Noor diamond now graces the crown of England’s queen, and many another famous gem has found a permanent home in a royal crown. Just as the lapidarian chooses with infinite pains the most perfect jewels for a crown, so I have selected for my “Royal Fifty”, iris of the most enchanting shades and blends and the most perfect form and texture.
I have grown and tested every worthwhile variety that has appeared in the last quarter century, more than three thousand in all. I have raised additional thousands of seedlings, the result of my own hybridizing. The fifty varieties offered below represent those which have survived every test I could give them. They are the “Crown Jewels of Irisdom”.
BLUE VELVET: 46″ The entire flower seems to be cut out of velvet; the color is an intense […]
Carl Salbach, one of the great iris hybridizers of the early part of the 20th century wrote an article for Better Homes and Gardens, June 1930, describing the bearded iris, and its culture, including popular ‘modern’ iris suggestions in all colors for the home gardener. So what were Mr. Salbach’s selections? Following is an excerpt from that article, and all of his picks are included here.
Remember this is 1930. How many of these varieties are still in existence today?
He tells us that the color range and combinations are limitless. The lavender and lavender-blues are most numerous. ANN PAGE, CLARIDAD, CONQUISTADOR, LADY FOSTER, LEONATO, SAN GABRIEL and SANTA BARBARA are all good examples. GOLD CREST and MIRANDA are fine violet-blues of medium height and fine for mass effect, while MADAME GAUDICHEAU, a deep violet-blue adds to any garden.
There are new frontiers to explore in the flower garden and you are advised to keep a wide open eye on the new varieties of iris. They help you to recapture that delectable thrill of discovery and accomplishment.
by Ruth R. Spira
The adventurous soul finds precious few frontiers left to explore these days. An emphatic exception to the rule is the adventurous gardener, but rarely does even he find a more fruitful and expanding horizon lhan in iris growing. Topnotch plant suppliers compete in breeding the biggest, the most decorative, the most colorful, the tallest, or the most versatile iris of the year, hoping to win the attention of the average gardener, or even capture the sought-after Dykes Memorial Medal.
When you consider the totality of irises recorded in the 1939 and 1949 Check Lists, you realize just how few from that number we’ve managed to preserve. When you consider importance, though, the picture changes for the better. Of the significant output from the first half of the last century, many of the key parents and a good number of the popular varieties are “in captivity” and in circulation once again.
And yet…a few belles of yesteryear remain elusive. After this passage of time are they truly extinct or do they exist somewhere awaiting rediscovery? The older the iris, the greater chance it has moved to the ranks of unknown/unidentified, hanging on (if we’re lucky) in old gardens, in rural or isolated communities, or “gone wild” along country roadways. The varieties from the 1940s offer a better chance of rediscovery with names attached.
The following roster, arranged from oldest to most recent, is a misssing-person […]
First President of the American Iris Society and practiced maker of check lists -with permission of the Executive Board- in admiration and affection, this list is dedicated
To those of you who feel this ‘Check List’ is purely factual, let me assure you that it is far more than that. It is a book of high adventure in the field of beauty, a record of hopes achieved, and a guide to Rainbow’s end. A book for study on cold winter evenings when you can plan new beauty for our gardens.
I hope you will join with me in full appreciation of the unselfish hours of toil spent by its compiler through these many years.
H. H. Everett.
In the American Iris Society Alphabetical Iris Check List 1929 there were listed about twelve thousand names of Irises including species, forms of species, horticultural varieties and synonyms. Since then, […]
With iris planting time at hand the progressive gardener will not let the season pass without securing at least a few of the newer – and much finer – varieties that are now available at such moderate prices. This is especially true this year, because the Tall Bearded iris, among hardy plants, requires about the minimum of care and is therefore ideal for wartime beds and borders. …..For several years the writer has grown practically all of the newer irises, and the varieties suggested here have been selected on the basis of all around performance rather than for the beauty of the flower alone. I any garden with average good care , they will “perform’ to the growers satisfaction. …..Amoung whites there is glorious Mount Washington, whose whose noble form and carriage never fail to excite admiration, or Old Parchment with it’s elusive coloring – cream tinted with lavender fading to the color […]
Mary Helen Wingate Lloyd enjoyed her gardens at Allgates, her estate near Philadelphia, and well she might, for it was a lovely place indeed, with the Rose Garden bordered with apricot violas, the sunken Blue Garden with its narrow rill of water, the Frog Terrace with oversized bronze frog sculptures flanking an oblong pool, the Primrose Path leading toward the greenhouse, a sheep meadow in the middle distance through which one walked to the rustic Quarry Garden, fine stone steps and balustrades, and, immense in the landscape, the Iris Bowl, arguably the most famous private American iris garden of its time.
Unlike many gardens of the wealthy in the ‘twenties in which the hands of professionals and underlings created venues for al fresco social activities and conspicuous consumption, the formal gardens at Allgates were clearly Mrs. Lloyd’s, and, although she certainly employed assistance, her vision of horticultural beauty infused them, and her own hands, holding […]
Miss Grace Sturtevant was amused when I told her that for fifteen years I had marveled at the ease and sureness with which she named her iris, she answered with her radiant smile, “It is much easier to originate an iris than to name it.” As I start this paper, at the order of our secretary, on garden pictures of tall bearded iris, I realize how much easier it is to plan and to plant than to describe the garden effect.
In the first place, I must confess that I leave it to the iris. In planning colors I neither study a book nor work with a color chart. I look at an iris and the iris tells me what to do. There are many people who have never really looked at an iris in their lives. It’s an exciting thing to do. I look at an iris that is called pink and I find […]
Most folks begin their iris collections with whatever irises they are given or come their way, happily trying any and all. Over time, as the ‘iris virus’ takes hold, many folks become more discriminating. They start weeding out varieties they don’t like and seeking out new varieties to add. Often certain tastes develop – a particular hybridizer, pattern, class, or era becomes a favorite – and a theme garden is born.
Names – The most obvious place to start is with themes built around varietal names. Collect varieties with the same name as family members, or how about a garden full of irises all named for various ladies? Political figures? Celebrities? Literary characters? The possibilities are endless. Collections could be built around birds, food, music, or colors in the name.
Hybridizers – Many people settle on one or more hybridizers whose varieties they really enjoy and attempt to collect either a comprehensive […]
Even as new varieties overwhelm us in their abundance there are many reasons for preserving iris varieties of the past. It is hard to decide which reason is most compelling – even more difficult to decide which varieties deserve preservation, with as many opinions as there are admirers. I’ll try to explore a few of the reasons here.
Most prominently there are the sentimental reasons that drive many of us to preserve irises that they knew from childhood and have been passed down thru our families. These varieties are kept for the memories they evoke and are often the most loved and treasured of all the irises in the garden. Lent A. Williamson is one my grandmother grew that I now have in my garden. With its hardiness and vigor there is no danger it will be lost to history, but I treasure it just the same. Others preserve irises created by an enterprising family […]
To View what will really flourish in his particular garden, instead of breaking his heart over plants that are quite unsuited to his soil and climate, is advice which old gardeners continually find themselves impressing upon the beginner. I am induced to say a few words upon the so-called German Irises, because they are plants so good-natured as to do well in most places – even in town gardens – if treated with a moderate amount of kindness, and, when once planted, left undisturbed. I was told when I began to cultivate these Irises that they were fond of damp, and though I doubted the truth of the statement then, I have no doubt as to its untruth now; mine, at any rate, do best in the dry part of the garden. In damp places, the so-called germanica frequently waste away (that may of course be due to something peculiar in the soil), and are […]
A Brief Study, by the Authority on Iris, of Resemblances and Differences Between Some of the Less Familiar Members of this Great Group
It is difficult perhaps for one who has always gardened in the island climate of the south of England, to foretell the behavior of the various Iris species when cultivated in America. But the fact that most species are natives of countries possessing a continental climate, with greater extremes of heat and cold than we usually experience in England, would seem to indicate that, on the whole, Irises should be easier to cultivate with success in the northern states than in England. In sheltered southern districts, however, where vegetation is practically unchecked throughout the winter months, there will probably be difficulties in the way of flowering certain species which in their natural conditions lie dormant for several months.
To many people the mention of an Iris suggests merely either a Bearded Iris, […]
A note on some of the newer Bearded Irises of French origin may be of interest. In the fall of 1918 I received a collection of about fifty varieties and these together with a number of others bloomed sufficiently well for a flower comparison at least, though many undoubtedly will prove more worthwhile in mass or as a well developed clump of two or three years standing.
In France whose nurserymen are so noted for horticultural developments in many lines, the Iris has received its mead of attention and Alcazar, Monsignor, Oriflamme and others, all introduced by Vilmorin, have done much to raise the standard. In the past, Verdier, Cayeux, Crouse and Lemoine are known, but at present Millet, Denis, and Vilmorin, Andrieux et Cie, are more closely connected with the iris.
As far as my records permit I shall consider the varieties from the same source as many of them do not lend themselves […]
One of the most poetic of flowers is the Iris. So insistent in their bid for attention are the great Dahlias, that the Iris, in California, has not yet come to the full share of popularity that is now its due. Yet it is a flower of stately beauty, wonderfully rich in color, and almost as easily grown and permanent when once established as that prince of die-hards, the red Geranium.
With all its ease of cultivation, the Iris is an aristocrat. Beside its ancient linage, the Gladiolus, the Dahlia, and the Chrysanthemum are mere infants. It is almost as old as the Egyptian Lotus. Also it is linked with history. As definitely as the Rose is part of English history, the Fleur-de-lis belongs to France. The “Lilies” which Jeanne d’Arc embroidered on her banner were Fleur-de-lis or Irises. Probably Eve grew them in Eden, for today Asia is particularly rich in Irises and very […]
A lot has been made lately of whether or not in the quest for more lace, more ruffles, new color breaks, horns, flounces and other revolutionary developments, that hybridizers are sacrificing vigor, disease resistance and durability. Also are they taking the time to test their new creations for performance in a wide range of climates; i.e. will they perform throughout the country and, today, throughout the world? Complaints are common from home gardeners and irisarians alike that the newer varieties are not as dependable as the irises of the past. They are more susceptible to rot, leaf spot, borers or they don’t hold up to the heat or cold depending on region. Are these complaints new or have there always been iris introductions that had these same problems? I would guess that the historic irises available today represent about twenty percent of those introduced more than thirty years ago. What happened to the other eighty […]
In 2000 Chapter 26 – Historic Irises – was added to the “Handbook for Judges and Show Officials”. It provided instruction on the proper inclusion of Historic irises in AIS approved shows including the sentence, “Exhibitors should have the choice of entering the 30+ year old iris in the Historic or regular class (TB, MTB, etc.). This seemed to say that one exhibitor could choose to enter STEPPING OUT, for instance, in the Historic section while another exhibitor could enter their STEPPING OUT in the TB section. Many felt that this would create a situation in conflict with the instruction in Chapter 4, page 41 under “Award Ribbons” which stated, “Only one first place ribbon (blue), one second place ribbon (red), and one third place ribbon (white) may be awarded to each cultivar.” The concern being that in the above instance the cultivar, STEPPING OUT, could be awarded blue ribbons in each of the sections.
I sent some photos to Phil Edinger for positive identification. He seemed to agree on most of the names but says what we have called Eleanor Roosevelt for years is really Crimson King. I see no crimson in it – it seems to match all my descriptions of ER: “deep violet self; blue beard”; “deep violet-red, slight fragrance” (not too sure about this one); “intense violet, white beard, remontent.” I always think of the beard as white, but I can see that it does have a bit of a blue cast. For a long time I have wanted to get Crimson King for a comparison; now I will have to get Eleanor Roosevelt to compare with my Crimson King if Phil is right. I wish I could see pictures of the two of them side by side.
Everyone I know calls this one Eleanor Roosevelt and I don’t know anyone who has Crimson King. It […]
Convention garden visit report, reprinted from AIS Bulletin #156, July 1960.
Entering Dr. Kleinsorge’s garden for the first time gave one the happy, secure feeling of coming home to familiar surroundings; for there to greet Convention visitors were GYPSY, CASCADE SPLENDOR, BALLET DANCER, TOBACCO ROAD and other well-loved irises. Growing in huge clumps, just coming into bloom with promise of many specimen stalks, the irises in this garden were a tribute to the Doctor’s ability in growing iris in the same soil year after year.
Dr. R.E. Kleinsorge in his garden. Below: Photos of Dr. Kleinsorge’s garden from Cooley’s Gardens catalogs. Without a doubt, Dr. Kleinsorge’s is one of the smallest seedling beds in the entire iris world. And probably more prize-winning iris have originated in his compact garden (something like 40 Award of Merit winners) than in any […]
I didn’t expect to end up with a collection of 700 historic irises. I just wanted to clean up some weedy flower beds at a house I was renting. Ugly, badly overgrown with blackberries and grass, the beds held just a few rhodies, old roses and lilacs struggling to survive in their neglect. Having wonderful memories of my grandmothers’ gardens from my childhood to guide me I began making plans for flower borders, but my inexperience combined with terrible soil and a lack of funds made this a challenge.
I started collecting seeds and starts of various common flowers from neighbors and from escaped plants along the alleys I walked thru going to and from work, getting an idea of what would live in my poor soil and tough conditions. I noticed about this time that my neighbor had an iris bed badly overgrown with grass that was being mowed over about the edges and […]
Our town sits at the end of a 25-mile driveway, in the middle of blessed nowhere on the shore of Lake Superior. Built for the lumber industry in the 1880s, it was a boomtown for a couple of decades. When timber played out in the early 1900s, pretty well everyone upped and left. The last train went south, and railroad workers pulled up the tracks behind them.
When the white settlers had come and especially, I imagine, the women they brought their favorite flowers with them. I suppose that when they left, they took some away. But you don’t dig a whole clump of irises when you’re packing your trunk, you just tuck in a toe or two, so they left a lot of irises behind. We find them now in fields, at old home sites, in the woods, in forgotten corners, and in gardens.
Continuing our series profiling horticultural devotees whose gardens, and lives, are shaped by their love of one species or planting style, we meet Sarah Cook. Head gardener at Sissinghurst for 14 years, she now seeks out the bearded irises bred and painted by 20th-century artist, plantsman, and bon viveur Cedric Morris.
Who was Cedric Morris?
He was one of the founders of the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, whose alumni include Lucian Freud and Maggi Hambling. It was a bohemian establishment based in a Georgian house called Benton End at Hadleigh in Suffolk where the pupils lived alongside their tutors. socialising and sharing lively dinners with them and their friends, Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto were among the regular visitors. For Cedric Morris, the garden was as important as the houseouse. There he grewv flowers […]
Sometimes, a mis-identification can he so widespread and of such long standing that no one thinks to question it. After all, if everyone grows Plant X under the same name – under which it has circulated for countless years – who would expect it to be incorrect? Growers of heritage roses are all too familiar with the “Usurper’s Syndrome,” particularly among 19th century originations, for which there exist few photographic or artistic renderings, and for which the few detailed descriptions tend toward exaggeration.
Because the majority of our historic irises are 20th- century productions, we can expect to find among old catalogs, iris society publications, and various books and periodicals, decent descriptions and even photographs. All of this material works toward name accuracy; even if an impostor begins circulating, sooner or later it runs up against the real thing – or against a sharp-eyed reader who notices the discrepancy between description/photo and the actual iris.
Mr. Wallace had told me that I should find a very large collection of standard iris varieties at Taplow, and had said that Mr. William Barr was the best-informed man in England on the early history of iris culture. Consequently I decided to make the iris trip up there, in spite of the fact that the irises were nearly over. I found the largest collection of the older varieties that I had ever seen in England, most of them well-known in America, also a complete set of the newer Vilmorin varieties, including Ambigu and Opera, both of which Mr. Barr criticises as being too dwarf. A little further on were the Farr seedlings, from Wyomissing, and seeing them here after all the irises I have seen in France and England I was rather disillusioned about them for they did not seem quite good enough to measure up with the new European sorts. Among the entire […]
After leaving Mr. Perry I returned to London and went directly by electric train to Harrow, a journey of less than half an hour. It is one of the prettiest towns I have seen in England, perched up on the hill-top, with crowds of boys of 10 or 15 all dressed alike in grey flannel trousers, blue flannel coats and wide-brimmed straw hats.
Sir Arthur Hort’s house is on the very top of the hill with a magnificent view of the country below. He welcomed me very kindly on account of my interest in irises, and was particularly pleased to learn that some of his new seedlings had been sent from Mr. Wallace’s nursery to me in America.
His seedlings are mostly of Trojana type, very tall and very large. Ann Page, Volumnia and Hermione as grown here are fully as large as Vilmorin’s Magnifica, […]
From London to Enfield is only about one-half hour by train, and Mr. Perry’s nurseries here were known all over the world before the war for their extensive collections of herbaceous plants and especially for rare Alpines and lilies. When war conditions made it impossible to keep all these collections in good condition, Mr. Perry very wisely confined his attention to his rarer things, and most of these have survived.
I therefore did not see as many irises as I had expected to, but the few which I did see well repaid the journey. There were a number of standard bearded varieties, and I saw also quite a number of Mr. Perry’s new seedlings, some of which he may name and send out in the future. Here I saw also the new American self yellow variegata, Mrs. Sherwin-Wright. It is a good yellow, but apparently no better than Aurea, and I agree with Mr. Perry […]
Leaving Wisley at noon I caught a train at Byfleet a little after one and in less than an hour was in Godalming. Mr. Dykes’ place is small – not more than an acre or two in all, but he has a good sized collection of tall bearded irises and probably the largest collection of species of Apogon, Oncocyclus and Bulbous Irises in the world.
Among the bearded irises the following were noted as specially fine:
Pallida Como. A collected form of Sir Michael Foster’s. An Unnamed Variegata. Seedling of Her Majesty, in color a cream yellow resembling Dawn, much taller than any other yellow self and very valuable for that reason Sunshine (Yeld). A variegata yellow self of the form of Dawn, but of bright glittering yellow color not as golden as Aurea. Very fine massed. Ochracea Caerulea […]
Early in the morning of June 11 I took the train from London to Byfleet, a run of about 45 minutes. There I hired a bicycle and rode about four miles to Wisley. Here are the large trial and exhibition gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society. The place has been laid out with great skill into many different gardens. As one enters there is a wide gravel walk with rose beds on either side and climbing roses at the back, among which Paul’s Carmine Pillar and several others were already in bloom. Behind these are tall hedges. Behind the hedge on the left is a large field in the corner of which the iris trials were held in 1916 and 1917.
To the right of the roses the ground slopes away gradually. Near the entrance are greenhouses and futher along the path winds down to the big rock garden and also to the water garden […]
Mr. R. W. Wallace and I left London Saturday, June 4th at 10:50 on the L. & S. W. Railway, and reached Tavistock, which lies west of Exeter, at 4:30. From here we drove by automobile through the beautiful hilly Devon country five miles to the little deserted village of Morwellham on the banks of the Tamar River. Here Mr. Bliss lives, along with his flowers and his books, in the old “Ship Inn.” He welcomed us most cordially, and insisted upon our having tea at once. Then he and his brother who was visiting him for a few weeks, conducted us about 200 yards to the little allotment which is his garden. It was a long walk for Mr. Bliss as he had sprained his ankle a few weeks before and it was still very painful.
The allotment covers a bit of ground hardly more […]
Leaving London at 3:15 I arrived at Colchester at 4:30 and meeting Mr. Wallace, spent four hours among the Irises with him.
The Wallace collection is very large. It contains the best of the old varieties in quantity, and all the newer introductions of Denis, Millet, Vilmorin and Farr, and thus gives a very comprehensive survey of practically all the varieties now in commerce. Here also are the best of Sir Michael Foster’s seedlings, of Mr. Yeld’s seedlings, and finally, the latest novelties of Sir Arthur Hort, and of Mr. A. J. Bliss.
It was instructive to see these newer sorts growing side by side with the older ones and it served to show again how very fast Irises have been improved of late years. When a sufficient stock of the new varieties has been propagated, the older varieties will be entirely […]
Editor’s note: – There is very much of interest in the history and personal association of the pioneers with the earliest cultivation of various plants and flowers that have become really so popular as to have outstepped the confines of the garden and become almost cosmopolitan in their appeal and acquaintance with the world at large. Unfortunately, much of this early history has been lost because in the beginning the ultimate wide-spreading interest could not be foreseen. The earliest and greatest amount of plant improvement naturally was accomplished by European gardeners, and the introduction of their products into the gardens of America formed the basis of further developments in conformity with the requirements and the conditions of this country. The Garden Magazine has attempted to put in concise form available information concerning the early history of popular garden plants in this country and the people who […]
In the afternoon I went from Bourg-la-Reine with M. and Mme. Millet by train to Verrieres five or ten miles distant. After a hot walk of half an hour we reached the office of the Vilmorin Nurseries and Seed Farms. Here M. Mottet, who has charge of all the plant growing, greeted us and conducted us to the Iris Fields. Our way led through a beautiful rock garden on the grounds of one of the members of the Vilmorin family, where we saw many Alpines in bloom, and also a fine specimen of the new Deutzia Vilmorinae – a most gorgeous shrub; also a beautiful hawthorn with a Paul’s Carmine Pillar rose covering the top of it.
There are two Iris collections, of three plants to a variety, one arranged according to sections, Pallida, Variegata, Squalens, etc., the other arranged by color. Besides this there are several […]
Leaving Paris by the Porte d’Orleans it is only about ten minutes by tram to Bourg-la-Reine.
I found M. Millet in his exhibition garden behind his house, where large bunches of Hemerocallis were being cut for the Paris market. Here I saw also a new seedling Oriental Poppy, the color of Mahony, but the largest and tallest poppy I have ever seen.
M. Millet’s main Iris collection is in a field a half mile or so from his house. Here he has a large collection of the standard named varieties, which are well-known in America. He has also a collection of M. Denis’s Ricardi seedlings. Many of these were not so impressive as when I saw them in their home in the south of France, and are evidently better suited to hot dry climates than to the cool and wet climate of Paris.
Leaving Paris at 8:00 p. m. Sunday, May 18th, I changed cars at Avignon at 8:00 Monday morning, and proceeded via Nimes and Montpellier to Cette, arriving at 11:40. There I was met by M. Denis’s automobile and driven to his house in Balaruc-les-Bains about six miles distance. His place is near the top of a hill overlooking the bay, the city of Cette and the mountain Cette, and the Mediterranean beyond. The view is wonderful though much broken up by trees, of which M. Denis is very fond; indeed he prefers to sacrifice his view rather than his trees.
M. Denis’s place is small, probably not more than four or five acres in all, and is cut into many small gardens at different levels. There is one small greenhouse devoted to orchids, and there are many orchids being grown in the gardens and in the grass, also many roses and other flowers.
War: World War I, 1914-1920 Branch: Army Unit: US Advance Ordnance Depot 4, Jonchery Service Location: Augusta Arsenal Training School; Jonchery (Haute Marne), France Rank: First Sergeant Place of Birth: Philadelphia, PA
It was my good fortune last spring to be able to secure my discharge from the Army in France and to travel for five weeks through France and England visiting gardens and nurseries. An account of my visits to Dessert and Lemoine to see Tree Peonies has already been given in an earlier issue of this bulletin, but I timed my trip especially to see Irises, and I followed their blooming season north, beginning with the Mediterranean coast on May 19th  and seeing my last irises at Kew on June 19th, the day before I sailed for home.
You know who them are familiar with the pleasure an iris flower gives you when yo look at the balance of its flowering lines. Surely no flower eclipses or improves on the sheer artistry of its form. But then add to beauty of line color ranging from brilliant to delicate, strong to pastel to pure, endow this paragon with ease of culture, and you have a flower that is bound to have a thunderous following. There is still another trait which adds to its charm, and that is the fact that the veriest amateur can succeed in developing newer, lovelier varieties. With iris the process is not complicated.
I began raising iris in New Zealand 30 years ago when the finest in the world came from English and French breeders. Their products started my breeding lines. My first success was Destiny, […]
It was the late 1920’s. hybridizers efforts to chart the course of bearded iris development were being rewarded with gratifying results. It should come as no surprise that Mrs. Douglas Pattison, a prominent iris grower and judge, declared that 1929 “should be noted as a very famous year in iris history.” In that year three very beautiful reds, real reds in color, each remarkably fine in height, substance, poise, and branching quality were introduced to the public. Of these, two were American: Dauntless (Connell 1929), and Indian Chief (Ayres 1929) and one was French, Numa Roumestan (Cayeux 1928). “Prior to that date”, Mrs. Pattison continues, “there was hardly a red iris worthy of the name.” It did not take the AIS long to recognize the beauty of one. Dauntless was awarded the Dykes memorial Medal by the American iris Society in 1929, the very year of its […]
Montclair NJ was one of the first suburban ‘bedroom communities’ of NYC, just 13 miles away. By the early 20th century it had become a hub of arts, culture, and exemplary architecture. When some citizens wanted the town to buy the last large piece of vacant land, the edict from the Mayor was: ‘bring us 5,000 signatures of residents and then we will buy’. And Mrs. Barbara Walther, who lived next door to the land, collected 5,000 signatures. The new park was christened Mountainside Park.
Frank Presby was a highly regarded and beloved member of the Montclair community. Not only was Mr. Presby a successful businessman, and a community leader, but he was also an avid amateur gardener who was one of the first to advocate for the formation of the American Iris Society. His sudden death from a bout of ‘acute indigestion’ in 1924 […]
Or what is the difference between I. albicans, I. florentina, and I. germanica ‘Alba’? This is a question that has come to me several times over the last few years and has produced a lot of visual surveying of these plants on my part. It has been the topic of many discussions and it has tended to be a problem for gardeners to tell the difference between them and to identify a particular clone in the garden. I hope this small treatise will help in that endeavor.
I. albicans is really an intermediate bearded species (IB) standing from 12 to 24 inches in height. It is found throughout the Mediterranean but considered to have originated in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It is sometimes noted that the falls are slightly pointed and often have a notch at the point of the standards and falls. Branches […]
Official White List By vote of the Directors, January 29, 1925, the publication of a White List of Recommended Varieties of Tall Bearded Irises and a Black List of varieties marked for discard was authorized.
The White List is composed of good varieties that are reliable, fairly generally listed at a reasonable price, fully representative of the inherent color classes, and worthy of increased popularity. In no sense is the list to be considered a “Best List” with the coollary that anything not included is unworthy. It is simply a Selected List of varieties to which, from time to time, will be added varieties at present too new or too expensive for inclusion. The beginner should be guided in his purchases by the White List, the non-specialist grower should list only varieties selected therefrom.
Official Black List By vote of the directors, January 29, 1925, the following varieties of Tall Bearded […]
It was the perfect opportunity. With the AIS convention in western Pennsylvania, with the irises there virtually at peak bloom, why not tag on a trip to the Presby Memorial Gardens in nearby New Jersey? Established in the 1930s, this public garden once contained the most comprehensive collection of historic irises in North America, the collection building by yearly acquisitions from the garden’s inception.
The anticipated horde of HIPSters to make the Presby pilgrimage attenuated to a scant handful of the intrepidly curious. Two of the group had visited the garden in the past, and from as long ago as 1970 could attest that Presby suffered from typical “public garden syndrome”: the “personpower” – and all of it volunteer help – needed for maintaining the collection always fell short of the number needed to keep the entire collection in top shape. The irises, closely planted in blocks of varieties in wide, curving beds, would easily […]