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Carl Salbach on Iris

Popular Iris 75 Years Ago

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.

iris frieda mohr, mrs. valerie west, seminoleAMBASSADEUR, with bronzy violet standards and dark velvety maroon falls, is the best of the moderately priced bronzes. GRACE STURDEVANT and MRS. VALERIE WEST, two new DOMINION seedlings are decidedly the richest.

The pinks, all of which are orchid or lavender-pink, are headed by FRIEDA MOHR, a tall stately branching bicolor, with delicate pink-lilac standards and deep lilac-rose falls. FRIEDA MOHR is often referred to as the Queen of the Iris. APHRODITE, MRS. MARION CRAN and SOLFERINO are three splendid tall-growing varieties in this class. DREAM, with its soft orchid tones and crinkled edges is unlike any of the others HARRIET PRESBY, J.B. DUMAS, PANDORA, and the early-flowering GEORGIA are all different shades of pink. NANCY ORNE and MADAME CHERI are pink with a suggestion of yellow.

MORNING SPLENDOR, OPERA, and SEMINOLE are spoken of as red iris, all being deep rose-red. SAN LUIS REY, similar in color to OPERA, which Prof. S.B. Mitchell, its originator, humorously calls his ‘Grand Opera’ bids fair to outdistance all others in this group.

Of the blends, the little QUAKER LADY is best known, MADAME DURRAND, a lavender-buff, is tall and very elegant. DON QUIXOTE is darker than either, very large and intriguing.

Of the pure whites, PURISSIMA is considered the finest of all. MICHELINE CHARRIERE and SHASTA are also splendid. Of the older varieties KASHMIR WHITE, ZADA, TAJ MAHAL, and others are very good.

The plicata group is being watched with interest, as many new patterns are being offered. SAN FRANCISCO, tall and branching, with both standards and falls edged lavender, was awarded the W.R. Dykes medal as the most noteworthy iris introduced in 1927. This with LOS ANGELES and SACRAMENTO, has put plicatas on an equal footing with all other tall branching iris. Many of the other plicatas are beautiful, tho none is so tall and branching. TRUE DELIGHT, of medium height, is white with pink edges and style branches; PARISIANA, the seed parent of WILLIAM MOHR, is cream-white, heavily dotted and veined lilacpurple; GAVIOTA is ivory white edged yellow; JUBILEE, buff dotted dark copper.

iris quaker lady, los angeles, gold imperial The yellows and the yellow bicolors constitute the highlights of the iris garden. Of the newer yellow bicolors, RIALGAR, with its clear buttercup yellow standards and deeper yellow bronze-striped falls, is a decided favorite with the writer. ARGYNNIS, with yellow standards and bright chestnut red falls, is also very colorful. IRIS KING, FRO, and MITHRAS are old favorites.

A large, tall rich-veined yellow is the dream of all iris breeders. PLUIE D’OR and MIRASOL are the nearest approach to the ideal. W.R. DYKES comes to us with splendid reports, but our plants have not yet flowered. PRIMROSE and GOLD IMPERIAL are excellent yellows but not quite as large as the first two. SOLEDAD and PRIMAVERA, in primrose-yellow, are both very early. YELLOW MOON, a pale amber-yellow, is very floriferous and fine for mass effect. SUNSET and VIRGINIA MOORE are two good late yellows.

The wonderful WILLIAM MOHR is in a class by itself. It is the result of a most unusual cross. The plant is of medium height, but the flowers are among the largest in the garden. They are on the order of Iris Susiana, the Mourning Iris, but of much more beautiful color. This is a clear pale lilac thickly veined manganese-violet. The petals are unusually large and beautifully ruffled.

Almost all the older iris are very inexpensive, but even the new ones are not extravagant investments, when one considers the rapidity of the increase, which average 4 the first year and 15 the second year. This factor, coupled with the ease with which they can be grown and the increasing wealth of bloom produced from year to year from one planting, makes the iris one of the most satisfying of all garden flowers.

~ Excerpted from original article appearing in Better Homes and Gardens, June 1930.
Please see Photo Gallery for photo credit and varietal info.
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