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 the trunks of trees. Although the iris was declared the official flower of the city in April, 1921, largely through the lobbying of the local Garden Club, it could not be said that interest in bearded irises has remained high in this city and most of the irises one sees are historic cultivars. Many are familiar and expected; some, as we said, are amazing.
A little knowledge of the social history of the city helps to track down these irises. Some survive as family heirlooms in affluent neighborhoods, some persist in areas where the population is aging, and some migrated to those neighborhoods on the bus lines where many of the inhabitants worked as domestic help to the members of the Garden Club. Some are still found today along those avenues fashiona [...]
Comments Off on Preparing Irises for Exhibition at Iris Shows
(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?
This practice avoids potential damage to the blooms from rain, wind or hail. It also avoids possible sun fading of blooms, particularly a problem in strong sunlight in the case of the darker colored irises. Note that the Judges' Handbook allocates 15 points (out of 100 total) to "color." Color saturation (which suffers in sun fading) enters into scoring in this area.
Cutting ahead of time allows you to increase the number of irises from which to select your entries by letting you slow down opening of blooms from plants which otherwise would have bloomed and folded before the show or to speed up blooming by forcing flowers which otherwise would not have been ready in time for the show.
Of course, when you cut your irises in the bud, you won't know whether or not they wil [...]
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 Montana or Missoula county. The entire area consists of the museum and many historical buildings, antique farm equipment, a logging mill, and a forest service look-out tower. There are also several buildings used by the forest service and Montana National Guard there, the nearest being several hundred yards from the garden.
Other than the museum building, the area where the garden is located is quite open and is not protected from the elements nor from the deer and other animals - foxes, raccoons, squirrels and stray dogs - that inhabit the area.
The garden consists of three large mounds, one each for tall bearded, beardless, and median irises, a long curving 'Dykes' row and six radial rows, each about 30 feet long. Most of the iris there are tall be [...]
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, but it had been my dream for many years. Within a few days seven more pink flowers made their appearance among our seedlings, and these eight plants turned out to be the beginning of a new line of pink iris. Twenty-five years ago I realized a pure pink iris would add much to the beauty of flower gardens and made up my mind then to grow one. As most Flower Grower readers know, the breeding of plants is not unlike the breeding of birds, animals or other living things - the same general laws of heredity apply.
A typical group of Flamingo Pinks selected from the author's unnamed seedling collection. This new strain is the result of 17 years' endevour.
Better animals, birds, vegetables and flowers are developed by carefully planned mating. Broadly speaking, "like gets like," but there is always variation in the offspring. [...]
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.
Well known varieties like Cordovan, Lynn Langford and Lilac Lane to name just three, appear to be gone. In the last few years I have acquired Lilac Lane from two different sources and been sent a photograph of Cordovan which was also incorrect. Lynn Langford is supposedly growing in a bed of irises at a California nursing home. However it has refused to bloom for several years so cannot be identified.
Practically no one grows the correct Tobacco Road, introduced in I941, and one of the most famous and important irises of all time. But beware -- there is an impostor in circulation out there. The correct TR has purple based foliage, the incorrect one does not.
However, one long-lost iris from the '40s seems to have resurfaced: Golden Eagle (Hall 1942). It was growing in the Oregon garden of Roge [...]
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 sure I have pink, but not that pink. I usually offer to bring a start from my garden in return, but few take me up on it. Truth is I am fascinated with old noids, as we irisariens term those irises whose names have been lost. There is something of the mysterious and magical in a flower that has thrived on neglect, being passed along from hand to hand, garden to garden. How many folks passed out starts to dear friends to brighten their gardens? There must have been many cast off bits that grew where they landed in a forgotten corner or the edge of the compost pile, and in time thriving enough to colonize large swaths of the back alley. Church sales, farmers markets and pass-alongs to the kids as they start new homes, some of these old beauties really get around. Others remain where they started while families come [...]
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 shows, but it is almost always identified as HONORABILE.
If the iris you are growing as HONORABILE has yellow standards and "elegantly reticulated crimson-brown falls" you are probably growing SANS SOUCI. The true HONORABILE has solid red-violet falls that appear "rich mahogany-brown." How do I know this? Let me tell you.
First, the 1916 edition of Rev. C.S. Harrison's Manuel on the Iris has a list of the names and descriptions of iris cultivars prepared by one of America's pioneer iris growers and sellers, Mrs. Jennet Dean of Moneta, California. This list includes both HONORABILE and SANS SOUCI. HONORABILE, identified by its synonym "Honorabilis" on Mrs. Dean's list, was described as an iris with yellow standards and "rich mahogany-brown" falls. Mrs. D [...]
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 this tapestry there would be a rainbow; somewhere also a lovely Goddess clad in multi-colored robes, wearing a nimbus and displaying golden wings, would appear; Then there would be depicted Knights, Kings, Pyramids, mountains, streams, meadows, rooftops, and all manner of people. The colors of the tapestry would range from somber to gaudy; and the shapes of the flower embossed throughout would vary greatly - though always one would see three petals reaching up and three arching down.
We owe the name of our flower to the Greeks. Among their deities, who dwelt on Mt. Olympus, was one called Iris. She was the special messenger of Hera, the Queen Goddess. When Iris carried special messages from Heaven to Earth, she used the rainbows as her pathway.
There are many stories about how the flower came to bear the name of the Goddess. It is certain that the Ancients believed the flower to be especially loved and endowed by the Gods.