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The Best Twenty Five Iris of 1925

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.

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Ambassadeur

  • AMBASSADEUR: This variety, in my opinion,.comes at the head of the list, having received a rating by the American Iris Society of 94 out of 96 points. It is exceedingly rich in coloring with smoky lavender standards and velvety purple maroon falls.
  • BALLERINE carries the same rating as AMBASSADEUR,. It is a very large, fragrant, light violet-blue flower, growing 4 feet tall and blooms early.
  • SOUVENIR DE MME. GAUDICHEAU: Rated 93, this is admitted by nearly everybody who is an authority to be the very largest, finest and richest dark purple. It grows 42 inches tall, blooms early and is very free flowering.
  • SHEKINAH is a pale yellow pallida originated by our American hybridizer Miss Sturtevant. When seen in a mass it is exquisitely beautiful.
  • TROOST: A very large rose colored flower with distinctive veining. The finest and largest of its type.
  • VIRGINIA MOORE is the largest and finest deep yellow.
  • DREAM is a dreamy light pink that everybody is very much fascinated with.
  • LENT A.WILLIAMSON: This variety was given the highest rating of 96 by the American Iris Society Jurors in 1922. My own opinion is that while it is a fine flower, AMBASSADEUR should have been rated ahead of it.
  • ANNA FARR is the finest of the plicata type, large white flower, with a delicate penciling of light lavender around the edges. Some folks report it as hard to grow. I have not found it so, but for those who wish to be perfectly safe, the variety
  • MA MIE which is similar in color, is almost as good and seems to be hardy everywhere.
  • ASIA grows 4 1/2 feet and is one of the most wonderful Irises in cultivation. The flowers are of perfect shape and are very large.
  • PARISIANA: While this is a moderate priced variety, until recent years it stood in a class entirely by itself. There are now some newer varieties of similar type, but it remains to be seen whether they are better. PARISIANA has a white ground dotted and striped with deep lilac.
  • ALCAZAR: Although this is one of the older varieties, originated in 1911, it is still one of the finest Iris in cultivation.
  • SEMINOLE is almost a crimson color. It is in a class by itself in that respect and is of rich velvety texture.
  • E.H. JENKINS: This is a blue purple variety of exceptional branching habits and very free flowering.
  • SUSAN BLISS: One of the best so-called ‘pinks’.
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    Mother of Pearl

  • MOTHER OF PEARL: The name describes the color. It was originated in 1921 and is very tall and free flowering.
  • RICARDI FONCE is one of the most beautiful Iris I have ever seen and it blooms profusely in my gardens. I believe others are not quite so fortunate with it.
  • SAPPHIRE is a magnificent dauphin’s blue and exceedingly free flowering. It does not produce large rhizomes, but Oh Boy! You should see a bed of them in bloom.
  • VALERY MAYET is the very best bronze colored Iris, being of a mixture of coppery rose and deep red-brown.
  • BRANDYWINE is a very beautiful silvery blue with bright golden beard’ the flowers are of perfect shape.
  • EGLAMOUR: the largest Iris I have ever seen, being of monster size, purple bi-color.
  • MADAME DURRAND is a somewhat difficult Iris to grow but blooms beautifully with me and is well worth the little extra care that it requires as it is in a class by itself on account of the buff colored standards. I keep it in a cold frame to avoid excessive moisture, dividing the roots every second year, and I have no trouble growing and flowering it with this treatment.
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    Magnifica

  • MAGNIFICA: While some report this variety a little hard to grow, I have not found it so. It is a most stately Iris with flowers of brilliant coloring, delightful fragrance and gigantic size. It will do well if grown in full sunshine. I find it beneficial to divide the roots of this variety every second year.
  • SWEET LAVENDER: A very beautiful pale lavender blue flower of perfect shape. One of my plants was in full bloom the last week in July this year.

I have not included any pure whites in this collection although there should be at least two or three white varieties among a collection of twenty five. The finest white is no doubt KASHMIR WHITE but many people report it hard to grow, although it blooms well for me which I attribute to the fact that I divide the clump of this variety every second year. Three white varieties which are easier to grow are WHITE KNIGHT, LA NEIGE, and WHITE QUEEN. They are all quite different and bloom at different times. And then I would not be without FAIRY another exquisite white.

Of course twenty five more could easily be added to the list, but this list avoids duplication of color while providing a fairly complete color range.

Such a variety as LEVERRIER should be added which is similar in color to MAGNIFICA, but quite different in effect. MAGNIFICA growing on stiff stems and having a stateliness of bearing, while LEVERRIER is more branched but less erect.

LORD of JUNE is another great favorite but in my opinion is superseded by the larger taller BALLERINE. Still the flowers, while of similar color, and of different form and bearing and the complete collection should contain both varieties.

And so I might give very good reasons for giving a list of the best fifty, or for expanding the list to a hundred varieties for in a collection of twenty-five varieties many choice things must be omitted.”

[Reprinted from ‘The Flower Grower’ Vol xii, number 10, October 1925]Photo credits: Ambassadeur from Robert Wayman catalog for 1940; Mother of Pearl from The Sam Carpenter Gardens catalog1929; Magnifica from National Iris Gardens catalog for 1933

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