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Visit to Messrs. Barr & Sons’ Nurseries

Taplow (June 13, 1919)
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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 set Quaker Lady seemed to me one of those most certain to gain a permanent place, though Mary Garden, Minnehaha, Montezuma and others will probably survive also. Glory of Reading and Red Cloud were not in bloom, but Mr. Barr had not been much impressed with them.

It should of course be remembered that American grown seedlings may not always do themselves justice in Europe, and the European kinds may possibly not prove so good over here as they are at home.

Mr. Barr was able to throw some light for me upon the confusion existing between Pallida Dalmatica and Princess Beatrice. He says that the former is a collected form which was sent out by several English nurseries before Princess Beatrice was named; that Princess Beatrice is another and later collected form from the same region, which was probably named and sent out by the Kelways. It is a larger and better flower than Pallida Dalmatica and is not identical with it, but each has probably been sent out as the other so that it is difficult to tell just what various nurseries and gardens have under each name. He added that the variety Rev. W. Wilks is reputed to be an English seedling of Pallida Dalmatica, but that it is apparently identical with Princess Beatrice.

Mr. Barr marked for me in his catalogue some of the varieties first sent out by his firm, most of which were Taplow seedlings. This list is very interesting, for most of the varieties have been standard sorts in America for years, and it shows the great work done by the Barrs in the early days of iris culture. Some of these varieties are as follows:

Pallida Section:
Albert Victor; Celeste; Florence Wells; Garibaldi; Guinevere; Kathleen; Queen Mary; Rembrandt; Walner.

Variegata Section:
Darius; Edward Simmons; Hector; Honorable; Maori King; Ossian; Robert Burns.

iris cottage maidAmoena Section:
Calypso; Poiteau; Unique.

Plicata Section:

Neglecta Section:
Albatross; Cottage Maid; Cythere; Osis; Perfection; Teresita; Willie Barr.

Squalens Section:
A. P. Barren; Arnols; Britannia; Copperman; Dr. Bernice; Exquisite; Lady Jane; Lord Grey; Murat; Queen Alexandra; Rachel.

This is the last iris nursery to be visited by me this season. As I look back and consider what a struggle they have had to keep these nurseries going during the war it seems wonderful that they have anything at all left for visitors to see. From M. Millet, away in the French Army, and coming home so severely wounded as to be hardly able to walk, to M. Lemoine within shell-fire of the Germans and with bombs actually dropping in his garden, to Mr. Perry, miles from the front, but with his staff reduced from 65 to 5 and himself working part time for the Government, they have still kept their nurseries going, so that in a few years their places will be in as good condition as ever. It is a wonderful example of work done under tremendous handicaps.

~ Reprinted from AISB #7, January, 1923.
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