Visit to Millet et FilsBourg-la-Reine, Seine, France (May 28, 1919)
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.
M. Millet was in the French Army the early part of the war and was severely wounded; during his long absence his plants of course, suffered, for his father, the founder of the business, was too old and feeble for active work. While all of his plants suffered during his absence, he tells me that the mortality of the Iris Ricardi seedlings was especially high, and he complains also that these seedlings while of large size are not with him free bloomers. He brings the same complaint against the beautiful new introductions of Vilmorin (which I shall describe later) which contain a great deal of Amas (Macrantha) blood, from which they inherit their size, but also, unfortunately, their sparseness of bloom. The observation that large size is often obtained at the expense of quantity of flowers As, of course, not new, but it was brought to my attention in the Millet Iris fields more strongly than ever before.
As I have said, the Denis Irises with few exceptions were not conspicuous in their bloom, though what flowers there were of Mile. Schwartz and others were of fine size and coloring. But I had come especially to see M. Millet’s seedlings. He had sent me last year some buds by mail which opened fairly well in water in our barracks; though with one exception I had not been greatly impressed by them. This only shows again the utter impossibility of judging a variety from a few cut blooms.
The one variety that I did greatly admire last year was Souv. de Mme. Gaudichau (Pres. Morel x Pal. Dal.) After seeing it growing I can unhesitatingly state that it is not only M. Millet’s greatest variety but that it is one of the richest in coloring of all Irises, and should take its place among our most valuable garden varieties. The flowers are a very deep rich velvety purple, of very large size; and it is a free bloomer and makes a stunning garden effect.
Following this variety are several other Irises, none of which have especially large flowers, but which are of fine and distinct color, of good form, and above all are exceptionally valuable as garden plants on account of their freedom of bloom; they are:
xxx Col. Candelot. An exceptionally rich Squalens with S. of a smoky copper, F. crimson.
xxx Khamsin. A Squalens with S. yellow. F. purplish.
xxx Armenien. A fine Squalens with S. smoky chamois. F. purple.
xxx Tunisie. Squalens. S. smoky, F. purplish.
xxx Delicatissima. (Pal. Dal. x Qn. of May). A Pallida with a
xxx Jgouf. (Sq.)
xxx Mady Carriere. (Pal.)
Other good varieties but hardly equal to the above are:
xx Ivanhoe (Neg. x Pal.) Violet blue, with a tinge of copper in it.
xx Souv. de Delagrange. A small flower with the rich coloring of
xx Arlequin (Sq.) S. coppery, F. deep brown like Prosper Laugier,
but S. more golden, and beard gold.
xx Corrida (Pal.) Pale blue, very free.
x M. Hautefeuille.
x Lionel Millet.
x Mine, de Sevigne. S. purplish, F. white with purple.
These are but a few that I have noted out of many. The Millet seedlings have been selected more for freedom of bloom than for exceptional size, but the flowers are by no means small.
I believe that all the above and possibly others are well worthy of a place in a collection of any size. Souv. de Mme. Gaudichau deserves a place in any collection no matter how small.
Besides Iris I saw a number of Oriental Poppy varieties, Hemerocallis, Tree Peonies, and a few early herbaceous plants. Violets, in which M. Millet specializes, were out of bloom. His exhibition garden behind his house is very long and narrow with a broad walk bordered with box bush down the centre. On each side of the walk are big clumps of peonies at intervals. When M. Millet is able again to get the skilled labor that he needs, this will be a wonderfully beautiful and interesting garden to visit. It is beautiful even now after four and a half years of war.