Visit to R. W. Wallace & CompanyColchester, England (June 6 and 14, 1919)
Leaving London at 3:15 I arrived at Colchester at 4:30 and meeting Mr. Wallace, spent four hours among the Irises with him.
The Wallace collection is very large. It contains the best of the old varieties in quantity, and all the newer introductions of Denis, Millet, Vilmorin and Farr, and thus gives a very comprehensive survey of practically all the varieties now in commerce. Here also are the best of Sir Michael Foster’s seedlings, of Mr. Yeld’s seedlings, and finally, the latest novelties of Sir Arthur Hort, and of Mr. A. J. Bliss.
It was instructive to see these newer sorts growing side by side with the older ones and it served to show again how very fast Irises have been improved of late years. When a sufficient stock of the new varieties has been propagated, the older varieties will be entirely driven from our gardens.
Of the older varieties the following were seen in fine form: Albert Victor, Amas, Aurea, Cengialti and C. Loppio, Cordelia, Darius, Flavescens, Gracchus, Her Majesty, Innocenza, Jacquiniana [ed. – probably Jacquesinana – spelled this way thoughout], Maori King, Nationale, Nuee d’Orage, Pal. Dalmatica, Perfection, Thorbecke, Victorine. They will endure longer than most of our older varieties, but many of them are already outclassed, and it is only a matter of a short time before the others will be.
Of more recent introduction the following were noted: Of Denis, Mile. Schwartz, Dalila, Troost, and M. Aymarde (Our King is better than either of these), M. Boyer, very distinct in color, Deuil de Valery Mayet, and (June 14th) Mme. Durande. Of Millet, Souv. de Mme. Gaudichau, Armenien, Corrida, Ivanhoe. Of Vilmorin, Alcazar, Archeveque, Cherubin (very washy in color), Ed. Michel, Eldorado, Isoline, La Neige, Monsignor, Parisiana, Prosper Laugier. Of Cayeux and Le Clerc, Eugene Bonvallet (very ordinary), Mme. Blanche Kon, Ma Mie, Petit Vitry. Of Farr, Chester Hunt (poor), Hiawatha, Mount Penn, Montezuma, Windham, Wyomissing. Of Goos and Koenemann, Gagus, Iris King, Rhein Nixe.
Of still more recent introduction are the following of Sir Michael Foster:
Barbara, Caterina, Crusader, Kashmir White, Miss Willmott (La Neige is better than either), Shelford Chieftain. Lady Foster was unfortunately not flowering, the plants having been too much cut up owing to the big demand.
Of Mr. Yeld, Dawn, Asia (June 14th) a very tall, large Squalens. Lord of June was not in flower.
Of Sir Arthur Hort, Ann Page, Volumnia, Hermione, Miranda, Queen Elinor, Elizabeth, and Julia. The first three are Trojana types with enormous flowers. The others are smaller Pallidas, of good form, and very free.
The above varieties cover nearly the entire field of Bearded Iris culture (with the exception of the new American seedlings of Miss Sturtevant, which have not yet reached England.) It will be noted, however, that most of the above raisers have worked in rather narrow lines – the French, for instance, have given us mostly Squalens varieties; Denis and Vilmorin in working for extreme size of flower have produced plants tending to the shy side in flowering; Millet in giving us extreme freedom of bloom has not given great size; Goos and Koenemann, with the exception of the few varieties listed above, have given us very crude coloring; Farr’s Iris (as a whole) lack size; Sir Michael Foster and Sir Arthur Hort have given us mostly large Trojanas and small Cengialtis.
In considering this the work of the next breeder, Mr. A. J. Bliss, becomes the more remarkable. He has given us splendid new seedlings in every section of the late Tall Bearded Iris – Pallida, Variegata, Amoena, Plicata, Neglecta and Squalens. While not reaching in most cases the extreme size of flower of some of Vilmorin’s largest seedlings, he has given us in all cases large flowers, held well up, of extreme freedom, and of clear and distinct coloring.
The finest of the Bliss seedlings – Dominion – is already famous; indeed its fame has far outrun the distribution of the plant itself, for its high price has so far put a check upon its wide dissemination. I had heard it so much praised that I feared a disillusionment when I should see the plant itself. But when I came upon it in Mr. Wallace’s collection I found that all that had been said of it still failed to do complete justice to the beauty of the flower. It is spoken of as a glorified Black Prince. But this is not enough. Its color, deeper, richer, and more velvety than that of Black Prince, its heavy substance, and its fine form, quite distinct from that of any other Iris, place it in a class all by itself. As to the habit of the plant, it is not over tall, and the flower is not over large; the stem is strong and very rigid; indeed the one defect of the plant is that it is somewhat lacking in grace on account of its rigidity of stature. To meet the great demand for roots, Mr. Wallace has been obliged to divide his stock as much as possible, so that there were not very many plants in bloom at the time of my visit.
There are a number of Bliss seedlings in the Pallida section. Of the violet purple selfs Benbow is very large and free and easily the best thing in its color. Rodney is somewhat lighter, while Mrs. Tinley is but a shade darker than Pallida Dalmatica, both being very free, and of branching habit. Drake is almost a counterpart of Pallida Dalmatica, but is earlier and much freer. E. H. Jenkins, and Morwell are much like Caterina but very free blooming. Tartarin and Bluebird are both bi-colors of the Amas type. The flower of the former is really too big and flops in the wind through lack of substance. Tom-Tit is a violet purple Cengialti seedling, small, dwarf, and free.
Of the pink Pallidas, Roseway is a much improved Queen of May. Margaret Moor and Phyllis Bliss are both of the Mrs. Alan Grey type, but both distinct improvements over that variety. Gules is a much redder flower and might almost be placed under Squalens.
In the Variegata Section, Knysna has standards of golden yellow and falls of velvety red brown. It surpasses all our standard varieties for garden effect. It is taller than most Variegatas, and much brighter than any of the tall Variegatas, having none of the dull tones found in Iris King. Marshmallow is an even finer flower individually, having a yellow edge in the fall. It is much like Maori King but the flowers are held high, thus remedying Maori King’s greatest fault.
In the Amoena Section, Tristram is an improved Thorbeck, taller and larger; and there are several other as yet, unnamed forms in this section.
In the Plicata Section, Camelot surpasses Mme. Chereau and Ma Mie. It is extra tall, sometimes four feet high, and very free. Dimity is a distinct type with the color delicately suffused throughout the flower, instead of having distinct veinings. It is of a peculiar crinkled substance. Francina is described as a “red edged” plicata. Hilda is of Mme. Chereau type but of better form.
In the Neglecta Section, Sweet Lavender with standards of French grey lavender and falls of rosy lavender is unlike anything we have. On many stems four flowers were open at once. Azure gives the same color contrast that is seen in Perfection, but the flower is much bluer as a whole. Clematis – a flower of the peculiar form of the double Japanese Iris – is to me more curious than beautiful.
In the Squalens Section, Cretonne is entirely distinct, of reddish purple wine color, this color predominating not only in the flower, but also in the spathes, and at the base of the plant. Dora Longden, Dusky Maid, and Mrs. Cowley are all of rosy Squalens type, of fine form and very free.
It will be noted at once that these seedlings cover a very great range of color. The most remarkable thing about them is the very high standard which Mr. Bliss has set, for practically all the above are distinct advances on our existing forms.
This completes the tall bearded Irises seen at Colchester. An interesting comparison with them was a collected type of the species Variegata from Hungary which was not more than six inches in height, and has very small flowers. Other interesting types seen were the Oncocyclus x Pogoniris crosses of Sir Michael Foster, of which Lady Lilford, Nazirin, and Parvar were in bloom. Mr. Wallace says they increase readily with him, thinks that their lack of vigor in America may be due to sotil rather than to climate, and suggests treating with heavy dressing of super-phosphate of lime.
In the beardless sections, Chrysographes, Delavayi, Fulvala and Orientalis Gigantea (syn. Ochroleuca) were in bloom, and also a fine mass of the Californian Bracteata.
Among other plants, Eremurus were just going out of bloom, as were many species of Alpines, of which many species and varieties are grown in pots and frames.
Considering the great shortage of labor, the nurseries as a whole were in excellent condition.