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Visit to the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens

Wisley, Surrey (June 11, 1919)
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Early in the morning of June 11 I took the train from London to Byfleet, a run of about 45 minutes. There I hired a bicycle and rode about four miles to Wisley. Here are the large trial and exhibition gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society. The place has been laid out with great skill into many different gardens. As one enters there is a wide gravel walk with rose beds on either side and climbing roses at the back, among which Paul’s Carmine Pillar and several others were already in bloom. Behind these are tall hedges. Behind the hedge on the left is a large field in the corner of which the iris trials were held in 1916 and 1917.

To the right of the roses the ground slopes away gradually. Near the entrance are greenhouses and futher along the path winds down to the big rock garden and also to the water garden where water lilies were already in bloom. Around these points and along the stream were great masses of selfsown natural hybrids of Iris sibirica x Iris sanguinea (syn. orientalis) and also some self-sown Iris Kaempferi. Beyond the water garden are more fields, one containing the oriental poppy trials, now ablaze with color and another one with peonies just beginning.

I had gone down particularly to see the irises and to compare the newer varieties with the Bliss seedlings that I had just been seeing. This was unfortunately rather difficult to do because the irises were here not at their best, the last hot days, combined with lack of care due to labor shortage, having finished most of the flowers. I did, however, see many good irises, and what was even more instructive, many bad ones; that is to say, old forms now entirely superseded. Among the good varieties noted were:

iris king, rhein nixe, alcazar Pallida Section:
Odoratissima, an old and common, but good form of pallida; Peter Hanson, a larger lighter Tineae; Sincerity (Yeld) a darker Dalmarius; Rhoda, pinker Dalmarius; Florence Wells, more purple than Sincerity, and more blue than Caprice.

Variegata Section:
Aurea, in splendid form; Iris King.

Amoena Section:
Rhein Nixe and Thorbecke the only good ones.

Plicata Section:
Mme. Denis; Mme. Boullet.

Neglecta Section:
Empress Victoria and Patience, of Perfection type; Oporto, a self purple.

Squalens Section;
W. Robins, a less red Jacquiniana; Beatrice, a Lady Jane type; Alcazar, very fine.

There were, of course, several other very good and well-known standard varieties along with these.

What interested me even more than the good varieties was the number of old timers, many of which are not in American commerce, and which are, to judge by what I saw here, entirely outclassed, and which are therefore not desirable for ordinary planting but only for historical or sentimental reasons. Among these were:

Pallida Section:
Kitty Reuthe; Comte Horace de Paris; Walner; Queen Mary (of Barr, not of Perry).

Variegata Section:
Foster’s Yellow; Harold; Robert Burns; Sans Souci.

Amoena Section:
Due de Nemours; Duchesse de Nemours.

Plicata Section:

Neglecta Section:
Sapho; Virginie; John Bull; Argent; Chancellor; Mary Reuthe; Queen of the Dell.

Squalens Section:
Vincent; Hugh Bock; Colesie; Howi; and many, many more.

I hope that these poor sorts will continue to be grown at Wisley among the good forms, as an object lesson to all visitors, for such collections are of the greatest educational value.

~ Reprinted from AISB #7, January, 1923.
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