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Visit to Vilmorin, Andrieux &. Cic.

Verrieres France vilmorin mottet (May 28, 1919)
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vilmorin mottetIn the afternoon I went from Bourg-la-Reine with M. and Mme. Millet by train to Verrieres five or ten miles distant. After a hot walk of half an hour we reached the office of the Vilmorin Nurseries and Seed Farms. Here M. Mottet, who has charge of all the plant growing, greeted us and conducted us to the Iris Fields. Our way led through a beautiful rock garden on the grounds of one of the members of the Vilmorin family, where we saw many Alpines in bloom, and also a fine specimen of the new Deutzia Vilmorinae – a most gorgeous shrub; also a beautiful hawthorn with a Paul’s Carmine Pillar rose covering the top of it.

There are two Iris collections, of three plants to a variety, one arranged according to sections, Pallida, Variegata, Squalens, etc., the other arranged by color. Besides this there are several Iris fields, each of an acre or more in extent. In the variety collections the number of varieties is very large, including nearly all forms we know in America, and also many very old varieties whose names I did not know. In the big Iris fields, the number of varieties was not large, but was confined mostly to Vilmorin introductions new or old.

xxxx Eldorado.
xxx Alcazar.
xxx Archeveque.
xxx Isoline.
xxx Oriflamme.
xxx Prosper Laugier (Verdier).
xxx Pare de Neuilly (Pal.) Purple self.

Among recent introductions I noticed the following with very large flowers:

xxx Parisiana. Deep violet of Mary Garden type.
xxx Ambigu (Sq.) Reddish effect. Better and more purplish than Prosper Laugier. More
reddish than Opera.
xxx Opera (Sq.) Purplish effect. But more reddish than Alcazar though not brownish like
T. Medrano.
xxx Dejazet (Dwf. Squalens). S. smoky, F. purplish. A harmonious soft coloring, not
a contrast of color as in Mme. Blanche Pion.
xxx Veloute (Neg.) Archeveque type.
xx Cherubin (Am.) Light pink, Wyomissing type. Color washy.

These are all sterling novelties with the possible exception of the last which may be no improvement on Wyomissing. They are all large flowered and most of them make a good massed effect, though as stated above they are not as free as the smaller Millet varieties. The form of Amas is a little too much in evidence to suit my personal taste, as I prefer falls held more horizontally. Vilmorin has good stocks of these and they are offered at fair prices. I do not know what stocks of them we have in America, but I hope enough so they can soon be offered in quantity.

I shall next list a number of magnificent seedlings which are not yet in commerce, but a few of which will probably be introduced in 1920, and a few more year by year. Unfortunately our ridiculous and unjust Plant Quarantine-law will probably make it hard for us to get these varieties into the United States in sufficient quantities for them to become widely known in our gardens in the next decade.

The flowers of all these are very large – in some cases, enormous; the form usually very good, and plant good. Let us admit at once that they are not (to judge from the few specimens seen) as free bloomers as we should like. They make up for this in size.

iris ballerine xxxxx Magnifica (Pal.) The largest Iris I have ever seen. Flower
measures 6 inches high.S. light purple on white, very broad.
F. very long, deep mauve purple. It lacks the blue, but is lighter
than Alcazar. Has the color of Nuee d’Orage but without
its smokiness.
xxxx Drapeau (Sq.) S. lavender white, F. purplish.
xxxx Ballerine (Amas type). Lacks the purple mauve note
of Magnifica.
xxxx Allies (Sq.) Reddish bronze. Artilleur.
xxx Dragon (Sq.) Eldorado type.
xxx Cluny. A very floriferous Pallida.
xxx T. Medrano. A unique deep brown Squalens with no purple
in it.
xxx Moliere. A smaller Magnifica.

Ambassadeur was not yet in bloom. I had marked it at M. Denis’s garden. I saw it again when Vilmorin exhibited it at the Paris Flower Show June 5th (which shows what a late variety it is) and again marked it xxxxx.

The next list gives varieties that I just didn’t place with the above because in some cases I saw only one flower, and I wanted to rate the blooms conservatively.

Saphi. Neglecta type.
Turco. A small Pallida with lavender pink.
Trianon. A small flower, fine color.
Moncey. A deep flower like Perfection or Othello.
Zouave. Mary Garden type.
T. Grevin. Lighter than Opera, more purple, lacking the maroon of Opera.
Diane. Amas type.
Erebe. Synonym of Kochii.

I have named a sufficient number to give an inkling of what treasures the Vilmorins are going to introduce during the next five or ten years, so that Iris lovers may be on the look-out for them.

Vilmorin, Andrieux & Cie. are one of the oldest and greatest seed growers and merchants of the world. I will not attempt to guess how many hundreds or thousands of acres they cultivate or how many thousands of men and women they employ. The Nurseries I visited reminded me of Dreer’s Riverton Nurseries on an enormous scale, though there is very little glass. Perhaps the impression was more due to the absolute order and cleanliness of the place – I cannot say more than to say it is as well kept as Dreer’s. Perhaps the late Mr. William Dreer learnt this at Verrieres for he was sent abroad when a young man to serve a short apprenticeship with the Vilmorins.

Thanks to M. Millet and M. Mottet I spent a most happy and instructive day, and at least caught a glimpse of what France is doing to improve the Iris. This glimpse is sufficient to show me that the English and our new American breeders will have a high standard to live up to.

~ Reprinted from AISB #7, January, 1923.
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