Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tall Bearded Historic Iris "WABASH "

Fragrant, Classic and Tailored elegance are the attributes that 'Wabash' a very popular Iris in the 1940's adds to any Garden it is growing in. High plant health, good increase, and copious bloom right from year one makes this iris the winner of the Dykes Medal in 1940 a must have. This iris display's the purple bottom foliage that is essential for the correct ID of this variety but this aspect would not be a clincher as I have always firmly believed that the elusive and mysterious Mt. McKINLEY, a 1947 Schreiner's introduction has the same PBF, with slightly larger flowers, it bloom's only marginally earlier and is a dead ringer of Wabash.
Above photo taken over at the Woolshed garden and shows background plantings of 'Iceberg' Climbing Rose and Penstemon 'Purple Passion'.
I grow just a few of the Williamson stable of Irises which are noted for their good growing abilities and my list of E. B. Williamson registrations includes some of the first Table Irises (MTB) registered, Kinglet (1934) with its lemon standards and lemon flushed brown falls and the pale blue cultivar Chewink (1937) both are the very rare and no longer sold in commerce in their country of origin. (USA)

Carl Salbach Berkeley, California, Iris and Selected Seed Specialists, 1941.
WABASH (Williamson 1936) For a long time we have been looking for a good big iris with white standards and deep blue falls. Wabash fills the bill in every particular.It is described by the introducer as "A sensation in Iris of this type. You can see it a city block," and comments by A.I.S. judges include: "One of the most beautiful irises ever introduced," and "Far ahead of others in the amoena class."
Technically described as standards white, falls hyacinth violet, edged white. H.M.A.I.S., 1937. 40"

Schreiner's, Salem,Oregon,
Iris Lovers Catalog 1948
WABASH (Williamson 1936) M 36"
'Fresh toned as any orchid this Amoena with snowy white standards and ultramarine-blue falls with brighter margining. The best and one of the very true amoenas, it is a standout. For illustration of this clear contrasted flower see page 23

Schreiner's, Salem,Oregon,
Iris Lovers Catalog 2009.
Wabash, E.B. Williamson, 1936, 35" Mid Season,Fragrant, Dykes Medal '40
We are proud to offer Wabash, a truly historic Iris. Its simple tailored form speaks with a quiet elegance. The clean white standards offer good contrast to the deep plush reddish purple of its falls. Note also the delicate white wire rim on the edges of the falls.

Stevens Bros. Bulls, New Zealand, Irises 1940-41

WABASH (Williamson)
Fresh toned as any orchid is this lovely novelty with snowy white standards and ultramarine falls with brighter margining. Destined for a great future. 3ft. 25/-

Illustration courtesy Schreiners Iris Lovers Catalog,
page 23, 1948

Interesting information gleaned from the 1939 Checklist about the Hybridiser's father Edward Bruce Williamson 1877- 1933, Banker, Naturalist, Authority on Dargonflies. Fellow of Vanderbilt University 1900-1901, Assistant Curator, Carnegie Museum 1898-1899, Honorable Curator odonata, University of Michigan 1916-1928 and from 1928-1933, Research associate, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan.
Began to raise Irises about 1906, interested in making crosses between species and later worked with Bearded mostly, producing many splendid varieties especially noted for their good growing qualities.
Longfield Iris Farm Bluffton Indiana was founded by E B Williamson . Paul Cook became a partner in 1920 but retired in 1928 to devote his time to breeding.Mr Williamson can be considered as the second really great Iris breeder in the United States, Mr Farr having been first. After Mr Williamson's death in 1933 the nursery has been carried on by his daughters and is now being run by Mary Williamson. The Williamson Irises have been noted, LENT A WILLIAMSON being the landmark in Iris breeding equal perhaps to DOMINION in this respect. 'Wabash' is the name of Indiana's most famous river.
Recently many fine new varieties have gone forth including the Rome Gold Medal winner, E.B. WILLIAMSON (P.Cook), SABLE (P.Cook), AMIGO , WABASH , MOONGLO , DOLLY MADISON, ETHEL PECKHAM.

From the 1936 Longfield Iris Farm Catalog
Meanings of Iris Names
Wabash- The name according to J.P. Dunn is an abbreviation of the Miami name for stream- Wa-ba-shi-ki or Wa-pa-shi-ki meaning bright white and referring to the limestone bed of the stream in its upper course.

AIS Checklist 1939
M. Williamson, 1936 TB M W3D, (Dorothy Dietz X Cantabile), HM 1937, AM 1938, Dykes Medal 1940.

AIS 1939 Checklist page 47, Longfield Iris Farm, infers Mary Williams as the Originator, but the Iris Society, (BIS), Year Book 1941, p21, notes the following.
The Dykes Medal was awarded to the American Iris Society to:-
WABASH-Raised by Miss Mary Williamson, Longfeild Iris Farm, Bluffton, Indiana (which pretty much removes all doubt.) I have taken the liberty and have come to the conclusion that Mary Williamson is the undisputed originator of 'Wabash'

I have recently received information from Mr Jerry Oswalt of Bluffton Indiana which reinforces this view point

Cataloged by Schreiners in the 1940's and still available from Schreiners today which is an incredible 70 years of being sold in the iris market. Well grown for sale in New Zealand by Julie May at 'The Iris Garden'  

Big hat tip to Jerry Oswalt for sharing the additional information
Photo Credit and Copyright Iris Hunter


  1. that is nice! I'll look for that one here in America.

  2. After closing down Longfield Iris Farm, Miss Williamson taught school in Wells County, Indiana. She taught Spanish for one year at two of the small, rural schools in the county, and I had her for Spanish at Petroleum High School in the 1959-1960 school year. The iris farm was an institution in Bluffton and Wells Co. for many years. A Williamson/Cook Memorial Iris Garden is now under construction in Bluffton, thanks to the work of Jerry Oswalt.


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