Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Zealand Tall Bearded Historic Iris "NINA LEVETT"

The very late blooming 'Nina Levett' is often confused with a earlier blooming iris which grows at about the same height named, 'Pink Advance". 'Nina Levett' is the pod parent of 'Pink Advance'. Photo above is from the plant gifted to me by the late Shirley Spicer, of Wanganui.

Stevens Bros, Bulls, Catalogue of Irises, 1937-38.
A lovely tall pink of regal carriage.The large flowers are an even shade of lilac pink, and are carried on well-branched 4 1/2 foot stems. Exceptionally vigorous.

The Iris Society Year Book (BIS) 1942.
Awards by the Royal Horticultural Society, Wisley, 1942.
NINA LEVETT (Raised by Miss.P.Levett,NZ) A.M. 20th June 1941.
Vigorous and of rapid increase with erect, glacous-green foliage, 24 inches tall.Flower stems 48 inches tall erect, somewhat zigzagged,8-flowered.
Flowers extra large, stiff and well proportioned.Standards domed approaching Imperial Purple (33/2) Falls pinched, a tone of Imperial
Purple between (33/1 and 33/2) Veins distinct, brownish on haft.Beard Orange. Flowering for ten days from 18th June. (J.B.Dumas X Aurelle.)
(All Reports for Iris trial's at Wisley tend to be very descriptive and accurate)

Jean Stevens in 1950 writes in regards to the Levett's.
'As the years went by the quality of their seedlings kept improving, and the flowering season became even more exciting than hitherto. About 1935 they flowered a large new seedling of a bright lilac pink which they named Nina Levett after their mother. This was introduced in England by Orpington Nurseries who sent plants to the Wisley Trial Grounds. In 1941 Nina Levett was given an Award of Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society'.

The Royal Horticultural Society colour descriptions,Standards Imperial Purple (33/2) and Falls Purple between (33/1 and 33/2) show how completely inadequate the 1939 Check List colour chart was in it's time and also make the 1939 and 1949 Check List colour descriptions for 'Nina Levett' irrelevant. In the 1934 BIS Year Book (in an article by a Dr. Sansome who quotes Marc Simonet), he states that one of Nina Levetts parents, J. B. Dumas is a triploid with 37 chromosomes. Triploids usually aren't the most fertile of parents, so that makes Nina even more interesting!! It should also be noted that The Royal Horticultural Society state that Nina Levett parentage is (J.B.Dumas X Aurelle.) yet the 1939 AIS checklist entry is (...) X (J.B. Dumas x Aurelle) which the later implies that another Iris was in the mix. My opinion is that 'The Royal Horticultural Society' in its colour descriptions and parentage 'trumps all'.

AIS Checklist 1939
NINA LEVETT (Miss P. Levett, R. 1939). TB, VL, B1L; (...) X (J.B. Dumas x Aurelle). Orpington. 1939.

It would not be unrealistic to state that the few irises growing in New Zealand as 'Nina Levett' are wrongly labelled and I am somewhat reluctant to post New Zealand bred Irises on this blog as it leads to a deluge of 'look-a-like' irises, and some not even remotely 'look-a-like' irises, listed for sale on the internet as the real deal, and it it is not in anybody's interest to add to the existing large pile of very expensive miss-named irises that live in the cyberspace known as 'Trade Me'!!!! New Zealander's interested in heirloom irises need to have a confidence in their ability to Identify Irises and not merely accept that because an Iris was received or purchased with the name given it is true to label, after all these are New Zealand raised Irises, surely we should have some idea of our Iris heritage!!!!

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.

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Photo credit and copyright Terry Johnson and Heritage Irises ©. 


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