When researching Iris history there is always more to learn as I progress the purchasing or gain access to historical writings that may or may not contain articles of interest about 'The Iris'. I recently found this historically informative article, its author I have yet to identify but I thought it noteworthy for the colour description of irises named and the opening paragraph which is surprisingly current. The problem is I still haven't finished the writing of the original article which lead me to this information in the first place but I think you will agree it was a pleasant time out to have.
THE GERMAN IRIS.
THE GARDENERS CHRONICLE, Unknown Author, 15 June, 1878, Page 757.
Why is it that the varieties of Iris germanica do not find a place in modern gardens? Indeed this question might be very reasonably put in regard to many other fine plants that have fallen out of cultivation to a great extent, just as if fashion—that fickle goddess ruled the horticultural as it does the social world. We have fashions in horticulture, and they are sometimes unjust to grand old plants that are well fitted to make a garden smile with the gladness of a beauty that is like a glimpse of heaven brought down to light our common soil. If any one would see in the German Iris the delicate and striking patches of colour they can be made to produce in our gardens, a visit should be paid to Mr. Robert Parker's nursery, at Tooting. There a collection of fifty to sixty varieties at least can be seen in full bloom—and such bloom, too—not a spike of flowers here and there, but almost countless spikes thick with flowers over canopying the leaves from among which they spring.
There is an immense bed of these Irises in divisions some 3 feet in width, with blocks of a single variety 5 feet or so in length, forming panels of charming colours facing to the blue sky above. These beds of Iris have been planted out about three years, and this suggests the advisability of forming permanent plantations of these fine decorative subjects for service in the garden. Perhaps it would be best were the roots lifted, divided, and replanted once in three years. When well-established in good soil a rapid and spreading growth is made, and for the sake of keeping the plants in proper bounds periodical replanting's are to be commended. One great feature about the German Irises is their remarkably free and successional blooming character ; the earliest bloom by the third week in March, or the beginning of April, and yet some have not as yet shown colour, thus then- flowering time may be said to cover a space of three months at least.
Then what an accommodating plant it is : it is one of the best of London plants, growing almost anywhere in the midst of the great Metropolis where there exists an apology for a garden, and flourishing as if no bounty it can bestow could be too large. It will grow in almost any soil and situation, but if 'any person' could imagine one eminently suited to its well-being it would be the light, generous sandy loam in which these plants do so well at Tooting. Some are dwarf, quite dwarf, not more than 18 inches in height; others reach a height of 2 and 3 feet ; and thus a double or treble line might adorn a bold shrubbery border. A ribbon line of Irises would be a new feature, and, if the individual plants were wide enough apart. Delphiniums, Phlox's, Pentstemons, Et cetera, might come in between them for the sake of variety, and to secure a succession of flower ; but whoever plants let him dig the soil deeply, and not scruple to add a little dung and some leaf-mould to it. As these plants are by no means expensive, they can be planted freely at a moderate cost, and here is a list of rather over a quarter of a hundred varieties that represent the cream of Mr. Parker's large collection ; —Abou Hassan, rich golden-yellow, very free ; Arnols, violet suffused with bronze, very fine ; Augustus, azure-blue and violet, very fine ; Bridesmaid, white suffused with lavender, very pretty ; Celeste, lavender with white centre ; Chenedolle, chrome-yellow and white ; Comte de St. Clair, pure white and purple ; Cytherée, lavender-blue and light purple, a most attractive variety ; Darius, chrome yellow and purplish lilac, very fine and free ; Duchesse de Nemours, creamy white, the lower petals beautiful purplish violet—in this charming variety there is amost pleasing contrast presented in these two parts of the flower ; Gazelle, deep lavender-blue mottled with while, very early and extremely pretty ; Hortense, primrose, pale sulphur and orange-yellow ; De Berge,chrome-yellow and rich crimson, line ; Fairy Queen, white and violet-purple, very line and striking ; Hugh Block, dark sulphur and bluish lilac ; Jacquesiana, reddish bronze, dark orange, and velvety crimson, very fine and distinct ; Jordæns, reddish lilac and white, distinct and fine ; Lady Jane, coppery red and reddish brown, distinct and good ; Paquit, light reddish purple and crimson, very fine and striking ; Queen of May, rosy lilac, primrose and white, very pretty; Minico, rich golden-yellow and crimson brown, fine colour and very dwarf ; Pallida and its varieties, Dalmatica and Speciosa, Spectabilis, reddish violet and velvety purple, very early ; Victorine, satiny white and purple, very good ; and Walner, deep shining lavender-blue and light purple, very fine and distinct.
The colours appended to the foregoing varieties are intended to convey the idea of the prevailing colours, but there are many varying tints and handsome reticulations on the standards and falls, and especially on the latter, that cannot be set forth in a description. The margins to some on the falls are very rich and attractive. A good number of the varieties grown by Mr. Parker are seedlings of his own raising, and it has been found that they flower in two and three years from the time of being raised.
Photo credit and copyright Iris Hunter