Photo taken a couple of days ago, an historic rebloomer from the 1800's that was involved in much of the success the Sass Brothers had with their intermediate reblooming programme in the 1920's and 1930's. Now it's an iris that I can not be 100% sure that the name is correct or that the Iris should be attributed to Peter Barr, yes the above photo is the iris 'Crimson King' considered to be Peter Barr's most well known iris, but there seems to be more than just a little confusion with 'Crimson King's' nomenclature that can't be just swept aside.
There is a contentious description published in the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, Bearded Irises Tried at Wisley 1925-1927 where 'Crimson King' is mention under the heading 'ATROPURPUREA.' I've copied references below for your consideration. Its probably a popular natural hybrid that some plantsmen squabbled over its name and breeding rights. For the time being I will go along with the label 'Crimson King' and Peter Barr as the introducer but I think it is becoming increasingly obvious that 'all bets are off'.
L.F Randolph in the Book 'Garden Irises' notes that 'Crimson King' has a (2n= 44) number of somatic chromosomes, indicating that this variety arose through a cross with a 40 chromosome species and a 48 chromosome species making it a hybrid in the informal classification of early flowering irises commonly referred to today as 'The germanicas.'
ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY.
The usual fortnightly meeting and the annual show of the Carnation and Picotee Society made a very interesting exhibition at South Kensington on Tuesday last. The Carnations and Picotees were arranged in the upper arcade, where many interesting subjects were added, whilst in the Council Room, as usual, the various plants, fruits, and vegetables to be adjudicated upon by the committees were placed. The floral committee awarded First-class Certificates to;
Messrs. James Veitch & Sons, Chelsea, for Iris Kæmpferi Magnificence, a flower of medium size,prettily marked with lines of violet and red on a pale ground ; and Crimson King, a grand flower, having very broad petals of purplish crimson.
THE GARDENERS CHRONICLE, Amateurs Column, July 14th 1894.
IRIS GERMANICA, Harrison Weir, Sevenoaks, June 23.
'As I have had a long experience, perhaps I should not be considered trespassing too much on your space if I give the names of a few of the most distinct. Among the dark purples, I have thought subbiflora, nepalense, Crimson King, and Germanica Major the best.'
IRISES, W.R. Dykes, The Times, London, July 6th, 1907
Once May is reached an iris garden should be one continuous blaze of colour for the common purple flag is closely followed by the innumerable forms and hybrids which are loosely known as german irises. Closely related to the type, and only local varieties of it, are forms of which Amas or Macrantha is perhaps best, while other good forms are Purple King, Crimson King, Fontarabie, and Asiatica.
The Longfield Iris Farm, Bluffton, Indiana.
Named Iris for Sale 1925
Crimson King This iris has flowers of the same rich deep purple coloring as Kochii, but the flowers are larger, and the stalks taller and the growth more open. Very Good. Every Iris collection should have either this variety or Kochii.
BEARDED IRIS TRIED AT WISLEY 1925-1927, Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society.
CLASS V d.
Varieties with deep red-purple self coloured flowers
ATROPURPUREA. Foliage rather yellower than in 'Kochii.' Flowering stem 24 inches, straight, 3 or 4 flowered. Flowers medium to large, of good form, rather brighter deep violet purple than the last (Kochii) ; standards somewhat cupped, 2¼ X 2 inches ; falls hanging straight , 1⅝ X 1⅝ inch ; beard bluish white, tipped yellow. Flowering for nearly a month from May 11th 1927. Sent by G P Baker
Very closely similar to this are 'DUCHESSE DU CHATEAFORT,' from Messrs Barr ; and 'ASIATICA' originally form Messrs. Bunyard, long grown at Wisley ; while 'CRIMSON KING,' 'GERMANICA CRIMSON KING,'(from Messrs Barr), 'EREBE,' and 'TRAUTLIEB' were indistinguishable , or almost so, though the last name is apparently used for 'PURPLE KING.'
CORNELL MEMOIR 100 Study of Pogoniris Varieties Austin W.W. Sand July 1926
Crimson King (1894) Rating 89
Color effect a cotinga purple or more brilliant hyacinth violet self ; size fair ; form long, open, rounded; tall bearded class ; height 24 in.; branching fastigiate, above centre, 2 or more laterals. A flower of good substance; firm texture ; excellent fragrance; good lasting quality. Useful in mass or as a cut flower.
Standards a most intense hyacinth violet to pansy violet, tinged with yellowish and slightly lighter at the base of the blade and on the claw ; carriage cupped, erect to arching ; blade obovate to fiddle-form, notched, undulate, frilled and ruffled, revolute, slightly crumpled; size 2 in. wide, 24 in. long. Falls slightly velvety blackish purple to brilliant Rood's violet, veined with same on the phlox-purple haft, lighter along the beard; carriage drooping ; shape obovate, convex, oblong to ovate; size 2 in. wide, 2¾ in. long. Minor parts : beard fine to coarse, dense, projecting, bluish tipped with yellow ; haft broad, channeled; reticulations fine to coarse, slightly netted, close to widely spaced; style-branches broad, overarching ; crest large, fringed; pollen plentiful ; spathe-valves scarious, purple-tinged. Growth moderate to vigorous ; increase rapid ; habit compact ; foliage stiff, leaves slender to broad, glaucous yellow-green ; 2-3 blooms open at once, floriferous ; stalk erect, with 5 buds.
While the general color is very similar to that of Kochii, it is not quite so distinct a self-color. The outer haft of Crimson King' is more definitely veined and broader, its segments are more decidedly waved, and the stalk is more widely branched. In Kochii the segments are more slender and graceful, while the whole of the flower is very similar to that of Albicans. Crimson King is undoubtedly of germanica origin. It has persistent green foliage.
Gardening with Iris Species.
Proceedings of an International Symposium, Missouri Botanical Garden, 1995.
The Tall Bearded Iris Species, Philip W. Edinger.
Crimson King (Barr 1893)
Californians (even non-irisarians) know this common iris by sight through out the State. But only old-timers know it by its name; recently it has gained some distribution under the usurped name "Eleanor Roosevelt"! Here in the west, this is easily the best germanica for garden display: it is tall,prolific, has good color, and will flower more than once annually. In fact, you may get three or even four repeat blooms per year in areas where frosts rarely strikes. For heavily purple-tinted spathes, inky buds emerge that open to self colored blooms of rich mulberry color; beards are white shading to yellow toward the flowers interior. The hafts are somewhat veined, as the basic fall color breaks into veins over a blue white ground. Of some dozen germanica clones here, this is the one most likely to set a few "bee" pods.
AIS Checklist 1939
CRIMSON KING Barr, 1893 IB-E & Re-RD7, 22 inches.
This post will be updated when the research regarding nomenclature of Crimson King is more robust.
As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.
Photo credit and copyright Iris Hunter