Below is the story of the Iris Re-Christened Iris Sunset. It is as relevant today as when first published in 1922.
June 17, 1922.
NEW AND RARE PLANTS
Iris ochracea-coerulea. A very delightful Iris. The standards are copper coloured and the falls have brown reticulations with a yellow base.
The blade is bluish, shading to copper. Award of Merit. This variety was raised by Mr. Denis of Balaruc-les-Bains and shown by Mr. W. R. Dykes.
June 24, 1922.
AMONG THE JUNE IRISES
The richly if somberly tinted Sunset, also illustrated, also marks a notable advance. It received a well deserved award of merit at the recent Iris Show under the clumsy name I. ochracea-coerulea. Very free flowering and an excellent grower, its good form the picture will attest. It is, we understand, to be distributed this autumn by Messrs. G. G. Whitelegg and Co.
July 8, 1922.
AT the Iris Conference held at the R.H.S meeting on June 7 one of the points raised was the desirability of the regulation of Iris names. This was emphatically advocated by almost every speaker. Mr. Dykes, Mr.Wister, M. Mottet and others agreed that the duplication of names was to be strongly deprecated, and various suggestions were made for the purpose of ensuring that in the future no new Iris should be sent out under a name that has already been used. The American Iris Society have compiled a list of names under which Irises have been distributed from time to time, and it was proposed that the English and French raisers should so far as possible consult this list and make it a basis of a permanent record, so that duplication should not occur in the future. On opening The Garden for June 24 the necessity for some such arrangement becomes very apparent.
In 1914 we received at Colchester some plants from M. Denis of Balaruc-les-Bains under the name Iris Ochracea-coerulea. This variety was shown by Mr. W. R. Dykes on June 7 and received the award of merit. According to 'The Garden', someone has now decided to rechristen this variety " Sunset." In the first place, has anyone other than the raiser any authority for altering the name given by him to one of his productions ? Secondly, if it was considered necessary to alter the name, surely some suggestion would be made by the Floral Committee of the R.H.S. when considering the flower for award, and the natural course would be for them to certificate the plant on its merits with the suggestion that the raiser be consulted regarding the alteration of the name. As far as one can gather, no suggestion of this sort was made. Thirdly, on referring to the Check List published by the American Iris Society, I find there is already an Iris registered by the Society under the name of Sunset. If therefore this Iris, after having been in existence in English gardens for eight years as Ochracea-coerulea and having been certificated by the R.H.S. under that name, is now to have this name changed in such a casual manner, nothing but confusion can be the result, especially if the substituted name is that of another Iris already in cultivation. It is certain that some firms will adhere to the only name to which it is at present entitled, and we shall therefore have this variety being distributed to the public under two distinct names, one of which is already borne by another variety.
There is also a slightly misleading statement in the same issue of The Garden, namely, that it is " to be distributed this autumn." As it was in cultivation in England in 1914 and registered by the American Iris Society as having been distributed in 1919, this statement is a little misleading.
Certainly Ochracea-coerulea is cumbersome and somewhat misleading. The first thought it conveys to one hearing the name for the first time without seeing the plant is that it may have something to do with two species or varieties that have nothing to do with the section to which it belongs. For instance, Baker gives the variety Ochracea of Regel as a form of I. iberica. I notice even the American Iris Society seems to have lost sight of this fact, as it has registered the name of this tall bearded variety in its " standardised plant names " as Ochracea. It may be that in the effort of the Society to eliminate double-barrelled names it has unconsciously erred in the duplication of varieties under the same name.
Certainly something definite and authoritative would seem to be necessary, and if the name is to be altered it should be done in such a way that the new name can be universally accepted as correct. In the meantime we have only one authoritative name for it, and that is the one under which it was certificated by the R.H.S. and introduced by the raiser.
CORRESPONDENCE, July 22, 1922.
OUR attention has been drawn to a letter appearing in your issue of July 8 over the signature " George Dillistone," criticising our action in giving "the supplementary name " Sunset " to M. Denis' beautiful Iris Ochracea-coerulea.
We think it is desirable to state that Mr. George Dillistone is a member -we believe a director - of the firm of R. Wallace and Co., Limited, of Tunbridge Wells. A few of your readers may he aware of this, but the majority probably are not, and we draw attention to the fact because we will not be drawn into a controversy with a trade competitor in the – columns of the amateur gardening press ; it would be neither interesting nor edifying to your readers.
We wish to say that those of your readers who are interested in this matter will, we think, be quite satisfied with the manner in which we have dealt with Iris Ochracea-coerulea in our Iris catalogue if they will be good enough to refer to this publication.
We must also add that, so far as we are aware, "this Iris has never been offered to the public in any Iris catalogue hitherto published in this country, on the Continent, or in America, and that if we should have stated at any time that we are distributing it this season, we should have been perfectly justified in doing so. Further, the name " Sunset " has not previously been appropriated for any other variety in any Iris catalogue with which we are familiar, nor does it appear in the American Iris Society's List of Irises (at any rate, not in our copy), as stated by Mr. Dillistone, and we have every right to use it as a supplementary name. Our reasons for doing so are sufficiently obvious and well founded.
We have never willingly misled our customers with regard to any matter in connection with the plants we sell, and we are not doing so in this case.
G. G. Whitelegg & Co.
CORRESPONDENCE, July 29, 1922.
WHY Messrs. G. G. Whitelegg and Co. should consider it necessary to " broadcast " the news that I am associated with the firm of R. Wallace and Co., Limited, I do not know, after fifteen years connexion with that firm it would be hopeless for me to prove an alibi, even if that association were a crime. In any case, if it is a crime, I am proud to be able to plead guilty.
With reference to the remark about the manner in which they have dealt with Iris Ochracea-coerulea in their Iris catalogue, I have no doubt that this is quite satisfactory. In any case it is a matter of indifference to me. Reference to my notes on this question must convince everyone interested that nothing that I have written was intended to cast an aspersion on either their commercial integrity or business procedure. I have the highest opinion of both.
One point, however, in the letter that does concern me is the accusation of my lack of veracity,and this I am compelled to deal with.
They say : " This Iris has never been offered in any Iris catalogue hitherto published in this country, on the Continent, or in America." One example will be sufficient. I have before me two successive editions of the catalogue of Messrs. Millet et Fils, a French firm of some considerable standing, and in both I find the following ; in the second edition the page is 13 :
"OCHRACEA-COERULEA (Denis) très tàrdif, jaune citron et mauve lilacè, violet cobée, coloris original " (followed by price).
The next statement made in their letter is that " the name Sunset has not previously been appropriated for any other variety in any Iris catalogue with which we are familiar, nor does it appear in the American Iris Society's List of Irises," etc. I do not know which edition of the Iris Check List they possess, but in the copy that I have before me, on page 34, in the second column, the thirteenth name down the list is Sunset T. B.
With reference to their concluding remark in this paragraph. They have the indisputable right to name any number of different plants with the name " Sunset " if they wish to do so ; whether it is wise or conducive to the avoidance of complications is another matter.
I might point out that, in addition to being registered in America among the varieties in commerce in 1919, see Iris Check List, page 18, column I, thirteenth name down the list (curious how this 13 recurs), and having been certificated in London, it has also been certificated by the Society Nationale Horticole de France under the name Ochracea-coerulea. This latter award had escaped my notice when writing previously.
Thanking you in anticipation for your courtesy. -
George Dillistone (of R. Wallace and Co., Limited, Tunbridge Wells).
A blue Iris with a orange beard was sold in America as 'SUNSET' as well.
AIS Checklist 1939 listed the many versions of SUNSET as follows ;
SUNSET Span-S6L ; Barr, 1898.
SUNSET TB ; W.J. Cararne, 1901.
SUNSET Eng. B9L ; J. Backhouse,1902.
SUNSET TB ; A. Bliss
SUNSET Jap-Dbl-7RD ; Elliot Nursery, Pittsburgh,1926.
SUNSET TB ; Mixed with OCHRACEA-COERULEA.
SUNSET TB_S4L ; Denis 1932 (DARIUS X DARIUS) Mixed with OCHRACEA-COERULEA.
Today the AIS Irisregister E Database states
SUNSET No description available for most 1939 & 1949 registrations.
As you can see above incorrect listings of Irises are an age old problem and today you can still find Irises being sold with names like 'Kerry's Red', 'Dulldoug' or 'Junes Pink' which can lead to problems in later years. At times to ID irises can seem like beating a dead snake.