Friday, September 2, 2011

The Iris known as "Braemar Station"

"One of the most serious difficulties the American Joint Committee has had to encounter is the duplication of names caused by the re-use of established names for the new introductions, or, in some cases, the renaming of old varieties; in fact, these mischievous practices have caused a large part of the chaos in common names of plants which now exists in American horticulture. The duplications doubtless occur more as a result of ignorance than deliberate intent to deceive. The genus Iris is a conspicuous example of this bad practice." Statement of the American Joint Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature in Check List No. 8 of the American Iris Society, October 1923":[Ref 1]

My friends, oh my friends!!! The things I wrote and then deleted from this article! Words like, “Indignation”, “Deception,” and “Ignorance”! And then phrases like “I suppose an apology will be out of the question,” “smoke and mirrors,” “in denial of reality” and “yep we gotcha”!! Gone – all of them. It seems that even after waiting six years for a confirmed ID result that has exposed the iris ‘Braemar Station’ as just a impostor, a cultivar with lost labelling that was renamed, none of these reactions are appropriate for an Iris blogger.
I am sure the above photo will interest you. It shows a group shot of 'Gypsy Queen' and 'Braemar Station' growing together this growing season in the garden of an eminent American irisarian prominent in the Historic Iris world. Would you care to guess which flowers are which? It would be difficult not to reach the conclusion the two irises are the one and the same. [Ref 2] So let’s look at how a 2005 registered iris could possibly be the same as the Iris 'Gypsy Queen' which the 1929 Check List attributes the breeding of to 'Salter before 1859' (his catalogue listed it in 1848).

This is the registration from NZIS Checklist 2007:
BRAEMAR STATION Carol Mackenzie by Gwenda Harris, Reg., 2005. SPEC-X, 39″, (100cm), L. S. and style arms greyed yellow (RHC 62A); F. white tinged yellow at haft and edges, heavily striped deep red-purple (59A) deepening to almost solid black; beards white deepening to gold; sweet fragrance. I. variegata X unknown. Maritima 2005.

It was apparently found in a horse paddock growing beneath a Lombardy poplar tree in the Mackenzie Country in New Zealand's South Island. It must be said that I do not have a problem with Carol Mackenzie finding an historic iris in a paddock and wanting to keep it – in fact she should be applauded for doing so – but the registration of this iris by Ms. Harris has always been of a concern.
First up there is a problem with its registered class. This description comes from AIS Judges’ Handbook: “ “CHAPTER 20; SPECIES IRISES
SPEC-X is the class for interspecies crosses. These hybrids have a mix of species traits creating a new plant. Any cross involving an iris species as one of the parents and another plant not of that species is a species cross. Also included in SPEC-X are further hybrids from interspecies crosses. All of the above crosses are included in the SPEC-X class. Even when a specific class exists for an interspecies cross, the hybridizer may elect to register his/her iris as SPEC-X if he/she feels it is more ''species-like'' and not representative of the definition of the specific class. The Randolph-Perry Medal is the highest award for irises in the SPEC-X class.”

In 2007 an eminent European Irisarian wrote to both myself and Ms. Harris stating: "I am afraid its registration could cause confusion without a notice that it is a cultivar with lost labelling. The picture speaks for a variegata parentage but it is decidedly NOT a species, dry tops of spathes, at least, speak clearly for a hybrid origin. No one wild variegata can have such spathes".
How is an Iris found in a paddock able to be registered with I. variegata as the pod parent?? What evidence was submitted at time of registration to justify this part of the pedigree????
The NZIS bulletin (September 2009 #179 page 17-18) published the introducer's self-reinforcing and awkward interpretation of how the registration could be justified with regards to ‘Braemar Station’ and part of the article stated "Iris variegata, I. pallida and perhaps I. aphylla were the main parents of modern TB cultivars. I. variegata was particularity prolific, but its progeny have had a confused history with many names and many spellings. Some early hybrids and cultivars like, 'Victorine' have been listed in catalogues under at least seven different names".
Nothing new here!!! ‘Gypsy Queen’ also had been listed in catalogues under at least eight different names and this iris was sold in New Zealand under at least one of its synonyms – "Hamlet" listed in the 1904, H. C. Gibbons, Wellington Bulb Catalogue, page 17. It could have also sold in New Zealand in other catalogue listings by others as, ‘Queen of Gipsies' and ‘Virgil’.
Ms. Harris has also stated in the same article: “The ‘Braemar Station’ debate is reminiscent of the confusion surrounding two other variegata cultivars, ‘Honorabile’ and ‘Sans Souci’, which went on for more than a century and is also described by Mahan 2007 [Ref 3].” Well sorry, but no its not! I am not sure how an American domestic ID problem that is still subjected to discussion in America today becomes a justification for the registration of 'Braemar Station'.
The difference between the above described scenarios and the registration of ‘Braemar Station’ is that all the confusion with catalogue published names of historic irises occurred prior to the publications of the 1929 or 1939 checklists. As irises rose in popularity in North America and Europe in the 1920s, an immense amount of research work in Catalogues and Journals, as well as in the recognised reference books, was undertaken in Britain and America prior to the publication of the check lists, to ascertain which varieties circulating under different names were in fact, the same plant, and to determine which was the original and therefore the legitimate, so that each iris cultivar, past, present, and future, would carry one “approved” name which identified it uniquely.
Since then, there have been very limited examples to date where anyone has blithely attached a new registered name to an historic Iris with lost ID, and probably even less that have had a parentage fabricated.

Now that the iris ‘Braemar Station’ has been grown alongside ‘Gypsy Queen,’ it has removed any doubt that the two named irises are one and the same. The day has come for registration of 'Braemar Station' to be withdrawn and nothing could be more inept than publication by Ms. Harris of any more dubious reasons of why the iris was registered in the first place. In case of ID confusion with the above photo, the iris labelled and sent to America by Ms. Harris as 'Braemar Station' is the stalk on the left of the photo, all others in the shot are ‘Gypsy Queen’.
The original article 'Braemar Station- The Iris' by Gwenda Harris was published in The New Zealand Iris Society, June 2005, Bulletin 166, and then republished in 'ROOTS' the Journal of the Historic Iris Presevation Society, Volume 20, Issue 2, Fall 2007, the later a real surprise as by then many doubts had been raised, both in New Zealand and internationally surrounding the authenticity of this Iris. A second Article,'Braemar Station- An Update' by Gwenda Harris was published in the New Zealand Iris Society, September 2009, Bulletin 179.

Update 2014; The truth about this iris is scarce but the supply has always been in excess of the demand. The NZIS on their web site now refers to photos of this iris as an 'Iris of no certain identity'. 

 [Ref 1] AIS Alphabetical Check List 1929 'EXPLANATION' page 3
 [Ref 2] Some of the Iris blooms shown in this shot belong to the iris named as 'Braemar Station' and was sent to America by Ms. Harris two bloom seasons ago
 [Ref 3] Chapter 6 "Classic Irises and the men and women who created them" C Mahan, published Krieger 2007

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