Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tall Bearded Iris SHIPSHAPE

'Shipshape' is one of the great blue classic irises and an all time favourite of mine. Long flowering season with strong spikes carrying 6-8 buds with good branching. A very strong and masculine looking iris, with falls have that chiselled look, very triangular in their early bloom form that later becomes a very balanced look between the standards and the falls. Absolute stand-out iris this past season and my garden notes taken when visiting a large iris garden in Greytown one of the beds with forty large blooms counted with a strong count of buds to follow up in the large planting of this variety, a truly outstanding display. Incredible almost weed like high health growth. This iris took America by storm in the early 70's.  Great parent.

Melrose Gardens, Stockton, California, 1969 Introductions.
SHIPSHAPE (Sanford Babson) TB 38" (Epic X Pacific Panorama) Very large, VERY wide medium blue. Also popular at the 1968 convention and going fast................................................NET $25.00

Melrose Gardens, Stockton, California,The Connoisseur's Catalog 1981.
SHIPSHAPE (Babson '69) Still one of the GREAT iris ; wide, sea-blue with super form supported by a vigorous plant. Dykes Medal '74....................................................................$3.50.

Brown's Sunnyhill Gardens, Milton-Freewater, Oregon. 1972 Iris.
SHIPSHAPE (S. Babson,'69) Huge ruffled flowers of medium blue with domed standards and wide semi-flaring falls. Tall and well branched. HM '70.

The Iris Society Year Book (BIS) 1973, page 125, 'The AIS Convention in Philadelphia', Harry B. Kuesel.
Our next stop was at Mr and Mrs E. A. Chariott's garden in Moylan, Pennsylvania. The large, well landscaped grounds had many interesting trees and shrubs that made a perfect background for the Irises. Here I noted that 'Shipshape' (Babson,'69) was particularly good. This is a dense medium blues self with no haft markings and a bright light yellow beard. It has deep fluted standards over folding each other rising into a crown of furbelows. Its falls are ruffled and flaring. This Iris was awarded the Franklin Cook Memorial Cup which is given to the Iris originated outside the local region which gets the most Convention visitors votes.

Mission Bell Gardens, Roy, Utaha, Iris for 1973.
SHIPSHAPE (S. Babson,'69) M 38in.
Magnificent intense medium blue self with light yellow beard. Deeply fluted standards domed and closed ; broad spreading falls with ruffled shoulders and waved petal edges. Strong stems with ideal branching.
(Pacific Panorama X Epic) AM '72..............................................................................$12.50

Jean Collins Iris Garden, Cambridge Road, R.D.1 Tauranga.
SHIPSHAPE M- Wide mid-sea blue. D.M.U.S. 1974.

Schreiner's, Salem,Oregon, 57th Annual, 1982 Iris Lovers Catalog.
SHIPSHAPE (S. Babson, 1969) EM. 38"Broadly petaled and finely balanced in shape, massive. Shipshape ranks among the largest medium blues. Rich in color, an intense medium blue, it has an easy, undulating form with excellent, well branched stems, which support this mammoth flower beautifully.
(Pacific Panorama X Epic), HM 1970, AM 1972, Dykes Medal 1974.

Bay Blooms Nurseries, Cambridge Road, Tauranga Spring / Summer 1996 Catalogue.
SHIPSHAPE Massive ruffled flowers of dense medium blue with light yellow beards. Well-branched strong stems. Winner of the Dykes Medal, 1974.

IRISES, A Gardener's Encyclopedia, Claire Austin.
Iris 'Shipshape' (S. Babson, 1968) Cobalt-blue in colour, the ruffled flowers are borne on well branched stems and have short white beards. The petals are shiny, and the flowers are lightly scented. Height 97 cm (38¾in.) Bloom ; mid-season. Parentage : (Pacific Panorama X Epic). Dykes Medal Winner USA 1974.

AIS Checklist 1969
SHIPSHAPE (S. Babson, R. 1968) Sdlg. Q46-11. TB, 38" (97 cm), M., Medium blue self. Pacific Panorama X Epic. Melrose 1969. HC 1968, HM 1970, AM 1972, Dykes 1974.

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Zealand Tall Bearded Iris ATAVUS

When I first saw this iris bloom at home, my first thought was that I was having another enjoyable mid life crisis that involved visiting the Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland. This Iris colouration is an acquired taste and some either love it or loath it, me? I put the colours in the loud but possibly interesting file. 'Atavus' grows well, has good plant health, but its the open and somewhat chaotic form of the cream standards and the uneven ruffling on the falls lets the bloom down. Had the form of the bloom been more even on the falls and the standards controlled, coupled with the interesting colours it could have been a brilliant iris. Certainly an Iris that's impossible to take no notice of !!

Courtesy Cayeux Iris, 2013.
'Atavus' is an Iris introduced by Alison Nicoll in 2006 and is very similar to the above photo of the brand new Richard Cayeux 2013 introduction 'Un Peu Fou' which appropriately translates 'A Little Crazy' a label that could apply to both the varieties

Richmond Iris Garden, 376 Hill Street, Nelson. Issue 58, 2008-2009 Catalogue.

ATAVUS: L [A. Nicoll '06] Cream standards with central lilac flush. Tan hafts and border with strong lilac centre.

New Zealand Iris Hybridisers Cumulative Checklist 2012
ATAVUS Alison Nicoll, Reg., 2006. Sdlg. A00T2-2. TB, 28″, (72 cm), ML S. cream flushed lilac in centre; style arms cream and lilac; F. strongly washed violet, tan hafts and border; beards red; flared; slight spicy fragrance. Prince George X Outrageous Fortune. Richmond 2007/08; Begg Shield 2009 (NZ) Dykes Medal 2014 (NZ).

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Helianthus angustifolius GOLD LACE

Just a little diversion from irises is the swamp sunflower, Helianthus angustifolius 'Gold Lace'
In late summer it becomes a bold fountain of golden daisy's that brightens up the garden. Has a fine textured foliage throughout the season, it's basically a very narrow leaved sunflower and we grow it because it is attractive with lots of carrying power in the garden but also it is a big time bee and butterfly magnet, they just love it! With a long hot drought this season this plant has had a love affair with the hose.

Grow Helianthus angustifolius in full sun and average to moist soil. The prefers consistent moisture while establishing, but becomes mildly drought tolerant once established. Can be grown of a wide variety of regions Height 100cm (39")

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Thursday, March 14, 2013


 Some Lesser Known Irises

By Miss J. Burgess, Waikanae.

The Spuria group of irises is for the most part tall growing, and prefers a moist, loamy soil. With but one or two exceptions they object to the presence of lime. However, in common with most other irises, they are really adaptable, and will do quite well and flower freely and good guard soil, provided they can be supplied with water during the main growing season, which is from the blooming in November and December until April. Moving and dividing is best carried out immediately after flowering.
The tall species of this group have long, sword shaped leaves, and are very handsome and exotic in effect when clumps are grown in their correct setting. They look at their best growing by the waterside or an a low lying swampy area. To get the best effect they should be grown in spacious surroundings, where one may stand away from them and view them in combination with other waterside growth. The colour range is through many shades of blue and purple to white, primrose, sulphur, and golden yellow. The flowers are produced on tall, stiffly upright stems, usually bearing several lateral branches, which are, however, held erect close to the main stem, thereby giving the appearance of a single head of bloom. In shape the flowers themselves bear are really strong resemblance to the Xipion (English/ Dutch) or Spanish Iris group.
There is no one form to which the name Spuria can be specially applied. Many differing forms collected from Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and through Asia to the Kashmir district have been given the specific name during the last 400 years. The section has been for many years and cultivation, and the botanist, Clusius, mentions in his horticultural work, published in the 16th century, that he had found the form to which he had given the name Spuria growing wild near Oppenheim on the Rhine in 1563.
It is very difficult to distinguish between the various forms, though many have been given varietal rank. They all agree in having blue or purple flowers of varying depth of colour, relieved more less by white or creamy yellow markings at the base of the falls. The European forms are fairly dwarf, 1 foot to 2 feet in height, but the form usually catalogue by nurseryman as Spuria was collected at Sringar, in Kashmir,and grows to a height of 3 to 4 feet.
Sintenisii, a species belonging to the Spuria group, is distributed through southern Italy, the Balkans, and Turkey. It is a dainty little thing of rich, royal purple, with decided white veining on the blade of the falls.
Sintenisii is sometimes confused with Graminea, a species from central Europe. Graminea is a fascinating little Iris some 15 inches in height. Standards and falls are a bright China blue, with the style arms dealing a decided contrast of red-purple. This species is distinguished by its sweet scent, which resembles strongly the centre of a ripe peach or apricots.
One of the tallest irises of the group, and the easiest to grow in a section notably easy, is Ochroleuca, which grows to a height of 5 feet, and bears large stiff white flowers, very pure in effect, with a gold signal patch on the fall. It has been sent out by nurseryman even so recently as 15 years ago, under its old synonyms of Gigantea and Orientalis. It is a native of Asia Minor.
Monnieri is the same height as Ochroleuca,but is somewhat larger in the flower and the colour is a bright yellow. The habit of Monnieri is not known. It was found in the garden of Mons. Lemonnier, of Versailles, where it was believed to have come from Rhodes or Crete. It has not however, been collected since by botanists in those islands. Dykes, in 'The Genus Iris', doubts whether it is entitled to specific rank, rather inclining to the belief that it, with Ochroleuca, is merely a natural colour variety of some form of Spuria.
Aurea is a native of Kashmir, and has flowers of a slightly different shape from the foregoing. The colour is richest golden yellow, and the flowers are borne on 3 foot stems. It is one of the last of the group to flower.
There are some very fine hybrids of these tall spurias, outstanding varieties being 'Shelford Giant', 'Monspur', and 'Monaurea'. They were raised by Sir Michael Foster in his garden at Shelford.

It is interesting to note that the author Miss J. Burgess [Jean Stevens] refers above to Orientalis as a synonym for Ochroleuca which at the time of publication (1935) was most likely correct but today because the name I.ochroleuca unfortunately came later than I.orientalis the reverse applies and under the International Rules of Nomenclature it is now referenced as, I.orientalis Miller (Syn. I.ochroleuca).
Also generally the practice of dividing is done nowadays at the start of the Autumn Rain.

AIS Checklist 1929
SHELFORD GIANT. Spur.Y (Foster 1913) ; Wallace, 1914 ; Hubbard 1928 ; AM. R.H.S. (ochroleuca X SPURIA AUREA)

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Tall bearded Iris PIETY

No mistaking the pleasant light blue cast of the buds before bud break and its Purple based foliage (PBF) two unshakeable identification traits of 'Piety'. Any garden can never have enough white Irises they give a balance that is unbeatable and after all nothing clashes with white. A Classic plus iris that earns it place in the garden.

Dr. Charles E. Branch 329 East Market Street, Piper City. Illinois.

Introducing For 1960
PIETY #5609 ((((Snow Goddess x ((( Winter Carnival x Azure Skies) x White Sentry) x (( Great Lakes x Winter Carnival) x Sib)))) PIETY was so named because it reminds one of quite reverence, devotion and benevolence like the White Angel standing silently in a Christmas tableau. It is a white white with a very light lemon cast to the beard. It is neither plain or fancy, tailored or lacy, but has a full form with semi-flaring, fluted falls and strong domed standards. The hafts are wide and clean. It stands about 36", has fine branching and larger than average flowers. Early-midseason. H.C.1958..........................................NETT $20.00

AIS Bulletin #166, July, 1962,'The Modern White Iris', page 10, Mr.Cahey E. Quinn.
PIETY is Doctor Branch's contribution in 1960 to moonlight statuary. Semi flaring, fluted falls, wide parts, domed standards, very white, a lemon beard and fine branching-so, I read my notes. The name is very apt, but you have to see this one to really appreciate it. This is a personal favorite of mine and it took the garden space of the now old 'NEW SNOW'.

Gilbert H Wild and Son, Inc. Sarcoxie, Missouri.
An Outstanding Selection of quality Peonies- Iris and Daylillies for 1967
PIETY (Branch, 1960)
E.M. 36in. Very pure white with a light lemon cast to the beard. This beauty has full form with domed standards and semi-flaring fluted falls. The hafts are wide and clean. The extra large blooms are shown on well branched stalks.H.M., 1960, A.M., 1963

AIS Checklist 1959
'Piety' (Branch, R. 1957). Sdlg. 5609. TB, 36" (91 cm), E-M. Color Class-W1, . 'Snow Goddess' X sdlg. 5339. Sunnyhills, Branch 1960.H.C 1958, HM 1960, AM 1963.

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

New Zealand Dykes Medal Winner NORMA OF IRWELL

I thought it appropriate to update the image of this iris with this new photo that was sent to share by Julie May the owner of the legendary 'The Iris Garden'
 Tall Bearded Iris 'Norma of Irwell' was awarded the Dykes Medal (NZ) in 2012, bred by New Zealand's wizard of Tall bearded Iris breeding, the late Mr. Ron Busch and named after Ron's lovely wife, Norma. Well substanced blooms with dark violet ruffled and slightly open standards with even darker violet slightly flared and ruffled falls that has an eye catching white area beneath the violet tipped bronze beards, oh and not forgetting the very good branching  and great plant health that we have all come to expect from the Busch breeding lines.

2012 New Zealand Hybridisers Cumulative Checklist
NORMA OF IRWELL  Ron Busch, Reg., 2008. Sdlg. 91-200. TB, 34″, (86 cm), M. Standards and style arms deep purple; Falls, Violet purple, white around beard; Beard bronze tipped violet. (Vigilant X Edith Wolford) X ( Honky Tonk Blues X Brookside) The Iris Garden, 2008.  Dykes Medal 2012 (NZ).

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Photo credit Julie May. Copyright Iris Hunter.

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Tall Bearded Iris MULLED WINE

Way back in 1985, 'Mulled Wine' was the winner of the Chamber of Commerce prize for the best commercial variety at the International Iris Competition in Florence, an award equally relevant today. A very popular Tall Bearded Iris with the home gardening fraternity making it a perennial top selling iris that continues to be grown and stocked by many commercial Iris nurseries, worldwide. Need to order early, as the variety even though it is thirty two years old can still obtain the additional label "SOLD OUT" (Pretty much says it all).

Keith Keppel, Stockton, California. IRISES 1982.
MULLED WINE (Keppel '82) L 36"
Hearty raspberry-burgundy with faint apricot undertoning on upper falls. Prominent terracotta beards adorn hafts not marred by the striations generally associated with this color range. Ruffled and laced flowers are somewhat globular in form; the standards slightly open, but very firmly held due to the extraordinary substance. Two or three branches plus terminal. #76-35C ...........................$30.00

Tempo Two, Barry and Lesley Blyth, East Road, Pearcedale, Victoria, Australia. Season 1985-86
MULLED WINE (Keppel '82 USA) ML. 36". We have been delighted with this great Iris since seeing it in the Keppel garden in 1980 as a selected seedling and because it is such a good grower we have enough of it to release already. Colour is raspberry burgundy self with brown orange beards. Ethereal and stately . Has to be seen to be appreciated. Was awarded best commercial new colour in Florence in '85. Quality plus! (Long involved pedigree x Maraschino) HM '84. Watch for more awards. $25.00.

BayBloom Nurseries, Cambridge Road, R.D.1 Tauranga. Spring and Summer  Catalogue,1996.
MULLED WINE. A nice fully-rounded rich vibrant shade of raspberry-burgundy with apricot under-toning. The vivid orange beards enhance the feeling of piquant warmth emanating from the ruffled and laced flower.

AIS Checklist 1989
MULLED WINE Keith Keppel, Reg. 1981. Seedling 76-35C. TB, height 36" (91 cm), Late Bloomer. Raspberry burgundy (M&P 54-I-6 to 53-H-3) with apricot beige undertoning (5-B-9) on upper part of F.; terracotta beard; slight musky fragrance. 73-26B: (70-24B: (('Amigo's Guitar' x ('Rippling Waters' x 'Gypsy Lullaby')) x (Jones 743 x ('Marquesan Skies' x 'Babbling Brook'))) x 'Salmon River') X 'Maraschino'. Keppel 1982. H.M. 1984, A.M.1986. AIS. H.M. Florence 1985.

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version. Reproduction in whole or in part of this post, its opinions or its images without the expressed written permission of Terry Johnson is strictly prohibited. Photo credit and copyright Terry Johnson and Heritage Irises ©.

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Historic Tall Bearded Iris AMAS

I think it is very important to show the great historic game changers that made a real contribution in the evolution of the Tall Bearded Iris. Sir Michael Foster's chief work was to introduce to the older varieties of bearded Irises the blood of newly discovered tetraploid irises and 'Amas' became a important variety within this change process. These tetraploid's gave hybridisers better branching, larger flowers, and hybrid vigour.

Biltmore Nursery, Biltmore, Asheville, North Carolina, The Iris Catalog, 1911.
Amas. Deep violet standards and sky-blue falls give glorious harmony in this giant-flowering variety, which originated in Asia Minor and which has won admiration wherever it has become known. It reaches a height of 2 feet, and flowers profusely.

The Genus Iris , William Rickatson Dykes, 1913.
The Pogoniris Section.
Var. Amas (syn. macrantha) rhizomes of this form were sent to Foster in 1885 from Amasia in northern Asia Minor. It is the sturdiest, though not the tallest, of all the germanica forms and one of the most distinct, for its leaves remain quite short in the winter, behaving in fact more like those of I.pallida. The tube is 1 in. long and slickly covered with broken purple streaks; the spathe valves become very nearly wholly scarious by the time the flowers expand. The standards are almost oblicular of a very light blue purple and bear a few scattered yellow tipped hairs on the deeply channelled haft. The falls are of a deep purple with a broad beard of blueish white hairs tipped with Orange.

Illustrated Catalog of The Dean lris Gardens, Growers and Importers of Choice Iris, 1914, Moneta, California.
Amas (syn. Macrantha). A handsome giant flowered form from Asia Minor. S. rich blue; F. violet. 2 feet.

Société Nationale D'horticulture de France, Commission des Iris.
Les Iris Cultivés : Actes et comptes-rendus de la 1re Conférence internationale des Iris, tenue à Paris en 1922

How I obtained Vigour and Branching Habit by George Yeld
Professor Foster also sent me a plant which he called 'Amasia' (now well known as macrantha). I shall never forget the day when it flowered, for I recognised at once that it would be an excellent iris for my purpose. He also sent me asiatica, now known as trojana. When seeking to increase my stock of this plant I have on various occasions received what I have known as 'Kaharput' instead of it.
I used all these three varieties and my first seedling cypriana crossed with Amasia (pollen parent) which I called Arac, after the giant brother of Princess Ida, in Tennyson's "Princess" was shown at the Drill Hall, Westminster, on June 19, 1900, though it failed to fine favour with the R.H.S. Floral Committee. It has the large blossoms and branching habit which we now see in so many Irises.
I raise a good many similar flowers, but it was not till June 10, 1902, that asiatica crossed with macrantha (pollen parent) shown under the name of Sarpedon, obtained an Award of Merit from the R.H.S.

Bulletin of The American Iris Society, Description of Varieties, Part 2, Number 7, January 1923
AMAS 78 (21) (Germanica)
Bicolor, R-V. (d). Col. by Foster, 1885
Brief. Large; early; light hyssop violet; F. smooth petunia violet; stalk low and very well-branched; growth vigorous; 30 in.
Details. Standards very finely veined, floppy; beard bluish white, orange tipped
Remarks. One of the best germanicas, the parent of 'Oriflame' and many other large hybrids. The pollen only is fertile. As a parent it carries its size, height, often its color and poor substance. Named from Amasia in Asia Minor. Syn. Macrantha.

Memoir 100: A study of Pogoniris Varieties, Austin W.W. Sand, Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, 1925.
Amas (Native of Amasia, Northern Asia Minor. Collected by Foster, in 1885). Rating 78.
Color effect blue and violet bicolor; Size large; form long, open, rounded; flowering habit free; tall bearded class; height 28 in; branching wide, low. A flower of poor substance ; frail texture; smooth surface; good fragrance; As a parent it carries its size, height, and often its color and poor substance.
S. light violet, reticulated olive brown on claw;carriage floppy, over arched ; Blade fiddle form, notched, undulate, ruffled and frilled, revolute, smooth; size 2¾ in. wide, 3¼ in. long; F. hyacinth violet, with slight velvety sheen, outer haft is lavender or ecru--drab, finely veined, reticulations olive brown waxy along beard; carriage drooping; shape ovulate to wedge shaped, convex; smooth; size 2¾ in. wide, 3¼ in. long; minor parts; Beard fine dense, projecting, bluish cast tipped yellow; haft very broad, channeled; reticulations broad, widely spaced; style branches broad, overarching, keeled, lavender; Crest large, fringed; pollen plentiful; spathe valves entirely scarious, inflated. Growth vigourous; increase rapid; habit compact; foliage stiff, leaves broad, deep glaucous green; floriferous; stalk erect, with 9 buds.
This variety is conspicuous in colour, size and bloom, and early flowering. The floppy character of the standards is offset by their large size. One of the parents of Oriflamme.

David Austin, Albrighton,  Wolverhampton, Handbook of Hardy Plants and Irises, 1st Edition 1984
amas (Foster 1885) This is a collected variation of iris germanica, which played an important role in the development of tall Bearded hybrids. A sturdy plant with falls of deep purple and rounded standards of a paler purple. White beard. Flowers with tall bearded varieties. 3ft. (90cm).

The Iris, Brian Mathew. 2nd. Edition, 1989.
The Species of Iris.
There are several named variants of I.germanica which one might encounter in literature and/or gardens
Iris germanica 'Amas' (Syn. var. macrantha) 'Amas' is a sturdy variant with deep blue-purple falls and rounder paler blue standards. There is a very prominent beard of blueish white hairs tipped with orange. Dykes writes that the leaves die away and do not start to develop until spring. It was introduced to cultivation from the town of Amasya in northern Turkey.

Proceedings of an International Symposium, Missouri Botanical Garden, 1995.
Symposium Special Reports

The Tall Bearded Iris Species by Philip W. Edinger.
"Amas" (Syn. Macrantha). botanists may raise their eyebrows at my inclusion of this as a tetraploid species, but I suggest it should be regarded as a selected clone of a species yet-undetermined. It was collected in Amasya, Turkey,where it may or may not have been indigenous; originally it was regarded as another "germanica" (despite obvious differences) which prevented it's being looked upon as a distinct individual on par with the other large tetraploids from Turkey and the Near East. Only flower colors, lavender and purple, suggest a "germanica" affinity. Conspicuously different are branching ( lower and longer) and foliage that is winter-dormant rather than winter-growing. Only as turn-of-the-century breeders discovered its fertility was it realised that this was indeed, a "germanica" of a very different stripe. Its first generation offspring include some of the finest of early tetraploid garden irises, e.g. "Ambassadeur", "Dominion", "Lent A. Williamson", "Lord of June","Oriflamme", "Souv. de Mme. Gaudichau".
As a garden subject, this is one of two tetraploids I would truly recommend. Individual blossoms are broad petalled, pleasingly proportioned, and present an appealing contrast of lighter standards over darker falls in colour that are clear rather than streaked, blotched, or muddy. Stems reach about 2½ feet tall, growing from stout, vigourous rhizomes. Unlike many of these Near Easterners, growth is easy in humid summer/cold winter climates; because of this, it was the tetraploid most used by the Sass Bros. in Nebraska.

Irises, A Gardener's Encyclopedia, Claire Austin, 2005.
Iris germanica 'Amas' (M. Foster, 1885) Asia Minor.
This tetraploid, once known as Iris germanica var.macrantha, was used in the early twentieth century as a parent of many modern tall bearded irises. The flowers have blue-purple standards. White veins appear on the hafts, and the pale blue beards are tipped with yellow. Height 70cm (28 in.) Bloom: early season.

AIS Checklist 1929
AMAS TB-B3M (Coll-Fos-1885-Amasia) Journal of Royal Horticultural Society 15; 3; October 1889.Dammann 1895; Farr 1912; Francis 1920; Wing 1920; Berry 1929; Class IVb H.C. R.H.S. 1916.

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Friday, March 1, 2013

The Modern Bearded Irises

     THE NEW ZEALAND SMALLHOLDER,  February, 1934.

The Modern Bearded Irises


It is more pleasing to note that in more recent years this class of hardy iris is becoming increasingly popular. This is no doubt due to the wonderful improvements that have been achieved in the size of the bloom, and new shades, and also in the increased bloom season that has been secured. The marvellous new colourings that now exist, and the the richness and the texture of the modern irises is indeed a revelation to those who are acquainted only with the older varieties.

Are Bearded Iris Hardy ? 

Contrary to general opinion, bearded irises are extremely hardy, and can be grown anywhere in the Dominion. I have meet many people who thought it was impossible to grow these plants in Otago, and others that who have advised me that they will not flower in Auckland district, although they make good growth. By personal investigations I have found that lack of bloom has invariably proved to be due to faulty cultivation. I have seen magnificent displays of these irises in both districts, as well in all parts of the Dominion. I find that numbers of people who live in very cold districts do not attempt to grow many fine plants and shrubs as they feel convinced that their climate would be to severe for the subjects considered. Undoubtedly, many find that plants will not stand severe frosts, and it is often the case of "Once bitten, twice shy," but I would like to draw the attention of such people to an excellent guide as to the hardiness of any plant being considered. Obviously the many nursery catalogues issued throughout the Dominion are hardly a guide in all cases; there are many plants that are quite hardy in certain districts with, say, only 10° of frost, but utterly impossible to grow in very cold districts, and all growers do not know the limits that any plant will stand. The best plan is to secure copies of catalogues from reliable English nurseryman, say, one of shrubs and one of perennials and rock plants. Unless mentioned as tender, it is apparent that any plants offered in those catalogues as hardy are certainly hardy anywhere in the Dominion.

Essential Point in Cultivation  

The only essential points towards the cultivation of bearded irises are good drainage, plenty of sun, and a yearly application of lime, if it should be lacking in the soil. Many people make the mistake of confusing these plants with Japanese irises (I. Kaempferi) which are water loving and give them the same conditions. Wet feet means death to them, and shady, sheltered places reduce the quality of bloom and increase the chances of disease. It should be remembered that, from after the flowering period until the winter rains, the bearded Iris enjoys the driest conditions. The more sunbaked the rhizomes are (the rootstock) during the summer the more they will flower the following spring. I can hear many readers saying "I have too many hot, dry places that are useless as a summer garden". Well these are just the spots for bearded irises, try a few, and you will be agreeably surprised with the results.

How and When to Plant

Bearded irises are so hardy that they can safely be moved at any time of the year, but it is obvious that if this takes place near the flowering period, poorer blooms will be the result the first season. The correct time to plant is any time from December to May, the earlier the better, but for convenience most planting is done in the bulb season, about February or March. By planting in the early autumn, the rhizomes become thoroughly established before Winter, and are thus able to support the blooms. They should be planted with the top part of the rhizomes above the soil.
Although usually listed as one class there are, in my opinion, several distinct sections of bearded irises, and a study of each section is necessary if the desired effect as required.I am quite sure that a carefully planned Iris Garden bloom, arranged for colour affects, and with due consideration given to heights in times of flowering, is one of the finest sites one could wish to see. Indeed, I know of nothing so impressive, or so calculated to arouse sustained enthusiasm. One hears of 'Gladiolus fever' and 'a bug for rhododendrons', but I am sure there is an equally catching malady for Irises. The classes I would suggest are :- (1) dwarf border varieties ; (2) variegated, or bi-colours ; (3) Irises particularly suitable for massing ; (4) the giant flowered and tall growing modern hybrids.

Varieties for Front Borders

The dwarf growing varieties are particularly suitable for the front border and although often smaller in flower, are usually very free flowering. There are not many very dwarf varieties, but in mentioning a few, attention should be drawn to the beautiful deep orange yellow called 'Auren.' A free flowering light blue, called 'Attraction', is also most useful, and can be suitably associated with this variety. 'Caprice' is a rosy claret, and, like the preceding, a self colour, while 'Louis Bell' supply is a most useful shade of velvety purple, and is a great improvement on the old 'Purple King type.' To complete a selection of good front border varieties it is necessary to add the class of variegated or bi-colours. This class, as can be imagined, is comprised of those irises in which the colours of the standards (upright petals) is in direct contrast and of a different shade from the falls (lower petals). The effects as one can realise, are very striking. Quite a number in this class have standards of some shade of yellow, with falls in the shades from Chestnut to deep brown. The best known in the dwarf varieties are 'Knysna', brilliant yellow, with chestnut falls, 'Medallion', yellow, with chestnut red, and 'Iris King', which is a rich orange or old gold with falls of velvety crimson maroon, edged with yellow. Other shades in good dwarf bi-colours are 'Hiawatha', lavender and purple, 'Ann Leslie', ivory white, with carmine falls, 'Argynnis', mustard yellow and chestnut red, and 'Rhein Nixie', which is pure white, with striking purple violet falls.

Colour Schemes for Borders

In the Irises for massing, a greater effect can be secured by blending shades or by contrasting colours. To secure this effect it is desirable to have the "self" shades, or those varieties with an even toning. For instance, when the pale, light and dark blues are grouped together in a gradual shading of colours, the effect, as can be imagined, is most charming. The blues of the bearded irises are indispensable for the blue herbaceous border, and even in mass groups throughout the shrubbery they lighten up the dark, sombre green of the shrubs beyond with a colour that is usually lacking at this time of the year. Then, as a contrast, the bright yellows, with the deep blue or the lavender pinks, with the purples, present combinations not often attempted. It has often been said that you can never see irises at their best until they are massed, and while this is true, and applies to all varieties of bearded irises, yet undoubtedly there are certain varieties much more suitable for this purpose than others. Some varieties are extremely free flowering, and are consistent year after year in this respect, a feature of the utmost importance. I have made a particular study of irises that are really outstanding in possessing free flowering qualities and which also have suitable shades to produce the desired effect, and give a list of some of the most useful of the lower-priced varieties.

Best Varieties for Massing

In the blues, 'Rodney', a self, light violet blue, and 'Odoratissima', lavender blue, are the best, while the deeper shades 'Harmony', rich violet purple, and 'Souvenir de Madame Gaudichau', rich velvety violet, with blackish purple falls, are unquestionably the most useful. There are hundreds of other really splendid irises in these colours. Many are larger and more refined, but for a massed effect they come short either in colour, quantity of blooms, or free flowering qualities.
'Bonita' is the best new tall pure buttercup yellow. It is wonderfully vigourous and free flowering. A splendid Iris for massing with the blues. Although introduced a few years ago at £4 each, it is now quite cheap. 'Primavira' is an early free flowering primrose yellow and is most useful.
In the so-called pinks or lavender pinks the varieties 'Dream' or 'Susan Bliss' are best. They are practically the same shade of Lavender Rose pink with an orange beard. 'Rosalind' is slightly different in that the falls are rosy lilac. 'Ed. Michel' is an unusual, but useful shade of deep reddish purple, or almost wine red. 'Evadne' belongs to the same group, but is a richer shade, being beautiful bronzy red. All the above are self, or almost self shades; there are others that are also useful which I shall mention briefly.
'Gules', lilac blue and violet ; 'Diadem', mauve and reddish brown falls ; 'Eldorado', yellowish bronze shaded heliotrope, with violet purple falls ; 'Lieut. Williamson', huge lavender blue, falls velvety violet ; 'Ma Mie', white, frilled and veined light blue ; 'Prosper Laugier', coppery crimson ; and 'Señorita', lavender, overlaid with yellow. All these are now quite reasonable in price and can be secured from leading Iris specialists.

Giant Flowering Modern Hybrids

The last group is the giant flowering tall growing modern hybrids. Since it has evidently been the aim of modern hybridists to secure size of bloom, most of the novelties today belong to this class. There are some marvellous creations nowadays, but to go through them all fully would occupy considerable space. Moreover, many of the recent novelties are rather high-priced, and it is not everybody who can afford them. The illustration above gives some little idea of the beauty of the modern hybrids. Although a reduced illustration of this nature cannot give a correct impression of the velvety texture of the blooms and the stately garden effect of these giants, yet some guide can be given by mentioning that the blooms of 'Frieda Mohr', the lavender pink Iris in the top left of the bowl measures six inches by six and a half inches. A well branched head of this Iris in full bloom is a Bouquet in itself, while a large clump in flower is a magnificent sight. The tall central Iris illustrated is a variety called 'Germaine Perthius', while the browny red in the lower left is a popular variety called 'Glowing Embers'. The amber yellow bloom is a giant new yellow call 'Fortuna'. The illustration does not do it justice. One of the finest Iris's cultivation is 'Bruno', the one illustrated on the top right of the picture. The standards are bronzy lavender and the huge velvety falls are rich purple. An improvement on this variety called 'Mrs Valerie West', is undoubtedly the finest Iris and cultivation. A few years ago this variety was introduced at £6 each, but it is now offered in the Dominion at less than £1. The pure white illustrated is a variety called 'Shasta'. It is by far the largest white variety so far introduced. On the lower right is shown a browny red variety. This is 'Fireball', and is the brightest variety of its colour class and the nearest approach to red. The correct shade is iridescent vinaceous red. Nearby is a 'Dominion' seedling called 'Majestic' with the lavender blue standards and the falls of purple. The names and short descriptions of the Iris is illustrated given at the foot of this article all our first-class new varieties that are now reasonable and price.

Other Good Varieties

There are three at least that should be added to this illustrated collection. They are 'Don Quixote', a very large deep lavender, overlaid with yellow, and with falls of violet, with heavy brown venatation on a yellow ground. The second is 'Moa', with its arching standards of pure violet and broad circular falls of deep velvety violet. This stately Iris is rightly classed amongst the world's best. The last is 'San Francisco'. Its tall branching stems, carrying enormous white flowers, of which both standards and falls are edged with lavender, make it an outstanding variety, with nothing to approach it.
While I feel that I have scarcely touched the ground in dealing with this most fascinating subject, yet I cannot close without drawing your attention to the fact that hybridists in the Dominion who have, in recent years, taken the improvement of these plants, have met with such outstanding success there is to be hoped that New Zealand will shortly be "on the map" in the future and producing at least some of the world's best, as she is now doing in dahlias and gladioli.

Illustration of Irises as shown above
The names of the irises, reading from the extreme left, are :- 'Freida Mohr', lavender pink; 'Mons. Connault', reddish copper ; 'Valencia', orange buff ; 'Estrella', white and blue; 'Duke of Bedford', violet purple ; 'J. B. Dumas' rosy ; 'Glowing Embers', brownish (central) ; 'G. Pertheus', violet ; 'Shasta', giant white ; 'Kynsna', yellow and brown ; 'Fortuna', amber yellow ; 'Queen Caterina', light blue; 'Bruno' Bronze and purple ; 'Lieut Williamson', light and dark blue ; 'Majestic', blue and purple ; 'Firefall', browny red.

Article courtesy of the New Zealand Smallholder Magazine, 1934.

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