Sunday, May 3, 2015

Historic Tall Bearded Iris CLEMATIS and the British controversy.

June 4th 1921


A New Iris to which we take exception. — The Bearded Irises of June have an old-world charm, and so long as this is preserved we have no fault to find with the hybridists, but there is a tendency on the part of some hybridists to develop the size of the flowers at the expense of grace and form.
There is one new variety to which we take exception — it is named 'Clematis' — in which the standards of the flower open out like the falls or lower petals. The flowers appear like those of a large six-petal Clematis. All six segments of the flower reflex horizontally. But why turn half a flower inside out ? And why produce a beard on petals on which there should be no beard ?Does not the Iris owe much of its charm to its beautiful curves and natural outline of its flowers ?

June 18th 1921


A Champion for Iris Clematis. — A recent note has provoked a vigorous champion to defend Iris Clematis and the hybridist. We hope others will enter the lists, and that they will not all be on one side! It is very remote from our wish to belittle the labours of the patient and painstaking workers to whom garden-lovers owe heavy debts ; but it must be conceded that they do not always realise their own ambitions, any more than they invariably please the taste of all and sundry even when they produce what is evidently satisfactory to themselves But where taste is concerned who shall be the final judge ?
Anyhow we think an interesting discussion should follow our correspondent' s valiant defence of the criticised Iris.

June 18th 1921


THE exception taken to the above Iris in The Garden of June 4 is at once interesting and illogical. Interesting because it opens up the question as to where the aims of the hybridist should cease ; whether, for instance, a change of form in any particular flower is as permissible as a variation of colour. Illogical because it concludes that such change is not permissible, and argues from this conclusion, and also a purely personal objection to the form taken by this particular flower, that there is in it a lack of beauty. More illogical still is the suggestion that the hybridist is responsible for this particular variation of form. The point to which " exception " is taken appears to be that " the standards of the flower open out like the falls, or lower petals."

Does the writer really think that this detracts one iota from the beauty of the flower ? If so, he rules out of the scope of his admiration other Irises, both species and varieties, that possess the same characteristics. All the six petalled Iris Kæmpferi would be excluded. Neither Iris tectorum nor gracilipes would have a place in his garden. Surely he would not " take exception " to these, among the most admired of the whole genus.
Returning to the effect of hybridising,the development of the peculiar characteristics of Clematis was the very natural result of a very natural process. There was no intention, or effort, on the part of the hybridist to " turn half the flower inside out." The only artificial act was in conveying the pollen from one flower to another. Neither of the two parents showed the tendency developed in the offspring. Even the act of the hybridist was unnecessary. A chance seed from a bursting pod, in a garden where the science of hybridisation was unknown, might conceivably have produced the same results, and had 'Clematis' been a natural hybrid, collected in some far distant comer of the world, should we still " take exception " to its shape. If Nature chooses to make the interior of the standards more beautiful than the exterior, and then, in her wonderful economy, rather than waste her effort makes the standards reflex to show that interior, for what shall we blame her ? If there is any blame it is on Nature and not the hybridist, for she alone is responsible.

But there is a deeper and more serious suggestion in the paragraph referred to. The writer is willing to find no "fault with the hybridists," providing they preserve that indefinite, unprogressive and elusive attribute called " old world charm." If this is to be the foundation of judgement, it will eliminate from cultivation 99 per cent, of all the Irises, Sweet Peas, Dahlias, Roses, Carnations, Carrots, Potatoes, Cauliflowers and every other product of the modern garden. Chelsea Shows would be no more, and that bright little periodical 'The Garden' would either become a botanical catalogue of known species, or die from lack of material to fill its columns. Horticulture might survive for a time by collecting and distributing the weeds of the world, and the garden would become a very dull place, for if the "charm" is " old world " enough it would resolve the modern garden into a collection of species.

Please do not misunderstand me. There is something absorbingly interesting in a collection of species, whether of Irises, Roses or anything else, but who would care to go back to a garden of types ? Some months ago I remember the " Notes of the Week " in The Garden opened with a quotation from the pen of Mr. Eden Phillpotts : "Man has availed himself of the great laws of evolution in mightier matters than the Iris : but in no theatre of his unsleeping efforts has he created purer beauty, or wakened for the flower lovers, truer joy than among the bearded Irises of June."

The bearded Irises of to-day are just as much departures from the original species, in one way or another, as 'Clematis' is from its first parents.
Is not the whole scientific effort of the day directed towards developing the best and eradicating.the worst characteristics in every genus? 
It is not a question of developing " size of the  flowers at the expense of grace and form." Man cannot of himself breed a new form. Nature may do so by taking a hand in his efforts, but even she is bound by her own laws. She only reproduces unequally the good or bad attributes from remote or near ancestors. 
No one knows better than the hybridist how accidental some of his best results appear to him to be, and this despite all the laws of Mendel. 
Twelve seeds from a single pod may produce as many variations, and of them one may be half the size and one twice the size of the parent, and one only, as in the case of 'Clematis', may choose to assert itself as a variation of form, and the hybridist is impotent. He cannot even be assured that the form will reproduce itself from seed. 
The probabilities are that it will if Nature has endowed the new characteristics with strength and individuality sufficient thereto. 
If we take exception to a form adopted by one Iris because it reproduces the form of another, or even if we object to the form of one flower because it resembles that of another species, where shall we stop ? Orchids resemble butterflies and bees. Shall we " take exception " to the Orchids, or the butterflies and bees ?
Some of the characteristics that have been bred into the newer Irises are just as pronounced as this reflexing of the standards horizontally in 'Clematis'. Standards have been strengthened and elongated. Falls have been broadened and rendered horizontal or drooping, as the case may be. Stems branch low down where once they bore their flowers rigidly, alternately on each side of an erect stem. Colours have been mingled, and new colour shades introduced that have added infinitely to the charm of the Iris as a garden flower. So much is this the case that we are all in the position of the little girl who, when asked to describe the colour in an Iris, said : " I really cannot tell you what colour it is, but it's every kind of fairy colour."
All this is tolerated, together with the wave, in Spencer Sweet Peas, and other modifications ; and yet because Nature chooses to adopt a form a little different from the standard set up by man as the ideal, " we take exception."

It may be argued that Nature sometimes produces monstrosities, which is true ; but it is not in violation, but in pursuance of her own laws. The stronger characteristics of one parent may be reproduced in unequal proportions to the best of the other. The scientist may make mistakes in endeavouring to assist Nature by trying to impose on one variety the desirable characteristics of another, which may be due to his ignorance of what has gone before. Nature never forgets what has gone before. Mere size has nothing to do with beauty, in flower or animal. It is proportion that counts. The hybridist cannot " develop the size of the flowers at the expense of grace and form" unless Nature retaliates for some precious violation of her laws by producing inequality, and thus lack of proportion. The little Iris gracilipes magnified to the size of the largest Iris Kæmpferi would be just as beautiful if all its characteristics were equally magnified, nor would it be less beautiful than the finest Kæmpferi. We may admire diminutiveness, but smallness does not in itself 
constitute beauty. It is the little thing that reproduces perfectly the characteristics of the larger that attracts us. Therefore mere increase in size does not necessarily mean loss of grace and form. Little things are valuable when they are seen quite near. The largest flowers become smaller to the eye when seen in the distance. Who would reduce Iris Lord of June to the size it appears to be 20 yards. away ? Would they not rather have gracilipes magnified so that its beauty is not lost to sight at that distance ?
There is a very apt quotation from a well known author in his attempt to define beauty which is appropriate here : " Beauty is the moment of transition, as if the form were just ready to flow  into other forms." 


March 24th, 1923.


........This characteristic they undoubtedly derive from Iris setosa. It is interesting to note that the Bearded Iris Clematis, which almost certainly represents, a cross between a June-flowering Bearded Iris and a Kæmpferi form, not only has six petals all in the horizontal plane, but that all the petals bear beards.

April 7th, 1923.


...............How the Japanese have evolved their hybrids from the single- flowered wild form of I. Kæmpferi is not known ; but probably, as in many other garden plants, these double forms have merely arisen in cultivation without any admixture from another species. The same explanation applies without a doubt to the Bearded Iris Clematis. Seedlings of I. pallida not infrequently appear with some or all of the " standards " changed in form, and there is even extant a paper by a learned Professor of Innsbruck who seeks to prove that this flat form of flower is the archetype of all Irises. His whole argument is based on an I. pallida identical in shape with the variety I. Clematis. Mr. Bliss was the raiser of Clematis, and he will probably support the statement that I. Kæmpferi was in no way responsible for its shape. There is in fact, no authenticated hybrid between a bearded and a beardless species of Iris. — W. R. Dykes.

April 28th 1923


MR. DYKES in his notes on moisture-loving Irises, in your issue of April 7, refers to the origin of Irises of the type of the Bearded Iris Clematis in which all six petals reflex. So far as Bearded Irises are concerned, I. Kæmpferi has certainly nothing to do with the appearance of this type. The parentage of Clematis is Cordelia x Princess Beatrice. It was the only one of the batch of seedlings of the cross which displayed this form. Clematis is the most perfect example of this type that I have raised, but the form in varying degree of perfectness has appeared casually from many other crosses of Bearded varieties. It is probably a teratological form — a freak. I should not be inclined to agree with the learned Professor of Innsbruck that this flat form of flower is the archetype of all Irises, since it is the standards that are modified from the normal form, and in assuming the position of the falls they not only take up the special colouring of the falls but also develop (more or less perfectly) a beard. That is, the transformation is from a simpler form of petal to a more highly specialised. If it was a reversion towards an ancient type, one would expect that the transformation would be, on the contrary, from a more specialised to a simpler form. Therefore it is much more likely that the Crocus or Sparaxis form of flower was the original and most primitive form of the first Iris. But these Clematis forms, furthermore, raise interesting questions in heredity, since they do not appear to transmit according to Mendelian laws and, indeed, are not constant, flowers of quite normal form often appearing on the same plant, and even on the same spike as the Clematis forms. — A. J.Bliss.

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