Friday, March 27, 2009

Tall Bearded Iris "BENTON OLIVE"

Perhaps the best classic Iris I have ever seen amazing that it was never registered.

Description from the 1959 'Lloyd Austin World Famous Iris Color Guidebook'
BENTON OLIVE (Morris 1949) E-M 36" A very popular novelty in silvery-olive buff. I imported this from England as there is none like it in this country. A subtle new coloring proving very useful to arrangers. Enough green in its make-up to cause it to be used by every hybridiser working toward greens. Very good pollen. Sometimes blooms in Autumn.

Photo credit and copyright Sarah Cook
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Sir Cedric Morris Iris Collection

The blog is honoured to have this interesting contribution from Sarah Cook
 who has the Royal Horticultural Society National Collection of Sir Cedric Morris Irises

'Strathmore' named by the Queen Mother when she visited the Iris Show in London
Colour plate from the 1959 'Lloyd Austin World Famous Iris Color Guidebook'

When I retired in 2004 I returned to Hadleigh and started collecting together Sir Cedric Morris’s Irises. Fortunately his Irises are relatively well documented with 55 registered with the American Iris Society and about 45 more described in catalogues, books, and articles. Sir Cedric sold his irises through both Wallace and Orpington Nurseries and they have also been sold South Africa and by Austin in the USA.
His irises are extremely varied, encompassing every colour and type. There is the long line of ‘Pinks’ starting with ‘Edward Windsor’, then ‘Strathmore’ and finally ‘Clasmont’ the last Iris he registered, in1960. One of his earliest interests was in plicatas, succeeding in breeding good yellows, pinks and mauves. In addition to these there are bicolour’s such as Benton Petunia’, and self’s, ranging from whites (Benton Pearl) through yellows (Benton Hebe) reds and purples. Most have the suffix ‘Benton’ in their name, but there are about 12 others, including ‘Black Michael’, ‘Emma Hamilton’ and ‘Storrington’.
I currently have about 20 of the cultivars he bred in the collection. I am keen to find any of the remaining 70 cultivars which Sir Cedric Morris named, of these, at least 7 were sold in the USA by Austin’s in the 1950’s, including ‘Benton Oberon’, Benton ‘Ophelia’ and ‘Benton Rubeo’, it would be a thrill to find any of these, but especially ‘Rubeo’ which was the name of Cedric’s pet macaw!

 The collections contains the following cultivars of which I am reasonably confident are correctly named although not all of them have yet flowered in the collection:Benton Ankaret, Benton Arundel, Benton Blue John, Benton Caramel, Benton Cordelia, Benton Daphne, Benton Duff, Benton Evora, Benton Judith, Benton Farewell, Benton Lorna, Benton Menace, Benton Nigel, Benton olive, Benton Opal, Benton Pearl, Benton Primrose, Benton Susan and Edward of Windsor.
I also possibly have ‘Craithe’, however the group of iris from which I was given the rhizome had two labels ‘Craithe’ and ‘Spindrift’ so if anyone has a picture of ‘Spindrift’ I would love to see it.I have had considerable help in making my collection , some of the irises have been given to me by friends of Sir Cedric Morris but I have also been given rhizomes from Botanic Gardens in Basel, and Prague and also from Bruce Filardi’s collection in the USA. I must also acknowledge the help and encouragement given to me by members of HIPS and by Terry Johnson.

Sarah Cook, Hullwood Barn, Ipswich. 2009

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Tall Bearded Iris "BENTON OBERON "

In the Northern Hemisphere the Iris bloom season is about to start and above is a colour plate of the Iris Benton 'Oberon' from the 1959 'Lloyd Austin World Famous Iris Color Guidebook' which is one of the irises not yet in the Morris collection.
The catalogue description is thus;
BENTON OBERON (Morris 52) ML-34" My color plate shows exceptional brightness and arresting color scheme of this one that I imported from England. Courtly and trim flower in bright fuchsia-heliotrope with very prominent contrasting beard in bright red-tangerine; of good size and fine substance . Heaviest bloomer of the Benton series.

When you might be inclined to go a visit gardens displaying Irises this season, print out the picture and take it with you, and you could find a missing part of a incredible floral jigsaw puzzle that is the 'Sir Cedric Morris Iris Collection'. See the above post by Sarah Cook.
Take a look at the Historic Iris Preservation Society Web site for information on other Historic Irises.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Tall Bearded Iris "WHOLE CLOTH"

'Whole Cloth' blooming perfectly in the morning sunshine is a sight to behold. It is considered one of the truly great breeding Iris of its time. Above photo taken of the iris growing in the Garden No.1 at home and blooming along side to good effect another great breeding parent 'Freedom Road' (Parent of Edith Wolford, Right hand side of the shot).In England a concept of National Collections exist. There is no known National collection of a similar concept in America. As a Notable, Paul Cook would be an obvious choice for a national collection of his introductions.

The Iris Year Book 1960 Published by the Iris Society (BIS)
'USA-1960' by Mrs J. R. Hamblem page 45

Discounting the colouring of Whole Cloth, with sharp contrast accentuated by the clean whiteness of the standards and the smooth blueness of the falls, the perfect balance between standards and falls was my immediate impression when this sensational amoena bloomed. Realization of its amazing substance registered when the dawning of the fourth day found the first blossom still intact and lovely. Whole Cloth has the typical vigour and good plant habit that characterize the other members of this Iris family and could easily become the most famous of Paul Cooks origination's.Still it is not likely that any iris will supersede Melodrama in the public's affection.

Region 14 Northern California, Nevada,Regional Bulletin,Spring and Summer 1960.
Varietal Comment, F E Hutchings San Leandro, California.
WHOLE CLOTH (Cook 1958) This is one of the new wonders of the iris world. It is a blue amoena that will be a top award winner as soon as it is eligible. A beautiful flower that will stand up against the best there is on the market today. The flower is well formed and is on a tall stem with good branching. It is going to be a good breeding iris also. It is an inhibitor of white in the standards and is fertile both ways. Out of Progenitor it will probably do for the breeder anything that Progenitor will do without having to spend several generations in growing it back up to a tall bearded height again. The seeds germinate well as compared to the Progenitor crosses which are hard for many people to germinate.

Cooley's Gardens catalog for 1961
Whole Cloth (Cook, 1958)
This is the first in a series of new style amoenas from the garden of Paul Cook. Standards are pure white, the falls soft medium blue and the beard is practically white. Petals are broad and flaring.Few Plants. HM AIS 1958 AM 1960 Each $15.00

Picture courtesy Schreiners

From the Wanganui Irises Catalogue 1963-64
While many of the better varieties have been the results of improvements of older varieties now and again we are treated to an iris that is new and completely different coming on us as it were 'full grown'. Such is Whole Cloth introduced in America in 1958 and one of the most talked-of irises of the decade.The clear opaque white standards are held rigidly upright and the firm smooth medium light blue falls are gently flared.. Tall and well branched, flowers are lightly ruffled, form and substance excellent, beauty of colour. If this sounds like a perfectionist dream then well it may be. This is a really outstanding development in iris breeding, from the Progenitor line which has already given us such a fine variety as Melodrama, will be sure to win any popular vote wherever it is seen. As we go to press we learn that this splendid variety has won the 1962 Dykes Medal in America. AM 1960 3ft. .............17/6

Schreiners Iris Lovers Catalog 1964
WHOLE CLOTH (Cook 1958) EM 36"
Clear opaque white standards very pure and very rigidly upright and firm: smooth medium light blue falls. An original outstanding development. Well branched stalks. See our color picture page 42 for this unusual floral treat. HM58, AM60, Dykes Medal winner 1962.

AIS Checklist 1959
WHOLE CLOTH (P. Cook, R. 1956). Sdlg. 12555. TB 36" M. W4. Amoena. S. clean white, F. light violet (Ridgway); no haft marks. Cahokia X 11253: (Blue Rhythm x ((blue sdlg. x Progenitor) x (Distance x blue sdlg.)))., Longfield 1958. HM 1958; AM 1960, Dykes Medal 1962.

Photo Credit and Copyright Iris Hunter

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Friday, March 20, 2009

New Zealand Tall Bearded Iris "POLYNESIA "

Another delightful Iris from the Late Jean Stevens. This photo was taken at the very fine gardens of the President of the Masterton Horticultural Society, Colin McCarthy.

Novelties 1944-45

This new iris of our own raising is a delightful shade of golden bronze,quite a new colour in irises.It is a pure self,and both standards and falls are nicely frilled.The flowers are of a classic form and ar
e carried on well branched stems. 3 feet in height. 21/-

The Iris Year Book 1958 Published by the Iris Society (BIS)
POLYNESIA (Stevens 1944); This was short with small flowers on a plant only acquired last March.On arrival it was so dehydrated that I did n
ot expect it to bloom (A remark also applying to several other plants acquired at the same time) The standards were rather open,falls flaring and the colour a pleasing light tan shading to yellow at the shoulders.There is also a short light-blue vertical line as a continuation of the yellow beard

The Iris Year Book 1951 Published by the Iris Society (BIS)
ON WITH THE SHOW by H.Senior Fothergill Page 27
Mr Lipscombe showed a good collection of tall spikes with a lot of blooms out on each: One spike of DEREK MEYER ( Meyer 1939) was 54 inches
high, POLYNESIA (Stevens 1944) which is a brighter colour than JEAN CAYEUX was here next to a fine spike of the old red CHRISTABEL (Lapham 1936)

From THE TALL BEARDED IRISES by Nicholas Moore Coleridge 1956 page 65
The first bro
wn iris that really was brown was Jean such it was a landmark in its time...Many breeders have introduced irises of a similar colour and the New Zealand Breeder,Mrs Stevens in POLYNESIA (1944) has one that is remarkably like it except the colour is lighter a more golden coffee-au-lait, and the flower is more waved and slightly ruffled

Jean Stevens Stud book entry

From Jean Stevens original Stud book spanning the years 1925-1944
Seedling #2/020
020=Golden Hind X 2/L36 L36 is the 1935 cross INSPIRATION X INDIAN CHIEF


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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tall Bearded Iris "VILLAIN "

Twenty eight years ago the iris 'Villain' was introduced and in two years time it will attain the status of Historic Iris which is a visual puzzle, for if it were to be introduced today it would still make the cut as a stand out Modern Tall Bearded Iris. Maybe the label or the determination of what constitutes a 'Historic Iris' needs to be redressed. as 'Villain' and many other Irises of this era and many more to come do not 'fit' with the Gardening public's perception of what is an 'Historic Iris'.
That aside, 'Villain' is a great garden Iris with high health good bud count and nice clean strong leaf growth that shows PBF. It looks its best when the early morning sun casts its shadows across the velvet falls creating the look of mischief and intrigue. For me the name has a certain irony, and perhaps that's why I grew it in the first place.

Keith Keppel, Stockton, California. Introducing in 1981.
VILLAIN (Keppel) Late-blooming novelty bicolor with olive standards and reddish-toned purple falls.................. $20.00

Bulletin of the American Iris Society, April 1983, Number 249. Flight Lines, Tall bearded Talk, Paul Smith Pleasant grove Utah.
VILLAIN was very attractive with olive standards and dark purple falls. Doesn't sound as pretty as it really is.

Bulletin of the American Iris Society, April 1984, Number 253.Southern California Iris Impressions. Dr. Edward Murray.
We had idyllic spring weather until the second week of May, when it suddenly became very warm. In spite of wind and dust storms, the irises came through exceedingly well, with VILLAIN proving to take the dust and wind the best.
VILLAIN (Keppel '81): Ruffled and flared bicolor. Standards tawny bronze, falls dark wine-purple. Many buds on straight, low branched stalks. Very late. Each blossom lasts and lasts, seemingly for four or five days. It withstands winds well and is one of the best late ones.

Bulletin of the American Iris Society, October 1984, Number 255.The Brooks Garden, Eric Tankesley-Clarke, Missouri.
VILLAIN (Keppel '81) displayed its sultry, sombre colors of smoky olive standards and dusky maroon-purple falls on 3- to 4-branched stalks with two to three blossoms open.

AIS Checklist 1989
VILLAIN (K Keppel 1981) ML Olive butterscotch standards and red maroon falls. Mustard beards. Excellent increase. Dusky Dancer X 71-82A: ((Montage sib x Happy Ending) x Ghio 67-20W: ((((Frosted Starlight x (Spanish Peaks x Black Satin)) x ((Cahokia x Pierre Menard) x (Black Forest x Chivalry))) x Penthouse) x (Mahalo x Diplomacy))), H.M 1983.

Visit Keith Keppel's new 2010 web site to see his latest selections listed in the Iris Links on this page.

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.

Reproduction in whole or in part of this photo without the expressed written permission of Terry Johnson or Heritage Irises is strictly prohibited.
Photo credit and copyright Terry Johnson and Heritage Irises ©

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

New Zealand Tall Bearded Iris 'IRWELL MINSTREL'

Ron Busch has created another sensation with this 2010 introduction 'Irwell Minstrel'

2011 New Zealand Hybridisers Cumulative Checklist
IRWELL MINSTREL Ron Busch, Reg., 2010. Sdlg.1778/4136. TB, 28" (71 cm), E. S. white flushed wine at base and midrib; style arms rose wine; F. Deep wine-black, white veining around tangerine beard. Parentage unknown. The Iris Garden 2009.

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.
Photo credit Ron Busch. Copyright Iris Hunter.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Ron Busch Irises 2009 Introductions



Ron Busch in my considered opinion is the most significant New Zealand Hybridiser since Jean Stevens. Now that's high praise indeed but it's deserved.
Iris Names displayed are tentative only and are subject to AIS Checklist Registrar approval, but I can't see a problem with this aspect. Photo's are scans and whilst they could not be described as Catalogue shots the photos more than adequately display the depth of Ron Busch's hybridizing talent. With 40 Irises to be registered by Ron this year the post is just a small taste of the future of New Zealand Irises.







And a look to the future

Photo Credit and Copyright Ron Busch
Click on any photo to view a larger image

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Iris 'Florentina' The Florentine Iris

'Iris 'Florentina'' is an early flowering iris of historical significance and its shorter growth suits the front of the border.The variety was mentioned in the post on 'Gracchus' as a cut flower. Also known as the Florentine Iris, 'Florentina' is in my opinion a natural hybrid that has found favor with gardeners for at least the last 600 years. Used in the production of Orris Root along with I.albicans, I.pallida, and I.germanica.

The following will give much for the reader to consider.

Courtesy “The Gardeners Chronicle”, Page 806, December 23rd 1876
93. I. florentina, Linnaeus Species Plantarum edition 2, p. 55; Botanical Magazine., t. 671 ; Redoute Les Liliacées., t. 23; John Sibthorp, Florae Græcae., t. 39; Reichenbach, Iconographia Flora Germanica., tab. 339, fig, 766; Woodville, Medical Botany. iv.. t. 263, 1790-93 ; Spach, Histoire naturelle des végétaux xiii.,p. 63 ; Bentley and Trimen, Medicinal Plants, t. 273 1875; I. alba, Gaetano Savi, Flora Pisana vol. i., p. 32.
Rhizome wide-creeping, thicker than a man's finger, fragrant when dried. Leaves about half-a-dozen in a tuft, ensiform, glaucous, 12— 13 inches long, 1—1½ inch broad, narrowed gradually to a point. Flowering stems 2—3 feet high, much overtopping the leaves, branched above the middle, bearing 3—4 terminal spathes. Spathe-valves 2—2½ inches long, lanceolate-navicular, 1—1¼ inch broad, green on the keel in the lower part only at the flowering time, tinged with purple towards the edge. Flowers fragrant. Pedicel ½—¾ inch long inside the spathe; ovary cylindrical, ¾ inch long; tube 1 inch long, greenish; limb 3—3½ inches deep; both rows of segments 18—21 lines broad; falls obovate-cuneate, white tinged with lavender, reflexing half way down, the claw veined with green and brown, the beard bright yellow; standards erect, obovate-oblong with a short claw, pure white. Standards 1¼ inch long, exclusive of the deltoid toothed crests. Anthers ⅝ inch long, equalling the filaments.
Now spread universally through the Mediterranean region, but it has been cultivated so much that its indigenous distribution is quite uncertain. It is one of the best known of all the Irises flowering in our London gardens with germanica early in May.
The Spanish I. albicans, Lange, Ic. Plant. Hisp., t. 33 differs from florentina by its pure white flowers, subsessile ovary, and shorter perianth-tube and spathe valves

CORNELL MEMOIR 100 Study of Pogoniris Varieties Austin W.W. Sand July 1926
Florentina (Native to Italy and Southern France since 1500)
Colour effect somewhat grayed bluish white self: good size: form long to oblong spreading: tall bearded class; height 27in ; branching widely fastigiate, below center, 2-3 laterals. A flower of medium good substance; frail to firm texture; very good fragrance; poor to good lasting quality. Useful in mass, where it is persistent foliage is good after the flowering season is over. Useful also as a cut flower.
S. opalescent blusish white to pearl and pale olive gray; carriage cupped, arching, floppy; blade spatulate to wedge shaped, waved; a few hairs often present on claw; 1½ in. wide, 2¼ in. long. F. pearl to bluish white,cream-colored on haft with indistinct reticulations of olive; carriage dropping; shape spatulate to wedge-shaped; waved; size 1½ in. wide, 2½ in. long. Minor parts; beard fine to coarse, dense projecting, conspicuous, white tipped with yellow; haft broad, channelled; reticulations broken, widely spaced, inconspicuous; style-branches broad, overarching, keeled, bluish; crest large, fringed; pollen plentiful, yellow; spathe-valves scarious, inflated,keeled. Growth vigorous; increase rapid; habit compact; foliage stiff, leaves broad, glaucous yellow-green; 2 blooms open at once, floriferous; stalk erect, with 5 buds. 
This is a sweet scented, early flowering variety and together with I.pallida is the source of the dried orris root of commerce. According to the best botanical usage I.florentina is not a proper designation of any species of the bearded iris. This should more properly be treated as a horticultural variety of I.germanica. As such many synonyms have occurred, perhaps due to slight variations within the strain or to local conditions affecting color, size, or shape of blooms. Some of these names are; alba odorata; Florentina Alba: Florentina Queen Emma; Florentina Silver King; Gambetta; Florentine. For a variety so well adapted to general mass planting and so useful as a cut flower, its rating (76) would seem much to low for an iris of its quality, produced early in the season.

The Longfeild Iris Farm, Bluffton, Indiana, 1925
Florentina. The fragrant early flowering Iris common everywhere. Standards and Falls white tinged lavender. Flowers of good size borne on rather weak stalks.Thirty inches. Makes a beautiful clump and always dependable. $0.25

Kelway's Hardy Perennials and Colour Borders 1929-1930 page 37
Florentina (species) ( White Fleur-de-luce), very large flowers; standard pure white ; fall ; white slightly tinged lavender ; fragrant ; May and June. Orris root is the root of Iris Florentina prepared. 2½ ft ; Fine and lasting for cut flowers. 6d each ; 5/6 doz ; 50 for 20/- ; 100 for 35/-

Irises A Gardener's Encyclopedia; Claire Austin
Iris 'Florentina' Linnaeus 1762
Italy and Mediterranean Islands
Historically the plant we know as Iris 'Florentina' is one of the most important irises to be grown commercially in Europe. Cultivated in Italy for centuries, it has been used to make orris root, a powder that can add fragrance to perfume or flavour to Chianti wine. The blooms are white with a tinge of blue and white beards can be found on the low parts of the standards. Height; 45cm (18 in.)

Atti Del 1 Simposio Internazionale Dell'iris - Firenze, 14-18 Maggio 1963.
Report of the 1st International Symposium on Iris - Florence, May 14-18, 1963

Includes a paper by Dr Luigi Sani asks us to consider that at one time I.albicans was used for orris root production and it was sometimes mistakenly called I.florentina. It is the iris I.pallida which is mainly grown for this purpose in Tuscany.
Dr Sani also noted that I.florentina leaves where used to produce a pigment, (Verdiris) which was used by the Italian renaissance painters

THE IRIS, Brian Mathew
I.florentina Linn. It seems to me that this is not a true wild species, but an albino cultivar closely linked with I.germanica. Linnaeus in his original description of 1762 said that it was similar to I.germanica but with white flowers, although he referred to Miller's figure number 154 which represents the Spuria Iris I.orientalis (= I.ochroleuca). It is clear however, that Linnaeus intended the name 'Florentina' for the well-known bearded Florentine iris........I can see little justification for regarding this plant as anything more than a horticultural selection in which the name I.germanica 'Florentina' would be appropriate. (see below)

I.germanica 'Florentina' (Syn. I.florentina L.) This is the white flowered variant of I.germanica which is frequently confused with I.albicans .'Florentina' has beautiful, scented, flowers of a very faintly bluish shade rather than pure white and on the falls there is some greenish-yellow veining on the haft, and a deep yellow beard. Like I.germanica the inflorescence is branched and these branches are quite long, immediately distinguishing it from I.albicans in which the lateral flowers are sessile.
Note; These conclusions had been previously discussed by W.R.Dykes in his article 'Certain white-flowered species' published in "The Gardener's Chronicle" September 17th 1910

The Botanical Magazine, Curtis, Published 1803, Volume 18; Artist S Edwards

AIS Checklist 1929
FLORENTINA TB-W1 (Collected-Italy-Introduced Northern Europe, about 1500) The name florentina has been applied to various forms of Iris. According to the best botanical usage it is not a proper designation of any species of the genus. It is therefore treated here, as also in Bailey's Standard Cyclopaedia as a horticultural variety of I.germanica which together with I.pallida is the source of the aromatic "orris root"of commerce. The name I.florentina is often mis-applied also to I.albicans.

Comments of Clarence Mahan's 'Iris Myths and Fallacies' and his questionable validity and conclusions concerning the subject 'White Irises and Orris Root' have not been included. There is no doubt this subject will be covered in a later post as there are a variety of conjectures to refute. (printed papers International Symposium on Iris New Zealand 2000 pages 77-97)

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 8, 2009

Keith Keppel Iris 2009 Catalogue



Two weeks ago Keith Keppel's Iris Catalogue arrived in the post. Truly amazing to see what a hybridising Giant of the Iris world has to offer. Keith is a magician with visual perception and has the foresight required when it comes to selecting which varieties to cross with. It's just to bad Importing Irises to New Zealand is a wee bit tough at the present time, but things could change!! Anyway for those visitors to the blog lucky enough to live in the USA go and buy yourselves some classy Irises and for the rest of us we will just have to enjoy the pic's, and dream of what could of been.
Catalogue also contains a very good listing of Barry Blyth's Irises

Cover Shot Rainbow High

RAINBOW HIGH ML 40" (Starship Enterprise X Rio) Lemon yellow standards pale to cream on the outer third, then darken slightly at the margin. Falls are bright yellow near golden yellow beards, warm white in the center.. Next is a wide pleroma violet zone shading to a ⅜" light cedar brown band with paler rose tan outer edge. Guady is Good. #01-60A

For a catalogue, please send $3 to: Keith Keppel P.O. Box 18154 Salem, OR 97305 or you can now visit
Keith Keppel's Iris new web site, listed in the Iris Links on this page

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on." William Shakespeare .

Centre Page

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Tall Bearded Iris "ABBEY ROAD"

Abbey Road is a very beautiful pale yellow that is renown as a heavy bloomer. I purchased this iris from a commercial grower that was discontinuing this variety and a lot of 1960-1970 Irises that were meeting the same fate. Technically, this iris is a reverse Amoena, with its lemon standards and white falls. I cannot for the life of me understand why this Iris was discontinued as it is an amazing iris which has vigorous growth, strong stems, and bucket loads of slightly scented blooms, so you can see I am very glad it grows here at home.

IRISES, A Garden Encyclopedia, Claire Austin
"Abbey Road" ( D Silverberg 1994) The creamy lemon scented flowers have standards that are a deeper tone of colour than the falls. The rounded petals are very ruffled, while the standards just a touch at the top. The beards are soft yellow. Height 89cm. (35½ in.) Bloom mid season. Parentage; Pleated Gown X Ganges Moon

AIS Checklist, 1999
ABBEY ROAD David Silverberg, 1994 TB 35" M. S. creamy yellow; F. warm white, creamy yellow shoulders; beards yellow, tipped cream. Pleated Gown X Ganges Moon.
Honorable Mention 1996 Award of Merit 1998

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.
Photo credit and copyright Iris Hunter.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Tall Bearded Historic Iris "GRACCHUS "

Purchased from Otepopo Garden Nursery (see later in the article), the photo above is of the Iris 'Gracchus' reblooming over by the Woolshed last month.One of the earliest known cultivars that rebloom in mild climates and bred well before the use of middle eastern tetraploids were introduced to Iris breeding.
W.R. Dykes in 'The Gardener's Chronicle' November 5th, 1910, observed " Last year I remember that the variegata GRACCHUS flowered most freely in October"

The Iris is listed in the 1929 AIS checklist GRACCHUS TB-Y9L (Ware 1884) F.C.C 1885.
At the time the editors of the checklist used garden catalogues for information regarding early originator's, or who listed the cultivars in commerce.(This applies for entries prior to dates when registration forms were used by hybridisers to establish breeding facts).

So with this in mind there can be no surprise that Amos Perry writes in the BIS yearbook 1946, 'Past Present, and Future' page 110, "My father had always been very keen on Irises. He raised GRACCHUS which received a First Class Certificate R.H.S.on 9th June, 1885. (It was also Highly Commended R.H.S 2nd June 1916)
Amos Perry joined his father working at Thomas S. Ware and was apprenticed to the firm at Tottenham in 1885. Also of interest from the same article, "In those days the germanica Irises were grown largely for the Covent Garden Market, and about twenty acres of them were grown each year. I can well remember the tedium of cutting, piling the spikes at the end of the beds, bunching them in dozens, and packing them for transit."
"The market favourites were Florentina, Pallida dalmatica, GRACCHUS and VICTORINE."

Nairn and Sons Lincoln Road Christchurch has one of the earliest New Zealand listings for GRACCHUS in their 1892-93 Plant Catalogue, and is also listed in the above 1901-02 edition

Nicholas Moore in his 1956 book, "Tall Bearded Iris"
 In the late Nineteenth Century, Robert Parker, Thomas Ware and others were making deliberate crosses in an effort to raise improved varieties of iris, and some irises of this time such as Ware's 'GRACCHUS' and Lemon's 'CHEREAU' still survive, though they scarcely seem now the wonders that they were in their own day.

Historic Iris Preservation Society 'Roots', Fall 2000 page 19.
"An interesting breeding project initiated by Bob Schreiner and now being carried on by Ray.This project is an attempt to reintroduce hardiness disease resistance and vigour to modern bearded iris using Gracchus as the foundation stock"

Gracchus (Ware) The sensation of a past generation F.C.C. 1885
Photo courtesy 'IRISES Their culture and selection' Gwendolyn Anley 1946

Kelway's Hardy Perennials and Colour Borders 1929/30 page 37
Gracchus standards primrose yellow, falls primrose veined and reticulated crimson 9d each

Schreiners Catalogue 2008
You will sense Gracchus' irrepressible spirit. Its arched standards are cleanly finished in medium yellow. The flared white falls are heavily overlaid with deep violet veinations. These pert and charming flowers are produced in abundance, as it often yields multiple stems per root.

'The Iris', John C. Wister, 1930 Page 114. 
'Gracchus' had been entered on his version of the Black List. There were several of these 'Black Lists', even an official list published by The American Iris Society in 1928, which was headed " the following varieties of Tall Bearded Irises are considered as unworthy of further propagation. All members should refrain from assisting in their dissemination whether by purchase, by sale, by exchange, or by gift".
Thank God a few took no notice otherwise this stand out Iris would not be around today.

Listed In The Otepopo Garden Nursery Catalogue Spring 2001
GRACCHUS (Ware 1884)
There is some confusion about this iris as discussed in NZIS bullietins 145, 146. But whether it is a TB or a MTB, whether it is correctly named or not, it is a great garden iris flowering for a long time during the season and always fresh and attractive. Standards bright yellow. Falls strongly veined reddish. Height 75cm.

Bloom pictured above was from the plant purchased from this supplier, and a modicum of quality research would have immediately discounted the confusion as to whether this iris is in fact 'Gracchus' or that it could be as it some times labeled in New Zealand 'Gajus'.
'GAJUS TB Y9M' is well documented as having Purple Bottom Foliage (PBF) and Gracchus does not show this trait, also the fall colour of Gajus is classified as been confluent.
As to the discussion on whether the iris is a TB or MTB is also not a runner. MTB first became a classification in the 1959 AIS Checklist so GRACCHUS would not be eligible for this classification.
As the Iris was first listed in the AIS Alphabetical Iris Check List 1929 page 121 we should take the time and refer to the definition of the classification in the 1929 Checklist page 4: TB Tall Bearded Section. Species, forms and hybrids of Iris germanica, pallida, variegata, trojana, cypriana, and other tall species'
The only conclusion one can arrive at is that 'GRACCHUS' is correctly classified as a TB for the period it was listed.
This is probably a great example how Irises can become entrenched in the system with the wrong ID. Whist the writer of the catalogue does acknowledge that the iris label is contentious yet carries on selling the iris as a named variety, fortunately for all purchasers it turned out to be the correct name.

In America it is listed in the following catalogues, Schreiner's Iris Gardens,Newport Naturals, and listed with Seagate Irises in the United Kingdom

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