1874, The Gladwyn as an Indoor Ornament (Iris foetidissima )

The Garden p.55, January 17, 1874


Until this season, this singular species of Iris seems to have been overlooked in this country, as far as its decorative properties are concerned. I never before used it myself for purposes of ornamentation; but I shall not lose an opportunity of doing so whenever I can obtain any of its bright and effective seed-pods. Arranged amongst evergreens, in stands of any description, it is very ornamental. For Christmas decorations, it should take a leading place amongst berry-bearing plants.

Its brilliant orange shade of scarlet, and its graceful drooping habit, make it highly effective in garkxnds and large decorations formed of evergreens, such as are often used at that period of the year. The seed-pods are sold in bunches in Covent Garden Market at a very cheap rate, which makes them come within the means of all classes. I myself have had some spikes of this Iris, or Gladwin, as it is often called, in use in a stand amongst evergreens more than a mouth; and, with the exception of the berries having shrunk a little, they appear quite as fresh as when first placed there, and their colour quite as bright. These seed-pods also look very well if employed in connection with fruit; but they must be mixed with Fern-fronds, or some other foliage. I have placed the pods in the Moss that covers the soil of pot-plants, selecting those which were opened out to their fullest extent, and, placing them so as to rest flat on the Moss; used in this way, they have a very pretty effect. If used in church decorations, they will form, I am sure, a very important adjunct.

In " Pratt's Flowering Plants of Great Britain," this Iris is described as having leaves sword-shaped; perianth, beardless; its inner segments about as long as the stigmas; root, perennial. It is not nearly so showy a flower as the Yellow Iris, for its petals are of a dull blue, or, in some instances, a dingy yellow. The plant has a singular odour; but, while it is untouched, this is not disagreeable; but, if we break the stem or crush a leaf, its scent becomes extremely unpleasant. This Iris generally grows a foot or a foot-and-a-half high; and, though a local plant, is common in the west and south-west of England. It is abundant in the woods and thickets of Devonshire, and grows in several parts of Kent in dry hedges, as in the neighourhood of Hythe,along the cliff-coast, and on banks near Dover. It bears its flowers from June to August. Its seeds are very beautiful in winter, when their capsule shrivels, and displays them in all the lustre of brilliant scarlet. They are numerous, and most powerfully acrid. Mr. Sowerby, in " Our Useful Wild Flowers," after speaking of Iris Pseud-acorus, says :— " The only other British Iris (Iris foetidissima), remarkable for its very peculiar scent, has been applied to the same medicinal purposes as the common species. It is abundant in some parts of the west of England ; but it is local elsewhere. The leaves are shorter, narrower, and of a darker green than those of the other kind. The flowers are purple, and are followed by the triangular seed-vessels, which, when ripe, open, disclosing the beautiful orange-coloured seeds, and rendering the plant very ornamental in the autumn." Most of those exhibited in Covent Garden Market for sale come, I believe, from Essex, where, I should suppose, they are cultivated for that purpose ; but Iris foetidissima is to be found in a wild state abundantly in many parts of southern England and Ireland, as well as in the localities above-mentioned.

For more information on historic Irises visit the Historic Iris Preservation Society at

-- BobPries - 2014-09-11
Topic revision: r1 - 11 Sep 2014, BobPries
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