1896, Correspondence by Watson various Iridaceae
Garden And Forest p.283, July 15, 1896
Rigidella immaculata. A group of seedling plants of this interesting Irid is now in flower in a sunny greenhouse at Kew. Although introduced into cultivation by Hartweg over fifty years ago from the mountains of Guatemala, it does not appear to have won favor as a garden plant, not-withstanding the rich color and elegant form of its flowers. In habit the plants suggest Tigridias, the leaves being erect, ensiform and plaited ; the scapes are a yard high, branched, with clusters of green folding spathes from which are pushed the drooping rich crimson flowers composed of a campanulate cup an inch long and three reflexed segments nearly as long again as the cup. The flowers are fugitive, but they succeed each other rapidly. Only two species of Rigidella are known, the other being R. flammea, a native of Mexico, which, according to Mr. Baker, is larger in flower than R. immaculata. To cultivators of choice bulbous plants this plant may be recommended on account of the form and brilliant color of its flowers.
Iris Robinsoniana. A figure of this, the largest of all species of Iris, was published in Garden and Forest, vol. iv., p. 352, from a plant flowered at Kew in that year. The same plant is now in flower again. It bears twelve spikes, each about eight feet high, the first flowers opening on May 21st. More than one thousand flowers had been developed since that time, the highest number open on any one day being 1 13 on June 13th. The flowers last only one day, but there are some open every day. Each flower is about four inches across, pure white with blotches of golden yellow at the base of the three largest segments. Even when not in flower this Iris is as ornamental as the New Zealand Flax, Phormium tenax. It rarely flowers under cultivation. I attribute its present floriferousness to its having been lifted in March last and replanted in fresh soil, the check thus given, no doubt, having induced the development of flower-scapes. The species is a native of Lord Howe's Island. It requires a sunny position in a warm greenhouse and plenty of water at all times.
Marica caerulea. This is by far the handsomest of the dozen species of Marica admitted by Mr. Baker, but it is rarely met with in cultivation. At Kew it is grown along with the Agaves in a warm, sunny greenhouse, where it is planted out in gravelly soil. Here it forms a tuft of ensiform leaves a yard long, and in early summer develops numerous scapes five feet long, bearing clusters of flowers near the apex. These open in slow succession; they are four inches in diameter and of a rich blue color with lines of yellow, brown and white at the base of the outer segments. On some days the display of flowers is rich and delightful. I believe this species is naturalized in Jamaica, and, according to Mr. Baker, it has been found in west tropical Africa, although it is a native of tropical America. When grown in pots it is not nearly as satisfactory as when planted in a bed of gravelly soil, as above described; at any rate, I have never seen it anywhere so happy and floriferous as in the succulent house at Kew.
Iris Sibirica. All the forms of this Iris are easily cultivated, and they flower most freely in early summer. At Kew they are most effective when planted in masses on the margin of the lake, the moisture at the root evidently being to their liking. A few roots planted as an experiment three years ago have now become large clumps, which this month have been perfect sheafs of rich lilac-blue flowers. The white variety, called flexuosa, is rare in cultivation now, although one of the oldest of garden plants.
Iris Kaempferi. We have at last succeeded with this plant, a bed, or rather bog, about six yards square in one corner of a lake being- crowded with large beautiful flowers. We find that it is a mistake to plant it in a position where it gets flooded or submerged in winter. Some seedlings three years old grown in an ordinary border are also in flower. No Iris makes such a beautiful display as this, and we are indebted to the Japanese gardeners for a wonderful range of variation in color among the plants of it imported from that country. According to Mr. Baker its correct name is I. laevigata.
Iris xiphioides. The English Iris is one of the most valuable of all bulbous plants to use for early summer effect. It may be purchased for about three dollars a thousand, and if planted in beds on a lawn in September it grows and flowers as profusely as the freest of garden Tulips. In some gardens it becomes naturalized, and I have seen it come up among Potatoes, under Gooseberry- bushes and promiscuously in the flower-beds with all the persistency of a Dandelion. No Iris is more useful for cut-flower purposes and no Iris looks more beautiful when tastefully arranged in a vase. Every garden of any pretensions should have some beds of it. Almost equally valuable is the Spanish Ins, I. Xiphium, which has smaller flowers and blooms about a month earlier than the English Iris. In some of our big metropolitan gardens these two Irises are planted yearly in many thousands. They are so cheap that one need scarcely trouble to lift them where they are in danger of being hurt by cold or wet. At Kew they are lifted toward the end of July and covered with dry soil till planting time again.
Dimorphotheca Echloni. I noted this plant a few weeks ago as a new introduction of promise from south Africa, describing the flowers from collector's notes. Plants of it are now in flower at Kew, and these prove the flowers to be as large as those of the Paris Daisy, or Marguerite, white, with a dull purple disk and the ray-florets tinged with blue-purple on the under side. The partially opened flowers are pretty in their variegated appearance, and when fully expanded they are chaste and elegant. The plants are about a foot high, branched freely, clothed with obovate dark green fleshy leaves, and the flower-heads are borne on erect axillary scapes about nine inches long. Plants of it are flowering freely in a border out-of-doors and in pots in a cold greenhouse. The species is said to be a subshrubby perennial, but we do not know enough about it to be able to say if it will prove perennial under cultivation here. A figure of it will shortly be published in The Botanical Magazine.
Renanthera Storiei. Reichenbach described this as a new species in 1S80, when it flowered for the first time in cultivation in the Clapton nursery of Messrs. Low & Co. It is a native of the Philippines, and in floral beauty it surpasses the beautiful Chinese Renanthera coccinea, which it resembles in habit and general appearance, differing in having wider sepals and petals, and in color, R. coccinea being uniform scarlet, while R. Storiei is crimson, with blotches of a darker shade, and yellow lines on the side lobes of the lip. A plant of it in flower was shown last week by Sir Trevor Lawrence ; the spike was about eighteen inches long, branched, and it bore about fifty flowers, each two and a half inches across. A colored figure of R. Storiei was published in Williams' Orchid Album in February of this year, prepared from a plant flowered in the Holloway nursery. R. Imschootiana is a third species of similar character to the two above named. I described this in Garden and Forest in July last year.
Disas. About four hundred spikes of Disa-flowers are now a feature of the cool Orchid-house at Kew. They vary in length from a foot to nearly three feet, and in the number of flowers upon each from a dozen to twenty. D. Kewensis is the most beautiful, surpassing D. Veitchii in the rich rose-pink of the flowers, the shorter scapes and the much larger number of flowers upon each. D. Premier and D. Langleyensis are also first-rate garden Orchids. When grown as at Kew the two species, D. racemosa and D. tripetaloides, are good decorative Orchids. Mr. H. Bolus, the eminent Cape botanist, says these are much finer under cultivation here than he has ever seen them in a wild state. They all require cool-greenhouse treatment, plenty of water, an open peaty soil and shade from direct sunshine. As soon as the plants have flowered they are shaken out of the soil, the suckers taken off and potted singly in small pots and watered liberally. In November hey are again potted into three-inch pots, in which they remain until they flower. They make a display of flowers for about two months.
London. W. Watson.
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