(1918) Notes From Kew VII
Gardeners' Chronicle p. 1, July 6, 1918
MY remarks last month on the behaviour of Irises at Kew have given rise to comment by letter as well as in the horticultural press. Mr. Dykes believes in summer transplanting: Mr. Jenkins says it is wrong in principle and bad in practice. Mr. Divers informs me that at Belvoir, where Irises of the Germanica breed arc largely grown, he transplanted them at the same time as herbaceous perennials generally. Another correspondent maintains that they should not be disturbed at the root if it can be avoided. Sir Frederick Moore's observations are instructive. He writes :
" We find that by far the safest time to move Irises is just as the flowers fade ; it is better than the spring. They are making new roots then, and stand pulling about. You will often find these Irises spreading out from the borders to the hard paths, and growing and flowering well. Irises growing on the top of a wall never get disease. These plants never flower more freely or look more effective than on top of a wall, and I think that is how we should grow Oncocyclus Irises. We find that plenty of old mortar rubbish from walls, burnt earth from the bonfire, and poor gravelly loam, with ample drainage, suits them, and we have a good show each year. Disease may appear on new plants for some time, and then it spreads to others. On our nursery border, the poorest, hottest, driest place we have, Irises are perfectly free from disease, and we get a splendid display of flowers. In cottage gardens where they are bordered by the wall of the house and path, and often over-hung by the roof, they give good results, for the simple reason that they are left alone and often get dry, and the soil is poor. Have you ever noted them in small town gardens? The best Germanicas I think I ever saw were in King's Road, Chelsea. There was dust enough on the leaves to grow them in. It was a hot day, and the reflex heat from the house was over-powering, but the Irises enjoyed it."
In horticulture, as in other matters, we fight for our own views and practices. After all, experience teaches, and when men argue from their own we must respect their views. " There are fifty ways to town and rather more to heaven," wrote Matthew Arnold ; so also there are many ways of growing most plants well, and what may be a help under one set of conditions may prove a hindrance "under
another. There was a time when Roses would not thrive at Kew ; when Lilies were hopeless failure; when even Rhododendrons were believed to require beds of expensive peat, in which they made a poor show. By giving heed to the natural conditions, and especially the soil at Kew, these and other failures have been turned into successes. I am afraid we have been treating Irises too well. When the present beds were made for them, special soil (good Ealing loam) was provided. It would most likely have been better to plant them in the natural soil of the Gardens. Bulbous Irises are not in question. They, like Daffodils and Tulips, have a resting season, and transplanting is then performed.
(article continues with the discussion of other plants, Penstemons, etc.) W. Watson
For more information on historic Irises visit the Historic Iris Preservation Society at