(1919) Irises at Colchester




By the invitation of Messrs. R. Wallace and Co., -we were afforded the opportunity, on Thursday, the 5th inst., of inspecting the firm's summer-flowering Irises at Colchester. The Kilnfield Nurseries, as they are termed, are devoted entirely to hardy, flowering plants, including Alpines and ornamental trees and shrubs, especially such as are suitable for associating -with rock and -water gardens, which are the firm's specialties and for which they have gained high awards at exhibitions. In common with most nurseries of this character, only a minimum amount of labour has been available during war-time for the cultivation of the extensive stocks of flowering plants, the care of the extensive water and bog garden, the dry wall, which on our last visit we found so exceedingly interesting, and the upkeep of the necessary glass-houses which a nursery of this character includes. But the most had been done that was possible, and although it would require a vast amount of time and labour to bring the place back to the neatly-ordered condition of pre-war times, we found much that was interesting and the Irises especially were their full beauty and provided sufficient to interest and admire throughout a long day.

It would be a difficult matter to decide which is the finest flower for gardens in summer time, bnt surely the claims of the summer-flowering Irises would make them rank high in any list, whilst it would be difficult to name any plant that produces such gorgeous flowers with less care and attention from the grower. The summer Irises have an old-world charm, for they were favourites with our forebears, they seem always to be found in the beds borders of old-time establishments where gardens seem as though they owe less to design than to a happy association of beautiful plants with the natural amenities of woodland and water.

During recent years the hybridist has so intermingled the various tall, flowering Iris species suc as pallida, plicata, neglecta and squalens. that it is almost a matter of impossibility to keep them grouped accurately, and the modern tendency is to lump them into one big group under the general title of late-flowering bearded Irises. The late Sir Michael Foster, as is well known to our readers, was very successful in raising beautiful hybrids, and many 0f his novelties have been illustrated in these pages. His work although not perhaps on the same lines has been continued by others, including Mr. W. R. Dykes (whose beautiful Goldcrest (see Fig. 148) was flowering in its full glory at Kilnfield Nurseries on the occasion of our visit), Mr. A. J. Bliss and Mr. Farr. The varieties were so numerous that we have space only to enumerate some of the newer ones, including many which have not yet been placed in commerce, and for the most part Mr. Bliss's productions. Perhaps the finest variety in the whole of this very choice collection is the one named Dominion, with a fine spike of large flowers, each bloom having glorious falls of violet purple with a maroon sheen, the base having pretty reticulations passing to chestnut red colour, and with standards of heliotrope blue; a rich gold beard
forms a pleasing finish to the blooms. The habit is sturdy and dwarf, and if a fault is to be found it lies in the rather heavy build of the inflorescence. The variety named ‘Rodney’ is quite distinct, for the colour is Oxford blue and the flowers are smaller and the segments narrower than usual, but of a delicate and refined appearance that appeals to the lover 0f the beautiful. The blooms are borne on very straight stems and with great freedom; the habit of the plant is very neat. Sweet Lavender has standards of pale heliotrope colour and broad reddish purple falls. The colouring is quite distinct and, as the plant produces blooms in plenty and each flower is of the largest size, the effect of a bed of this variety is exceedingly fine. Francina is a white flower with heavy reticulations of reddish purple and it has also a little colour in the standards, the edges of which are pleasingly turned backward. Tatarin is another flower of bold appearance, with broad, purplish heliotrope falls and a prominent orange beard on a pale ground; arising above these are pale blue standards of the largest size. The next variety that came under notice was Rosalind, of which there was a big clump, the plants giving a generous display; of their pretty flowers of a rosy shade, with a deeper tone in the falls, which are reticulated at their bases. There is considerable gold colouring in this variety both in the beard and in the style arm. Tristran is a dwarfer-habited plant than most, but its small stature does not detract from the beauty of the flowers; the falls are deep maroon, with reticulations, and the standards are blush colour. Drake may be described as a counterpart of Rodney, 'but instead of Oxford blue the colour is Cambridge blue. The spikes carry large, bold flowers, and as much as three feet six inches high.

In the variety ‘Phyllis Bliss’, which is one of the choicest of Mr. Bliss's productions, the young flowers open a rather deeper shade than is seen in the fully expanded blooms. The tone is perhaps best described as lavender, overlaid with rose, and there are reticulations of purple. The long, drooping falls are not quite so wide as the standards.’E. H. Jenkins’ may be described as a bicolor ‘Catarina’. The very broad purplish lavender falls have brown reticulations at the base, on a white ground; the large, waved standards are sky blue colour. The plant is very free in blooming, and has the habit of branching freely, so that a small specimen will bear a great profusion of blooms. A rather unusual form was seen in the variety ‘Clematis’, for instead of having a -well-defined standard, the segments hang down as in the falls and moreover, the standard segments have beards so that the flower must be regarded as an abnormality. The effect was that of a more regular flower than is usual in Irises, and it is from this fact that the name ‘Clematis’ was given to it. One of the freest blooming of all
was named Azure, which possesses rich, purple fall, reticulated at the base, and azure blue standards.

The large, branching inflorescences of ‘Camelot’ bear flowers having a creamy-white ground faintly suffused with blue at the edges of the falls and with more blue in the standards. The flower is rather unique in that it fades with age almost to cream-white. Gules is a variety with claret colouring in the falls, and brown veining towards the limb and under the prominent orange beard. The very broad standards, which are of a purplish lilac colour are much arched. ‘Dimitv’ is a very delicate flower having faint reticulations of purple on a cream ground, and with pale lavender-coloured standards showing a white ground. The variety blooms with freedom, and the plant possesses a robust constitution. One of the gems of the whole collection is what appears to be a Cengialtii seedling and is appropriately named Tomtit from its dwarf stature. The falls are more horizontally spread than in most varieties, and the whole flower has a rich purplish shade which, seen in the mass gives an impression of deep violet blue. The foliage has a rather peculiar droopmg character which marks the variety as distinct. In ‘Cretonne’ , we have a flower giving a more bizarre effect, the falls being crimson maroon with chocolate veining and carrying a fine orange-yellow beard. The standards are of a violet shade, edged with bronze. Quite distinct from the foregoing is one named ‘Mrs. H. Cowley’, a flower with very broad, rounded falls red colour, with white veining at the base The standards are gold-coloured at thebase, the blade being faintly suffused with a mauve on the bronze ground. Morwell is one of older varieties already in cultivation in gardens. The large flowers have purple falls, and pale clear blue standards ; the spike is very large and branching and the segments are also of large size.

Blue Bird derives its name from the spreading falls, which appear like deep blue wings, adorned by a rich gold crest. It has a paler blue standard. ‘Knysna’ is one of the best of the variegata forms, and quite distinct from any others in cultivation. Above the deep chocolate-coloured falls arise tall, golden-coloured standards, with a little veining on the inner surface of the segments. The habit is dwarf, sturdy and very free-blooming. ‘Dora Lougden’ is another dwarf Iris, the colour of which is rosy-magenta at the base of the falls, which have a considerable amount of veining, the tone passing to chestnut brown under the rich gold crest. The standards are faintly flushed with lilac, and are bronzy at the base. ‘Mrs. G. F. Tinley’ is a very large variety, with blooms of massive proportions. The falls are purplish violet, on which the orange-coloured beard shows prominently, and the beautifully arched standards are lavender- coloured.

The Irises described above by no means exhaust the list of varieties noted, but we can only give a selection of some of the older sorts we saw and with which many of our readers will be familiar. They include Shalimar, Alcazar. Isoline, Troost, Mrs. Alan. Gray, Iris King, Eldorado, Dawn, Lord of June and Celia.

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

-- BobPries - 2014-07-02
Topic revision: r1 - 02 Jul 2014, BobPries
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