(1920) A Suggested Program for The American Iris Society by John C. Wister

The Flower Grower p. 8, January 1920


Some of the activities into which the American Iris Society should enter, are discussed in the following paper. It is realized that important points have been omitted, and that less important points have been given undue emphasis; and this paper is offered chiefly as a means of creating discussion, and of bringing out the sentiments of the Iris growers of the United States, who may become members of the Society. Suggestion and criticisms are invited and should be sent to, the Secretary, Dr. H. A.Gleason, Botanical Garden, Bronx Park, New York City. ,

* * * *

The American Iris Society is the result of a long felt need among Iris growers, both amateur and professional, for a central body to assemble all available information concerning lrises and Iris growing, to conduct research, to ascertain additional information, and to encourage in every way Iris growing in all parts of this country.

I shall take up some of the suggested activities for this Society in the following order :

  1. Botany

  2. History and Classification

  3. History of Iris Growing

  4. Cultural directions for different climates

  5. Pests

  1. Test Gardens and Exhibition Gardens

  2. Iris Shows with suitable prizes

  3. Publicity

Theoretical Work
  1. Botany

    1. Upon botanical knowledge must rest the foundation of any work dealing with plants. The great work of Mr.W. R. Dykes, “The Genus Iris" presents an exhaustive study of Iris botany. As the price of this work places it beyond the means of many persons, we believe that the Society might make it available to its members by some system of traveling libraries. Another fine book is “The Book of the Iris," by R. Irwin Lynch. A less technical work is “Irises,” by W. R. Dykes. There are, however, still many disputed b0. tanical points concerning which this society might conduct research.

  2. History and Classification of Garden Varieties.

    In this important subject there is no available authoritative material, and one of the first duties of the Society should be to make a thorough search for all possible information and assemble it. Nursery catalogues are filled with hundreds of varieties, the origin of which is not now known, and many of these varieties are masquerading under several different names. Present methods of classification are entirely inadequate, and there are no standardized descriptions, many of the catalogue descriptions being so inaccurate as to be misleading.

The Society should publish a catalogue of all varieties in commerce, giving name of originator, date of introduction, parentage, and synonyms, wherever these facts are ascertainable; it should describe them accurately by means of a color chart, state briefly their chief good and bad points. A start towards such a work is now being made, in the preparation of a check list of Bearded Iris, containing the names of over 900 varieties.

3. History of Iris Growing.

No coherent review of the history of Iris Growing, and of Iris Growers and Breeders has ever been published. Information as to the introduction of the various species can undoubtedly be found in botanical publications. Of the early beginnings of garden lrises little is known. The following review of the ascertainable history of Bearded Irises, will show how very fragmentary our knowledge is, and it is hoped it will suggest what great interest a real knowledge of history might bring to the lovers of the Iris. The history of the Rose is quite complete, and through the labors of Peony enthusiasts we now know fairly clearly the transition from the wild Peony, through the skill of French breeders during the last 100 years, to the magnificent garden Peony of today. The story of the transition from the wild types of pumila, pallida, variegata to the modern lrises of our gardens, should prove equally fascinating.

Note by the Editor:

Mr. Wister's paper contains an outline of the history of the achievements of various lrIs originators under the above heading which will be published as a separate article in a future issue of THE FLOWER GROWER.

4. Cultural Directions.

Garden varieties of Iris are easily grown and comparatively few directions are needed in the older sections of the country. The introduction of varieties containing blood of new species such as Trojana and Ricardi, however, opens up new problems of climatic suitability, soils and culture. Many species which are now practically unknown in gardens, could be grown in many parts of the United States if their needs were understood. The Society should, through its test gardens in different parts of the country, collect and publish authoritative information on these subjects.

5. Pests.

Iris culture has been singularly free from serious diseases and insects. lt would be folly, however, to assume that the lris is immune from trouble. and the Society should by co-operation with entomologists and plant pathologists conduct research work on these subjects. The Iris worm or root borer is present in many parts of the country. root rot is often prevalent in wet seasons, but the two leaf diseases common in England have apparently not ap‘ peared here.


1. Test Gardens.

These are necessary for making descriptions, determining synonyms, judging varieties, and for making researches in cultural directions and in investigating insects or diseases. It is to be hoped that in time it may become the custom for new seedlings to be judged in these gardens by expert committees, before they are named and introduced, for while we would like to have breeders produce ten times or even a hundred times as many seedlings as they are producing at present. we must admit that at the present time too many varieties are being named and introduced. They fill our catalogues and our gardens and serve no useful purpose. High awards should be given to meritorious novelties, while the introduction of seedlings which have proven inferior should be discouraged, as should seedlings which while good in themselves are too close to existing varieties.

The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx Park, New York City, will establish next spring an Iris test garden, containing approximately two acres. The Director of the Garden has asked the Society to cooperate with him in establishing this garden and through his kindness this will become the Society’s first test garden. Here there will be a permanent collection of all available species of Iris, and also of all available horticultural varieties to date. A special portion of the garden will be devoted to the testing of unnamed seedlings. Special committees of the Society will conduct various types of work in this garden, and members of the Society will be asked to contribute plants. The situation of the garden is ideal, and it will undoubtedly be visited by many thousands of people. The garden will be under the direct charge of Dr. H. A. Gleason, who has been one of the prime movers in the organization of the Iris Society.

It is understood that Iris exhibition gardens have been begun in St. Louis and Minneapolis. As the Society grows older it should co-operate in every way with the directors of these gardens and should endeavor to have a public Iris garden established in every large city. Additional test gardens should also be established in the different climatic sections of the country.

2. Iris Shows with Suitable Prizes.

The Society should hold its annual meeting each year at Iris time and should hold an exhibition in connection with the meeting. Here prizes should be offered to nurserymen, professional gardeners, amateurs with l large gardens, amateurs employing no . gardener, and novices. There should 1 be special prizes for some of the newer varieties and for seedlings. This meeting should be held in a differentlocality each year. As the Society grows it should be possible to hold shows in different parts of the country during the same season. Besides this, as far as its finances will admit, it should offer prizes for exhibitions of Irises at local shows throughout the country.

3. Publicity.

All reports of the work of the Society should be published, either in an Iris Society page in some established horticultural paper or in Bulletins published by the Society. In addition the Society should assemble a complete library of books, special articles, photographs, and lantern slides, and it should lend or rent these to garden clubs and horticultural societies throughout the country. It should also furnish speakers to give talks before horticultural societies, botanic societies, and agricultural colleges, etc.

* * * *

We believe the Society will be a boon to the amateur, by giving him more knowledge and, therefore, more interest and pleasure in his Iris.

We believe it will be a boon to the breeder, in pointing out past breeding experience, and suggesting ideals for which to strive; in testing his seedlings in a large variety collection ; and in Offering suitable rewards.

We believe it will be a boon to the nurseryman in creating a demand for Irises; in encouraging the introduction of really meritorious novelties; and in discouraging the introduction and propagation of undesirable kinds.

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

-- BobPries - 2014-08-04
Topic revision: r2 - 12 Sep 2017, BobPries
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