(1922) Appraising Some Of The Newer Irises by Sturtevant

The Garden Magazine p329, 1922

APPRAISING SOME OF THE NEWER IRISES

A Silhouette of What's New and Noteworthy as Seen Through the Expert Eyes of the Secretary of the American Iris Society at the Annual Exhibition

THE recent exhibition held in conjunction with the third Annual Meeting of The American Iris Society at the New York Botanical Garden on May 27th provided a quite unusual opportunity for noting the recent developments in Iris culture. It will be remembered that the organization meeting of the Iris society was held January 31st, 1920, at The Garden. Since that date the membership has increased to some six hundred and fifty, and the Test Garden of Bearded Varieties initiated two years ago now contains a good thousand different forms contributed by members, both in this country and abroad. With such a collection at hand, the exhibition, though fine, had a close rival as an attraction to visitors.
Owing to the abnormal season, the scheduled date was advanced one week and many exhibitors found it impossible to attend, but on the other hand it enabled Washington and Boston growers to compete, in fact, T. F. Donahue won the amateur sweepstake despite this handicap of distance. Among the commercial growers John Lewis Childs, Inc., was by far the biggest exhibitor, although there were noteworthy varieties in the exhibits of John Scheepers Co., and Cedar Hill Nurseries; and Mrs. Frances Cleveland and Miss Sturtevant showed seedlings to advantage. A vase of Mariposa, an orientalis seedling introduced last year by Mrs. Cleveland, was charming, just a few stalks and leaves rising from a simple holder set on a dull green, wavy-edged plate; and I was glad that Mrs. Robert C. Hill, the judge, should have honored so simple and yet so satisfying a bouquet. The winning vase staged by Mrs. James Montague was equally suggestive of garden combinations; Queen of May and Her Majesty for Iris, with Purple Beech, Nepeta Mussini, and dull blue Columbines all pleasantly arranged in a dull greeny-blue pot. It is not often that flowers arranged for indoor decoration can be so happily grown together.

THE lasting interest, however, lies not so much in the exhibitors as in the flowers exhibited and the showing of many novelties gives me an opportunity to speak in detail of recent progress toward better Irises. Inasmuch as Lent A. Williamson (Wmsn., 1918) has been given the highest score (9.6) in the recent symposium published by the Society, it deserves first recognition and yet as shown it was not typical. I have been interested to hear from Mr. Bliss, the English breeder, that Lent A. Williamson, his own Dominion, and Valkyrie (Sturtevant) possessed very similar fine qualities that suggested similar parentage. The first named is well known and possesses height and a richly colored lavender and pansy-violet flower; while Dominion with its brilliant prune-purple, and Valkyrie, light drab and dark maroon are still rare. All have that intensity and sheen found only as an accompaniment to exceptional substance, a quality that is becoming more indispensable among the newer Irises. Off-hand one would expect that it would not be apparent in the lighter tones, but the old dalmatica, Princess Beatrice, has the same reflecting texture and lasting quality of bloom. Others of the Dominion race have been introduced within the last few years, and we can look forward to many more in the future. That the coloring of this type will be in the deep purples, both red and blue, is sure; that it will give yellows is improbable, though not an impossibility-.
Quite clearly these trace back more or less directly to cypriana, or trojana, and the new Ambassadeur (Vilmorin, 1920) shows similar parentage. It has not quite the intensity in its bronzen tones nor quite the substance, but it has far greater height, wider branching, and, in appearance at least, larger flowers. Whereas Lent A. Williamson is a blue-purple dulled with yellow, Ambassadeur is a red-purple lighted by yellow, and among these four top-notch varieties Valkyrie is the only one of distinctly novel color which might perhaps be explained by the fact that its sombre richness needs size to prove attracting.
Another result of progress breeding has been in the clear yellow selfs. Among the old varieties only Aurea, Foster's Yellow, and Sherwin-Wright show complete absence of venation on the falls in all conditions of climate and weather, but these are all low, not over thirty inches at the best, and when we consider the wealth of lavender selfs we appreciate the dearth of similar yellows. This year I have compared yellows galore – Empire (Sturt.); Virginia Moore (Shull); Soledad (Mohr); Mrs. Neubronner, Loie Fuller, (Vaughn); Sunshine (Yeld); Topaz (Bliss); Shekinah (Sturt.) – and of them all only two show no traces of the venation which is a sure proof of their variegata origin. Soledad is a trojana seedling without trojana height and this year at least bloomed but shortly after the pale yellow intermediates and revealed their characteristic texture. Shekinah, however, clearly shows its pallida origin, grows a good three feet, and is of a very clear though not intense tone. As an "insider" I might add that there are others of varying shades on the way. At the exhibit Miss Sturtevant was awarded Honorable Mention on two yellows; one a pale pallida with faint veining at the haft; the other, Gold Imperial, of deeper tone and with the glisten that we find in Caterina. It is surprising to note the difference in the effect of a hue on a pallida and a cypriana, the first seems to absorb light, the second to reflect it and give greater intensity to the color.
Among the lavender selfs and bicolors we have already established a new standard by the introduction of cypriana, mesopotamica, and trojana blood. Mile. Schwarts (Denis); Delicatissima (Millet); Ann Page (Hort); Caterina (Foster); and Queen Caterina and Mother of Pearl (Sturt.) are all in the delicate tints of blue- and pink-lavender. That they are all lovely cannot be gainsaid, but they sound much of a muchness to those that do not know them intimately. Crusader and Lady Foster are still among the finest of the lavender bicolors, but are proving rather poor growers in our Eastern gardens and when we consider the rival claims of Lord of June and Neptune, Halo, Emir, Sarpedon and many more we are frankly at a loss. Miss Sturtevant's Jennett Dean, though very pale, is rather of the Halo type and received an Honorable Mention.
Among the pinks Dream and Wild Rose (both Sturtevant seedlings) are proving popular, and personally I found much of charm in Pink Pearl (Cleveland). Harriet Presby might be classed with these, but is really deeper in tone, almost as deep as Pauline (Farr), but its unusual height and rampant growth merits the award. Visually we perceive a great difference between these and the claret of Edouard Michel, but in the chart colors there is a close relationship; and insensibly we blend into vivid red-purple bicolors things like Seminole (Farr), which received an Honorable Mention in 1920 at Philadelphia, and Morning Splendour (Shull), which is even richer and most worthy the Honorable Mention it received this year. Mr. Shull, by the way, brought a number of seedlings from Washington, and his Nimbus, a rich, dull Lent A. Williamson seedling, is worthy of note even though as exhibited it did not receive an award. That Mr. Farr and these other exhibitors from a distance could have shown such splendid blooms in the pink of condition was a constant surprise.
There is a wealth of new plicatas, chiefly originated by M. Denis and Mr. Bliss. The former's are apt to be veined and of blended tones, flowers of Mary Garden (Farr) type, whereas the latter's are practically all marked with blue. Mme Chobaut, the standards flushed with a clear bronze, is very fascinating, and Whim, a seedling of Mrs. Mc Kinney's has the same clarity of unusual color, though in away it resembles the more lavender tints of Mercedes. The blended lavenders frankly do not appeal to me, but among the Bliss seedlings variously marked on white it is hard to choose. Hilda is deep at the throat, Dimity delicate throughout, Camelot a bit bluer, and Princess Toto rather like Hilda; these are only a few, all good if not fine, but I find it difficult to carry their differences in mind from year to year.
With all this talk of novelties, the variegata class alone shows no conspicuous additions, in fact until the breeders have succeeded in adding trojana height and branching or cypriana size and form I look for few really worthwhile yellow bicolors.

THIS report is made a vehicle for a talk on varieties, but must end with at least a brief mention of the Annual Meeting. As the President, Mr. John C. Wister, was in attendance at the International Iris Conferences abroad, Vice-President William A. Peterson of Chicago presided. With the change that brought in W. E. Saunders of London, Ontario, as a Regional Vice-President, the 1921 officers were unanimously reelected. That members had contributed between six and seven hundred dollars for special expenditures was most promising and that a second Bulletin was to be published this year proved excellent news. The dues are $3.00.
Wellesley Farms, Mass., R. S. Sturtevant. Secretary

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

-- BobPries - 2014-07-17
Topic revision: r5 - 14 Mar 2017, af.83
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