(1922) The Cult Of The Iris
Gardeners' Chronicle p. 314 June 17, 1922
During the past two weeks the Iris has been prominent in the world of horticulture, for conferences on these flowers have been held in Paris and London respectively, while a special Iris exhibition in connecton with the London Conference was held under the auspices of the Royal Horticultural Society at Vincent Square, Westminster, on the 7th inst.
As a conclusion of these activities, Messrs. R. Wallace and Co. invited prominent Iris specialists, including well-known American and French raisers, to inspect the large collection of Irises in their nurseries at Tunbridge Wells. Among those who accepted the invitation to attend were Mr. J. C. Wister and Mr. Leo Bonnewitz, from the American Iris Society, and Mon. S. Mottet, of Messrs. Vilmcrin, Andrieux and Co. (whose portraits we have pleasure in reproducing below from a photograph taken during the visit to Tunbridge Well?) ; Messrs. E. A. Bowles, W. Cuthbertson, erald Loder, W. A. Bilney and C. T. Musgrave. members of the Council of the Royal Horticultural Society; Mr. W. R. Dykes. Secretary of the R.H.S. ; Mr. F. J. Chittenden. Director of the Wisley Gardens; such noted raisers as Sir Arthur Hort. Mr. A. J. Bliss, and Mr. G. Yeld, together with Messrs. Pilkington, Baker, Bruce, E. A. Bunyard, N. G. Bunyard. and others interested in this beautiful family of plants.
Messrs. Wallace and Co.'s extensive collection of Irises embraces most of the finest varieties in cultivation, including some remarkable novelties not yet in commerce. Among these last, the variety Duke of Bedford, with violet purple falls and rich, satiny blue standards, relieved with a most brilliant orange-coloured beard, was regarded by those present as one of the best in the whole collection, which included such outstanding varieties as Citronella, Swazi. Ambassadeur, Lent A. Williamson. Jeanne, Cardinal, Balaruc, Dominion. Crusader and Madrano. Where, however, so many were of outstanding merit, it was a difficult matter to select the best, for in Irises, as in other flowers, individual taste largely governs the choice, as some particular shade of colour, type of habit, stature, or other feature may appeal most to the individual.
The firm entertained the visitors to luncheon and Mr. R. Wallace expressed the pleasure not only of himself, but of horticulturists generally in this country to have such distinguished visitors with them from both Amerca and France. He was proud that in this country we have a few flowers which these visitors have been pleased to class as very good indeed. He asked them to drink to the health of Mons. Mottet and Messrs. Wister and Bonnewitz.
Mons. Mottet, in responding, stated that he was proud to know that his firm had raised some fine varieties, but. from what he had seen at Vincent Square and Tunbridge Wells, English raisers were quite ahead of them as regards Irises. In his opinion, the five best varieties were Duke of Bedford, Swazi, Cardinal, Bruno and Dominion, and of these, his first choice was Swazi, not only because of its beautiful flowers, but because of its tall stature.
Mr. Wister expressed his gratitude for the hospitality that had been afforded him and his friend, Mr. Bonnewitz, not only here, but in France. He said " Mr. Wallace spoke of the ties that bind you to France and to us, but I feel more strongly since I have been here that the English, French and American people must keep together.
Mr. Mottet has told vou what he considers the five finest Irises, but I feel he is much too generous to England. You have so many good Irises that it is hard to name any five or any dozen. The first three should be Ambassadeur, Prospero and Swazi. I leave out Dominion because I am not able to cultivate it in my country, where the climate has extremes of heat and cold.
In America, when we pick out the five finest sorts we always include Ambassadeur; Prospero would also find a place, and then two American varieties. With regard to the American sorts, my selection is Quaker Lady, Lent A. Williamson, Afterglow, B. Y. Morrison, Queen Catherine and Shekina." Mr. Bonnewitz also responded to the toast and expressed the pleasure that it gave him to inspect the Irises, not only in this country, but also in Messrs. Vilmorin, Andrieux and Co.'s nurseries.
Most of our readers are aware that Messrs. Wallace's new nursery is a portion of the old establishment of Messrs. Thomas Cripps and Sons, which was famous for the collection of trees and shrubs it contained, and many beautiful specimens remain. Large Rhododendrons form one of the glories of the place; many of them, in the form of tall standards with immense heads, border the main roadway through the nursery, the great majority being finely in flower, at the time of the visit.
For more information on historic Irises visit the Historic Iris Preservation Society at