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English Iris Cultivar History

English Irises, varieties of the species Iris latifolia were once very popular. today they have almost disappeared and are rarely offered by cultivar names. The following catalog references show what was once available.


The first catalog listing for English Irises was by William Booth


In 1842 James Carter offered the following 50 varieties:
The Floricultural Cabinet and Florist's Magazine vol. 10, p.115-116, 1842 provided the following cultural information on English & Spanish Irises grown in England: "On Growing the Spanish and English Irises. — In a former number of the Cabinet I observed some strong recommendations to grow the Spanish and English Irises. I procured of Messrs. Lockhart an entire set, and grew them in an open bed the last summer. Their beauty in colour and variety was quite charming. I got the roots when I had my Hyacinths, in October. I planted one each" when in a forty-eight sized pot, well drained in a compost of rich loam and peat, about equal parts. I placed them in a dry cool frame , protected from frost, through winter. Early in March I turned them out of the pots, with entire balls? and planted them in a raised circular bed. At the end of April they began to bloom, and continued till the close of July. The first week in September I took up the bulbs and preserved them as done to tulips, till the first week of last November, when I potted half of them as before. I have just now potted the other half, hoping, as they will be later, to prolong the blooming season. They well merit every attention.
Notts, Feb. 2, 184-2. An ardent Amateur Gardener.
The following are the kinds I grew:- (see link}
The 1857 Prince catalog offered 30 unlisted varieties; and the 1860 catalog offered a collection of 25 named unlisted varieties
Thorburn's catalog of 1844 only listed "six sorts of Spanish Irises" without providing names or descriptions
In James Carter's 1845 catalog the list of Spanish Irises had grown to 102 varieties
In The James Carter 1851 catalog the list of Spanish Irises was reduced back to 50 varieties, but the 1852 Fall catalog had 114 varieties, and then in The 1853 catalog it was back to 50 varieties


William Bull 1861 catalog offered 12 named varieties
Barr & Sugdon in their 1867 catalog offered colections that would contain as many as 50 varieties but the varieties were not listed separately. Dreer in their 1870 catalog offered assorted Spanish Iris with no indication of the number of varieties.
Barr & Sugdon 1866 catalog offers 10 named English Irises;





The General Bulb Co.'s 1902 catalog offered 20 named English iris cultivars;


1914 Van Tubergen catalog
Veitch 1911 catalog offered the following Spanish Iris and a photo.




The General Bulb Co.'s 1902 catalog offered 20 named Spanish iris cultivars;





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

-- BobPries - 2017-05-24
Topic revision: r5 - 25 Jun 2017, BobPries
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