Saturday, May 21, 2016

French Historic Tall Bearded Iris Mademoiselle Schwartz

En 2012 Lawrence Ransom m’a fait parvenir un lot d’iris anciens qu’il avait reçus du Parc Floral de Paris lors de son inventaire de la collection Simonet. Un plan de plantation figurait au dos du bordereau de livraison de ces iris, noté d’une belle calligraphie, avec la précision et la rigueur qui sont celles de Lawrence.

Un rhizome avait été envoyé à Phi Edinger quelques années auparavant (de Lawrence via Michèle Bersillon qui s’était gentiment chargée des modalités d’exportation).
L’identification de cet iris est donc depuis longtemps  à l’étude des deux cotés de l’Atlantique. Il a voyagé incognito sous la fausse identité de ‘Lady Foster’.
Phil Edinger et moi-même avons abouti à la même conclusion sans nous consulter. L’iris est en réalité ‘Mademoiselle Schwartz’ (Denis 1916)
"Mademoiselle Schwartz" a tous les atouts de la beauté juvénile qui a bu à la source de Jouvence. La taille élancée, le teint clair, une beauté immuable.
La pureté de la fleur, sa couleur délicate, les fossettes discrètes de sa gorge sont les garants de la beauté intemporelle des œuvres d’art majeures qui suscitent l’admiration et laissent sans voix.

In 2012, Lawrence Ransom sent me a selection of historic iris that he received from the Parc Floral de Paris during his inventory of the Simonet collection.  A plantation diagram was included on the back of the shipping list sent with these irises, with precise annotations written in beautiful calligraphy by Lawrence. 

Several rhizomes of one cultivar were purchased from Lawrence by Michèle Bersillon at the request of Phil Edinger, cultivated in Michèle's garden and then sent on to Phil the following year in order to comply with export regulations.  The identity of this particular iris had been in question on both sides of the Atlantic for some time and it was both purchased and sent under the false identity of "Lady Foster"

Phil Edinger and myself had come to the same conclusion without comparing our information.  The mystery iris is, in fact, "Mademoiselle Schwartz" (Denis, 1916).  "Mademoiselle Schwartz" has all the qualities of a young beauty who who has consumed water from the Fountain of Youth: slender and tall, delicately coloured and of unchanging beauty.  The flower's purity, its delicate colours and the discreet dimples of its throat are marks of the sort of timeless beauty that characterises those admirable major works of art which leave one in awe. 

Les Iris Cultivés  1922 (choix de 100 variétés pages 30-31-32)
Mademoiselle Schwartz (Denis, 1916), bleu lilas tendre uni.

Cayeux & Le Clerc, Quai de la Mégisserie, 8, Paris. Catalog 1923 
Mademoiselle Schwartz (Denis 1916). Splendid variety, very tall with branching spikes, large flowers pales mauve. Very scarce.

Frank W. Campbell, Detroit, Michigan. Rare Iris, 1923. 

The Rarest and Best Iris Gathered from all the Introducer'sMlle. Schwartz(Denis 1916) Pale mauve. Somewhat color of Caterina, but very different shape. Considered among the worlds very best iris, and stock is always scarce. Well branched, tall, stiff stems................$4.

Treasure Oak Nursery, Mays Landing, New Jersey, Catalog of Select Iris and Peonies, 1923.

The Best and Rarest of the Iris.
Mlle. Schwartz . (Denis 1916. CM., Paris.) ......................................$5 00
Pallida X Ricardi.
A light blue overlustered with pink.
This magnificent Iris, the work of the French amateur, Mons. Denis, is considered to be the best of his many successful seedlings. It is tall, possibly one of the tallest Irises in cultivation, with finely poised spikes much branched and bearing beautiful, durable blooms of Pallida form. Larger than Caterina and more freely inclined to bloom; wonderfully qualified for mass display. The growth of this plant is rapid and vigorous even in the North; the foliage is yellowish green.

Bulletin of the American Iris Society, January, 1923. Number 7.

European Visits in 1922. John C. Wister.
.................we were well repaid for the trip by seeing such magnificent flowers of Mlle.Schwartz and Cornuault............................Mlle. Schwartz was again very fine and I marked it 9.2

The Sam Carpenter Gardens, Oswego, Kansas. Irises-Peonies-Gladioli-Dahlias, 1925
Mlle. Schwartz , TB. (1916)-Splendid variety, very tall with branching spikes ; large flowers; palest mauve. Scarce and choice·------------ ·----- ---------- $3.50

Cayeux et Le Clerc, Quai de la Mégisserie, 8, Paris. (Annotations L. R.)

Mademoiselle Schwartz (Denis 1916). Plante très haute, aux longs épis ramifiés, portant de grandes fleurs mauve très pâle. Teinte exquise, fraiche et délicate.

Vilmorin Andrieux & Cie, 4 Quai de la Mégisserie, Paris (1er), Deuxième Série, 1925-1926.
Iris des Jardins Nouveaux
Mademoiselle Schwartz (Denis). Demi-tardif. Grand et beau pallida, à longues hampes de 110 à 125 cm. Grande fleur de bonne tenue, de teinte unforme, bleu lavande très pâle ; les divisions inférieures sont longues et étalées et les onglets très finement striés, styles de même couleur que les divisions. A obtenu un Certificat de mérite à la Société Nationale d'Horticulture de France.

Cornell Extension Bulletin 112, 1925.
Bearded Iris A perennial suited to all Gardens. Austin W.W. Sand.
Mille. Schwartz  (Denis, 1916). Color effect a mauve veined self.Standards pale mauve. Falls pale mauve, faintly veined the same over the light yellowish outer haft. The plant is moderate to vigorous in growth, producing exceptionally tall, well-branched flowering stalks. The immense size of its bloom is its outstanding feature. Rating 87.
Carl Salbach Berkeley, California, Irises Catalog, 1926.
Mlle. Schwartz (Denis). 87-A lovely pinkish mauve of fine, size and height. $3.50

Iris Fields, West La Fayette, Indiana. Iris of Quality,1926
Mlle. Schwartz (Denis, 1916). A pale mauve self. Very large and of fine form. One of the most outstanding varieties and a great favorite................ 2.00

Lee R. Bonnewitz Catalog,Van Wert, Ohio, A Descriptive Iris List, 1926.

Mlle. Schwartz  (Denis, 1916).
Pale mauve. One of the most artistic Irises. Flowers of good size and form. One of the best irises in commerce, although we believe Mother of Pearl will prove more satisfactory due to its hardier, more vigorous growing habit. The color is somewhat similar.

Bearded Iris Tried at Wisley 1925-1927, Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society. 
Class V a. Varieties with standards and falls of the same shade of pale blue-purple
Mlle. Schwartz.   Foliage nearly green, 20 inches. Flowering stems 38 inches, 6 or 7 fld. Flowers of medium size, well proportioned, rather wrinkled, pale lavender mauve ; standards domed ; falls hanging straight ; beard tipped yellow. Flowering for three weeks  from May 14 1927.

Image from Gardening Illustrated January 5th, 1929. Scan courtesy RHS, Lindley Library.

Indian Springs Farm, Baldwinsville, New York.Iris Catalog 1927
Mlle. Schwartz (Denis 1916) 8.7. A large, free-flowering self of finest form. Uniform, soft, light lavender-blue, or mauve, that is distinct, delicate and beautiful. A shade lighter than Mother of Pearl. 48 inches. If given a well-drained location this is a free, robust grower and produces a marvelous garden effect.................. $1.00 each.

A.H.Burgess and Son, Iris Specialists, Waikanae, Wellington. 1930.
Mille. Schwartz - Magnificent variety, Very Tall. Colour is a pale Mauve. 4ft. ..............7/6

Vilmorin Andrieux & Cie, 4 Quai de la Mégisserie, Paris (1er), Série Générale, 1930.
Mademoiselle Schwartz (Denis). Demi-tardif. Grand et beau pallida, à longues hampes de 110 à 125 cm. Grande fleur de bonne tenue, de teinte uniforme, bleu lavande très pâle; les divisions inférieures sont longues et étalées et les onglets très finement striés, styles de même couleur que les divisions. Certificat de Mérite de la S.N.H.F.

Les Iris Cultivés  1922

AIS Checklist 1939
MILLE. SCHWARTZ (Ferdinand Denis, 1916) TB. M. B7L. Millet & Fils 1916; The Garden 1919;Lee R. Bonnewitz 1920; Earl Woodward Sheets, 1928; Garden Illustrated 1929; Gilroy 1929; Fillmore Gardens 1937; Tip Top Gardens 1937; Rowancroft Gardens 1938;  'Ricardi' x 'Dalmatica'. AAA Journal Royal Horticultural Society  136; C.M., S.N.H.F. 1922; Journal Société Nationale d'Horticulture de France. 23; 214, June 1922; A.M. R.H.S. Award of Merit,Royal Horticultural Society 1931;


Merci beaucoup to Catherine Adam  for sharing with us all the above information and amazing photos. Its always a privilege to have Catherine Adam write for Heritage Irises. Catherine officially vets the Iris collection at the Parc Floral de Paris so she writes with some authority.

 Major Hat Tip to Phil Edinger for his succinct contributions and direction.

A Double Hat Tip to the RHS, Lindley Library, and their amazing staff for the above Gardening Illustrated image scan. 
As always clicking on the above images will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.

Reproduction in whole or in part of these photo's without the expressed written permission of Catherine Adam is strictly prohibited.
Photo credit and copyright Catherine Adam © .

Reproduction in whole or in part of this post, its opinions or its images without the expressed written permission of 
Catherine Adam is strictly prohibited. 

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Monday, May 16, 2016

A Thoroughly Modern English Iris Collection.

Bryan Dodsworth

My father, Bryan Dodsworth, died in June 2009, he was 89. During the last ten years of his life he had continued to manage the iris garden at the Old Rectory single-handed and his enthusiasm for hybridising was undimmed. This is borne out by the detailed records that he left in his battered 'Red Book', with entries right up to the end of 2008.  He received his last Dykes Medal in 2001 for 'Darley Dale' when he was over eighty, bringing his tally to twelve, a record that is unlikely to be bettered. Bryan's aim as a hybridiser was to create a plant that would perform just as well on the show bench as in the garden. His legacy is to leave an extraordinary Collection of Irises – he has been described as the creator of the 'Quintessential Modern British Iris'.

Prior to his death my father had neither discussed the future of the garden with the family nor with Barry Emmerson whom he had mentored for nearly twenty years. At his funeral Barry kindly offered his expertise to the family at a time when we were struggling to know what we should do for the best. This was a lifeline and Barry's enthusiasm offered real encouragement, and I resolved then and there to accept the challenge, but with hindsight was probably unaware of the level of responsibility that this entailed.

We hatched a plan! Barry was familiar with the 'Red Book' with its detailed hybridising log and bed plan and we both thought this was the best place to start and should be relatively straightforward, but after initial scrutiny it soon became clear that the task would be much tougher. We had not banked on Bryan's attention to detail, his coding system influenced no doubt by the secretive nature of his wartime work. We have still not cracked this, despite several serious efforts to do so five years later. This setback drove us to log, label and map each plant in the iris garden, and introduce a simple numbering system which is still in active use today. The process took the best part of four months and involved numerous visits and proved to be pretty arduous. We experimented with different labelling systems, Dymo being the best. In May/June 2010 I started photographing individual irises and recording the photos against the plant numbers. This process continued throughout the 2011-13 flowering seasons. By the end of 2013 we had a reasonably comprehensive record, but this was far from complete due to a number of plants that refused to flower, influenced no doubt by the fact that regular splitting of rhizomes had taken a back seat as my father grappled with a pernicious outbreak of oxalis which drove him to despair and which still makes managing the garden really tricky today, not least from a distance of some 130 miles. Bryan's final task in 2008 was to dig up approximately twenty yards of plants along the boundary wall with the church and attempt to spray the oxalis. This was a gargantuan effort, but alas was only partially successful, and after carefully reinstating the plants in 2010, I regret that the oxalis is now as bad as ever.

Plant identification was the next challenge! Here Barry's extensive knowledge has been invaluable. We have had a reasonable degree of success with the 'named varieties' which are located along the church wall. The 'pinks' are still to be bottomed, but we feel pretty confident with the rest. Bryan left a comprehensive slide collection, with most slides named. The main problem, however, is with the colours, and there is predictable difficulty with the 'blues' and 'purples' where the slide images are unreliable. We managed one day in the Bridgford garden in 2014 looking at the named varieties. Barry drove from Suffolk and I met him there from Norfolk, we had grouped the slides into colours, and then with Bryan's ancient handheld slide magnifier compared these with individual blooms gathered from the garden. We had some positive ID, and some where further work is required, but the exercise proved to be a success, despite the fact that it rained all day, and we were
working from Bryan's leaky greenhouse.

The seedlings however present a different challenge altogether as we tackle at least six beds grown between 2003-2008. The 'Red Book' should have given us a head start, but difficulty in deciphering the planting layout and bed plans has made it hard to pinpoint individual plants, and this gets more tricky as time moves on. However my father's slide records during the last ten years are good and we remain confident of further success. Over the last couple of years I have started to move a number of seedlings to my garden in Norfolk, which will allow them to be evaluated properly, and the best retained. This is very much work in progress and more work is required next year or two to complete the task.

Barry continues to use Bryan's breeding lines in his own hybridisation programme. His recent success with 'Iceni Sunset' which was awarded the Dykes Medal in 2014 is a great accolade. I started hybridising in 2012 and will see the first results in 2015; I also produced a number of crosses in 2013 and 2014 and believe that some of these could be interesting. Bryan's records of crosses made each year, and his scoring system of the results, are still available and provide a clear insight into what he was trying to achieve during the last ten years of his life when he went largely below the radar in the iris world. What is clear is that it was during this period that he made some of his best crosses and most are entirely unknown to the iris world let alone  the general public. I am mindful that my father will be watching my own results, with a critical eye; in turn I will endeavour to adopt the same rigour and ruthlessness that resulted in his naming less than fifty varieties in as many years from over 100,000 seedlings. I am in no doubt that the majority of my own efforts will end up on the compost heap, as he would expect, but I do have some confidence that with excellent breeding lines to choose from, and aided by Bryan's current record of crosses made, it should be possible to produce something reasonably respectable before too long.

Looking to the future, there are three priorities. The first is to ensure that there is a comprehensive collection of all the extant named varieties in my Norfolk garden; the plan is that these will form the basis of a new National Collection of Bryan Dodsworth's Irises; I have been in contact with Plant Heritage, and this is subject to their approval. This is an Autumn project.  The second is to raise the profile of my father's irises in the context of promoting and championing the British Iris  at a time when interest is at a very low ebb, and the number of British hybridisers of Tall Bearded Irises can almost be counted on the fingers of one hand. Barry and I set up The English Iris Company in 2013 to do this  and have just started to make some of the best varieties available to the public, some for the very first time [www.englishiriscompany.com].  Finally, I am keen to take up my father's baton and highlight within the horticultural press the importance of form and structure in Tall Bearded Irises at a time when the commercial growers are focused almost exclusively on new colours and flower shapes, irrespective of the structure of the plant on which the flowers are carried. This means, I believe, that many modern introductions are substandard, and of poor quality, with flowers that fail to open properly, and with some that are unsuited to UK growing conditions. Then, there is the question of colour..... I will not exhaust your patience further and save this topic for a further article.

Bryan Dodsworth's irises are alive and well. I remain indebted to Barry Emmerson for his guidance and support and whose encouragement has made this possible. 

~ 'Taking on an Important Iris Collection'. Simon Dodsworth

Bryan Dodsworths Irises can be viewed at The English Iris Company when they have their National Gardens open days on the 4th and 5th June 2016. Be sure to visit the gardens to walk amongst and see these irises at their very best.

As always clicking on the above images will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.
Major Hat Tip to Simon Dodsworth for sharing the with us all the well written article and the super photo's.

Reproduction in whole or in part of the article and photo's without the expressed written permission of Simon Dodsworth is strictly prohibited. Photo credit and copyright Simon Dodsworth © .

Reproduction in whole or in part of this post, its opinions or its images without the expressed written permission of Terry Johnson is strictly prohibited.  

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Tall Bearded Iris TAJ RANI

'Taj Rani' is a very classy iris that has every chance of becoming another of Barry Blyths small but growing list of disappearing gems. Thirty eight years old and some will claim this contemporary iris as Historic because of the thirty year rule, and technically it is, but as I have already stated in one of my September 2012 post "When groups of  Irises emerge with characteristics sufficiently different from those that have gone before, the subject of a classification that is determined by a time line needs to be addressed."
The one really important classification that 'Taj Rani' definitely is, 'it's rare', only grown in three gardens that I know of in New Zealand and I received an email reply today from a ex-commercial grower in Australia who I knew catalogued this iris a few years ago and message stated "I no longer grow Taj Rani. I have found better irises of that colour and it probably was never a huge seller in its time. It probably continues in a number of backyards." So the only known Southern Hemisphere commercial source bites the dust you might say, and I have never seen it commercially listed in any other country, but I do know Hooker Nichols used 'Taj Rani' in the breeding of his 1991 introduction 'Diddler' and 'Diddler' (Taj Rani x In Tempo) is the pod parent of 'Scene Stealer' so 'Taj Rani' was/is in the States somewhere perhaps!! 

It's not hard to like this iris a massive amount, with good branching, high plant health, nice clean foliage, reasonable vigour, strong stalks, amazing sooty black purple buds that open into a shimmering smooth voluptuous lavender self with a unique lavender beard tipped tangerine- get it and enjoy it- you can even get to call yourself a conservationist- if you can find it available for sale anywhere that is!!

Tempo Two, Barry and Lesley Blyth, East Road, Pearcedale, Victoria, Australia, Season 1983-84
 TAJ RANI  (Blyth '78 Aust.) M 32" . Some 15 years ago we grew a lovely Iris called Lavender Diadem and ever since we have been looking for an improved version, until now none of the hundreds of imported varieties or seedlings have been even near it until Taj Rani first bloomed. It is a silky smooth satin lavender self with perfect form, beards are lavender tipped tangerine. Branching is good. A lovely Iris that has to be seen to be appreciated (Orchid Song x Fond Wish).

Bay Blooms Nurseries, Cambridge Road, Tauranga Spring / Summer 1988 Catalogue.Bearded Iris.
TAJ RANI A silky smooth satin lavender self with perfect form, beards are lavender tipped tangerine.Branching is good. A lovely Iris that has to be seen to be appreciated.

AIS Checklist 1979
TAJ RANI    (B. Blyth, R. 1978). Sdlg. J21-1. TB 32" (82 cm) M.     Ruffled satin lavender self; tangerine beard. Orchid Song X Fond Wish., Tempo Two 1978/79.

Reproduction in whole or in part of this post, its opinions or its images without the expressed written permission of Terry Johnson is strictly prohibited. 
Photo credit and copyright Terry Johnson and Heritage Irises ©.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016



Walter Welch

It is my belief that when the breeders of any particular class of iris fails to put out new varieties, that class will gradually become stagnant and inactive. That has been the reason for the slump in dwarf interest in the past. Therefore it is necessary that our hybridizers continue with new production to keep this interest alive.
In the past our hybridizers like Caparne, Burchfeild, and the Sass Brothers worked with the chamaeiris species almost entirely because this species was available and gave the best performance though it was lacking in color and pattern range. The Sass Brothers used only Socrates and its seedlings for all of their varieties, and chamaeiris gave only purples, yellows and a few rare whites.
I. pumila and other dwarf species had never been in this country before our time. Apparently the first pumilas were seed sent to Bob Schreiner, who grew them and selected Sulina, Carpathia and Nana; though these were not registered with the AIS. Later our Robin members  on Europe such as Hansel-mayer, Eckers Berlin, Hugues de Balzer went into the wild and collected and sent species to me and I distributed them to our breeders.
The species I.pumila apparently has the widest color range of any iris. But I.pumila won't grow well in some areas, like in California, and down south in Georgia, Arizona and Texas. In pumila we have the true blue, purple violet, white, yellow and such patterns as the spot pattern with gives us amoenas,variegatas, Pinnacles, neglectas, and from these colors and patterns the variations are unlimited.
So if we can get all of these colors and patterns up into the chamaeiris forms, with that performance which is inherent in this species, we will have a dwarf that is everything.
I have a plan which will achieve this, which will not only give us the the dwarf of the future, but keep our breeders busy for half a century like the AIS has done with the Talls, and this will put our dwarfs on the map and keep it there. So here is my plan.
This new dwarf will be called Chammy Dwarf. In other words it will become like the present chamaeiris varieties but with all of the colors and patterns known in the pumilas. So how do we achieve this miracle???
First we cross the particular pumila onto a tall bearded iris, to get a Lilliput, with the form desired among it's seedlings. No Doubt this will to big and coarse, with the usual faults known in the Lilliputs. But the import thing is color or pattern. Next we cross this Lilliput with a Chamaeiris "tool" which we have developed and tested for giving a desirable form from this coarse Lilliput, smaller and more dainty.
This tool will take some time to develop, but it can be done. No doubt it must be a white form, which will be neutral in color yet pass along the color of the Lilliput. I am working on this and making some progress. We will need a spot tool also, as spot requires a full dosage of spot factor to give good expression, An anoema tool will be the best. At present we have a tool in yellow, which I call Little Yellow but will test this further.
And as usual with development of a specific color or pattern if or when this cross does not give full satisfaction, we can sib cross the two best seedlings to improve it. This is not a case of quick results. It can take perhaps three generations in some cases, which is six years ordinarily, but remember we are creating relatively a new species, and it is worth the trouble.
No doubt some of us will find a more easy way to achieve certain things. For instance by selection of a certain tall as a mother plant for a more desirable Lilliput. Or perhaps a reverse cross like tall upon pumila may be desirable. Anyway the selection of a tall parent can make a big difference on size of plant, branching, and especially form of bloom. All of this must be worked out as there are no rules to follow. This is a new approach.
Several things can be calculated. For instance, pumila has an inhibitor that will erase all anthocyanin pigments from the progeny, leaving the yellow if present, in the seedlings. But if yellow is avoided, only the pumila colors will be present.It erases only the anthocyanin, not anything else.
Just imagine if we can get a true blue in a chamaeiris form, a black, brown, violet, red, purple, amoena, Pinnacle, maybe yellow standards and blue falls. All of this is possible in our Chammy Dwarfs. And when we get all of this in a plant that will perform well in vast areas, our dwarfs will continue as with the Talls today.
At present we have two Chammy Dwarfs, by chance. These are 'Fashion Lady' and Lilli-White. Both are still in bloom here, full of bloom, not damaged by the freezing apparently, and the only one in bloom in my border where it is planted with all my varieties. This has been a lesson for me.

The above article was composed by Walter Welch in 1976 for the Minnesota Iris Society.

AIS Checklist 1959
LILLI-WHITE    (Welch, R. 1957). Sdlg. L-56i. SDB 12" L. W1.    Pure white self, white beard. (Blue Shimmer x Carpathia) x J-538: (Bouquet x (Fiancee x Fairy))., Welch 1958. HM 1958.

Heritage Irises would like to wholeheartedly thank Sue Marshall of Iris of Sissinghurst for kindly permitting the use of the above image of Lilli-White. Sue writes this morning that due to a late spring Lilli-White has just come into bloom.

Reproduction in whole or in part of this post, its opinions or its images without the expressed written permission of Terry Johnson is strictly prohibited. Photo credit and copyright of Lilli-White is Sue Marshall and Iris of Sissinghurst ©.

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Tall Bearded Iris PRETENDER

 Pretender is Paul Cook's so called blue variegata that came to fame before his 'Progenitor' breeding programme.

Iris Culture and Hybridizing for Everyone. Wilma L Vallette, 1961.
A few diploid variegata had blue-violet or red-violet falls, such as Nibelungen, but most tetraploid variegata and have a reddish or brownish ones. The two exceptions are Decennial (Williamson ‘30) and Pretender. The latter came from two seedlings which both go back three or more times to Blue Boy [Ref 1] a chance seedling of aphylla, and Mr Cook is said to suspect that it's unusual combination of colours-yellow standards, violet falls-is due to some sort of interaction between genes from aphylla and variegata. Pretender is said to throw unusual seedlings, which though not too good, often have big splotches of people cover and the yellow standards, not all like a flecking caused by virus, which Mr Cook believes may also be due to aphylla-a belief strengthened when he learned that crossing Pretender with yellow or light blue pumilas gives violet or purple, showing any aphylla violet in it is not affected by pumilas inhibitor any more than that of dark violet aphylla itself. Decennial may also stem from aphylla, thanks to Mr Williamson's habit of using mixed pollen.

When we remember the clear bright blue in Snow Crystal and Blue Shimmer, which both stem from aphylla, and the blue beard adorning many of its descendants, it might seem worthwhile trying to combine it with variegata as well as blues. In them, the appearance of a violet or purple fall means that yellow is not beneath this "spot", which must be the case with Pretender, since even the light each around at spot is white, not yellow. Regardless of the fact that Louvois x dominant white gave 11 creams with white spots, as if spot was inhibited, the fact that with these few exceptions all variegata have red or brownish red "spots" shows that yellow is present beneath them, else the colour would be purple to violet not red. However, Pretender’s violet falls may not be entirely due to aphylla, as this tetraploid species could not possibly have been involved in the older diploids with purple falls-perhaps in them yellow failed to appear in the centre of the falls by natural segregation, the same as in variegata itself. 

Longfield Iris Farm, Bluffton, Indiana. Williamson Iris, 1952.
PRETENDER (Cook 1951). This Iris has proved to be the best of a series of seedlings Mr. Cook calls his "blue falled variegatas." The modified variegata coloring is both distinct and pleasing. Standards are soft medium yellow, without suffusion of other color; Falls are solid velvety purple with narrow margin of lighter color. Those who find the yellow and red of the usual variegata too harsh to use in the general Iris planting will like the more harmonious colors of this new bicolor. 35 inches. $12.00

Cooleys Gardens Silverton, Oregon. Iris for 1954
PRETENDER (Cook, 1951) Each $12.00
The best of a series of "blue-falled variegatas" from the originator of Amigo, Indiana Night, Pink Bountiful, Dreamcastle, Tranquil Moon and a multitude of famed varieties. Standards are soft yellow, falls solid velvety blue-purple with narrow lighter margin. Genuinely different ! 35 inches tall with large flowers. HM AIS, 1952.

Page 55, Schreiners 1957 Iris Lovers Catalog.
Courtesy Schreiners

Schreiner's, Route 2, Salem, Oregon. Iris Lovers Catalogue, 1957.
We are delighted with a most accurate reproduction on page 55. Marked boldly with two distinct color hues, yellow and violet, this iris is a standout for original coloring. H.M '52 A.M. '55 .....................................$7.00

Bulletin of the American Iris Society, October 1953, Number 131.
Region 9 Varietal Report, Hurbert Fischer, R.V.P. III.
Notes taken during the 1953 Iris Season.
Pretender-an iris that is different with soft yellow standards and blue purple falls.

Varietal Comments from Region II
Mrs. Glen Suiter, Caldwell, Idaho
Pretender-A splendid, very different variety. Blue purple falls and yellow standards. Performing like a veteran on a first year plant. A stunner and no mistake.

Bulletin of the American Iris Society, October 1954, Number 135.
Region 9,Notes and Varietal Comment - Joplin Area
Pretender-A new race of variegatas-yellow standards and blue falls good.

Report and Varietal comments from Region 3.
Comments from J. Donavan Bolger, Morristown, Pa.
Amoena and Near Amoenas
Pretender - Pale yellow standards and deep blue falls edged yellow. Not too crazy about it.

Varietal report Hurbert Fischer, R.V.P. III.
Pretender (Cook) - Unusual and startling with soft yellow standards and velvety purple falls.

Bulletin of the American Iris Society, October 1955, Number 139.
Region Two, New York.
Mrs. W. B. Melnick.
In my own garden, Pretender stole the show, the first and last to bloom. It has medium sized flowers and tall stalks with good placement. There is lovely contrast between the bright yellow standards and I would almost say "purple" falls, though catalogs describe them as "blue".

AIS Checklist 1959
PRETENDER    (P. Cook, R. 1951). Sdlg. 7746. TB 35" M. Y4.    Yellow amber and prune-purple bicolor. Cook 1339 X Cook 5042., Longfield 1951. HM 1952; AM 1955.

[Ref 1] Blue Boy an Intermediate iris registered to Sir Michael Foster 1913. A free flowering Aphlla, Standards are violet the Falls velvety purplish violet with striking blue beard.

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.
Major Hat Tip and "Merci beaucoup" to Catherine Adam for her sharing with you the amazing photos of the historic Tall Bearded Iris 'Pretender'.

Reproduction in whole or in part of these photo's without the expressed written permission of Catherine Adam is strictly prohibited. Photo credit and copyright Catherine Adam © .

Reproduction in whole or in part of this post, its opinions or its images without the expressed written permission of Terry Johnson is strictly prohibited. Copyright Terry Johnson and Heritage Irises ©.

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Friday, March 25, 2016



Anne Milner
Watercolours by Fern Harden

Anne Milner presents her family history intertwined with the history of Bliss irises, which are now part of the Plant
Heritage family of National Collections of plants worth preserving.

The collection was featured in the second series of The Great British Garden Revival
on BBC2 in January 2015.

Bliss Irises combines family history and gardening in a unique and very personal journey. Initially triggered by interest in her great, great grandfather who built the Bliss Tweed Mill in Chipping Norton, Anne Milner discovered Arthur J. Bliss, a cousin of a grandfather, and his work with early 20th century irises. Having travelled to New Zealand and South Africa, Arthur had many adventures before becoming famous in the horticultural world for breeding and introducing Dominion , an iris that took the world by storm when it was first introduced in 1917. It has since gone on  to be found in the pedigree of hundreds of modern irises.
With stunning photographs, watercolours and line drawings throughout, the second part of Bliss Irises focuses on the flowers themselves and details the range of irises registered by Anne Milner s ancestor Arthur Bliss.

Bliss Irises will appeal to readers with an interest in irises, historic plants and family history, as well as those with a more general interest in gardening and horticulture.
ANNE MILNER learned her love of plants while helping her father in his garden as a child. She started researching her family history in the early 1980s and discovered her Uncle Arthur and his irises. She has no formal gardening training but has been enjoying gardening for over 40 years. 

TO BE PUBLISHED 28th August 2016
ISBN 9781785892981
Distributor: Troubador Publishing Ltd, 9 Priory Business Park, Wistow, Kibworth, Leics LE8 0RX
BIC subject category : WMP Gardening: plants
Paperback 234x156 mm 256pp Portrait.

Tel: 0116 279 2299 Email: marketing@troubador.co.uk

It is hoped that the book will be ready for sale at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in early July, where Bliss Irises will be sharing a stand (PH309) with Sarah Cook and her Sir Cedric Morris Irises. Please make sure you visit the Bliss Irises Web Site http://www.blissiris.co.uk

Update: The Book can now be pre-ordered from the Book Depository click on the link here for further details.

Book Image credit and copyright Anne Milner © .

Reproduction in whole or in part of this post, its opinions or its images without the expressed written permission of Terry Johnson is strictly prohibited. Copyright Terry Johnson and Heritage Irises ©.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Tall Bearded Historic Iris DEMI-DEUIL

 Demi-Deuil bred by Fernand Denis was eventually in 1931 placed on the American Iris Society 'Black List' one of the most crazy surveys in the Iris world, and in my opinion it was the iris equivalent of 'Burning Books'. It was a decade of 'Iris Shaming'.
William Caparne was so concerned with the American Iris Society encouraging the discarding of older Iris varieties for the best new varieties that started in "The Flower Grower" in 1919-1920. In his article 'On Discarding Irises' I think he summed up his concerns well in the following paragraph.
 There are various ways of looking at flowers, as at most things; 1st, by themselves; 2nd, in company with others; 3rd, en mass; and each of these ways demands separate methods of mind. In the mass we can and do arrange colours to agree and to tell with effect. In a group, small or large, we had better do so, but the individual is at home to us and has all its points and characters available to be read, delighted in and conversed about. It is indeed very beautiful, but it by no means follows that these beauties either shine or are even exhibited in company. And, if you want them to, you must make special arrangements as you would for a concert performer; don't put him or her into a crowd with several other pianos going, and then discard him as over-rated, not up to the mark, etc. I think it is distinctly part of the business of the Iris Society to help people to see more beauty in things beautiful and in this connection it is well to remember the old saw that "the better is ever the enemy of the good and the best can kill both".

  Demi-Deuil is a iris of distinct character, is a strong grower and is still admired by growers with taste. Should it have been registered today there is a strong possibly it would be classified a Table Iris

Cayeux et Le Clerc, Quai de la Mégisserie, 8, Paris.
Demi-Deuil (Denis 1912).
Coloris distinct à fond blanc tigré et zébré violet pensée.

Lee R. Bonnewitz,Van Wert, Ohio, Peonies and Irises,1926.
We are told this French name means 'half-mourning' so you must not expect this Iris to contain bright colors. S. pansy-violet shaded copper; F. red-violet with white markings; yellow beard stippled brown.Two rhizomes at 45c each, five or more rhizomes at  40c each.

Carl Salbach Irises,Creston Road Berkeley, California,1926.
Demi-deuil (Denis). A very odd dark plicata. White ground almost covered with dull purple veins and dots. 50c.

U.S. Department of Agriculture The Farmers Bulletin
 Issued January 1926. Garden Irises.

Lee R. Bonnewitz,Van Wert, Ohio, Peonies and Irises,1928.
This Iris originated in France, has pansy-violet, red-violet and copper tones, and it's name when translated in English is "Half Mourning." It is valuable as a novelty only............$0.38

The Dean lris Gardens, Moneta, California. Choice Iris, Price List for 1921-1922.
The Largest Collection West of the Rocky Mountains and one of the Largest in the United States.
Introductions of English and French Origin.
Demi-deuil (Denis). S. amber yellow, heavily veined and dotted deep livid purple; F. white, veined and dotted dark dull purple. A dark Plicata of unusual color. Each, $1.00.

Bearded Iris Tried at Wisley 1925-1927, Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society.
Class VI a (1)
Varieties with standards of shot shades, pale blue or lavender, the yellow being scarcely perceptible .
Planted in the General Collection
DEMI-DEUIL 26 inches. June.

AIS Checklist 1929.
DEMI-DEUIL TB-S8D (Denis 1912) Maron 1919; Denis 1920; Earl Woodward Sheets,1928; Class VI a (1) Journal Royal Horticultural Society, Trials January 1928; Commended, Royal Horticultural Society 14th June 1916; Journal Royal Horticultural Society,42; Parts 2 & 3,Trials.

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.
Major Hat Tip and "Merci beaucoup" to Catherine Adam for her direction and help with the French language catalogue listing, and sharing with you the amazing photos of the historic Tall Bearded Iris 'Demi-Deuil'.

Reproduction in whole or in part of these photo's without the expressed written permission of Catherine Adam is strictly prohibited. Photo credit and copyright Catherine Adam © .

Reproduction in whole or in part of this post, its opinions or its images without the expressed written permission of Terry Johnson is strictly prohibited. Copyright Terry Johnson and Heritage Irises ©.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016


November 5th, 1921.


The very considerable developments, during recent years, in the characteristics of this 
fascinating flower are but the harbingers of even more extensive developments in the not distant future.

IMPROVEMENT in our principal garden flowers is always going on. At times it may be slow or even seem to cease, then, perhaps, a new species may be introduced, or it may be simply that a freer imagination is applied to the task, and once more the flower sets forth on its onward course towards that ideal of perfection which will always be just beyond. When a flower is in its most active period of development one is tempted to try to forecast its future. Not too far ahead, for that can be little better than random guessing. But for the immediate future we can have every confidence, and even certainty within limits, in the light of the knowledge that Mendel's laws have given us, and especially if we have records of the ancestry of our present varieties. In fact, breeding will some day become an exact science, and when all the characters of a flower have been analysed and their factors and their interrelationship determined (as Miss Saunders and Miss Wheldale have already done for the colours of Stocks and Snapdragons), flowers will be made to order. The Iris is now in such an active period of development. Let us roughly analyse its characters and see wherein has been the improvement that has made the Iris of to-day so greatly superior to the earlier varieties. We may then see perhaps what further possibilities there are on these lines in varying combinations, and gather suggestions of improvement in other directions that appear to have been so far neglected or overlooked.

We deal chiefly with the individual flower. For those whose ideal in the garden is masses of harmonious and contrasting colour the florist's ideals of perfection of the individual flower are no doubt scarcely understandable, but it is in the flower—its size, form, colour and substance— that the progress has been made. These are the essential characters—habit, height and freedom of flowering, though by no means negligible, are of secondary importance in displaying the flower to best advantage.

In freedom of flowering the Flag Iris of to-day is, perhaps, no better than the earlier varieties, and there are, indeed, some with the highest qualities of size, form and colour that are all too shy, but on the whole the free-flowering qualities have been at least maintained, and this is a notable achievement, since increased size and quality is so often accompanied with fewer flowers. There is, then, every indication that the Iris of the future will not only be as free flowering as those in the past but will surpass them.
The introduction of Trojana has given us generally a taller and wider branching habit, well adapted for specimen plants. The type of the older varieties, however, was often equally freely branched, but with shorter and less spreading side stems, thus holding the flowers closer, and these are more suitable for massing. The two types, as they each have their use, will be maintained side by side in the future, but the tendency is towards the wider branching habit, as it displays best the larger and finer formed flowers of the newer Irises.
The general height of Irises has also been increased, so much so that except for special positions 2ft. is a minimum, and the average is between 2ft.6in, and 3ft, The introduction of Ricardi, Junonia and Mesopotamica has produced still taller plants with noble spikes 5ft. high, but as yet the flowers are poor in form and colour, and the constitution of these varieties is so weak and uncertain that they are of no use for general cultivation at present. There is no doubt, however, that these drawbacks will be overcome in time and that the average height of Irises will be between 3ft. and 4ft.

It is in the individual flower that the greatest and most remarkable advances have been made. We must try to see what it is that constitutes this general improvement. There can be no single or exclusive ideal of beauty for any flower; but that there are some principles which, applied in various ways, will give several or many different types of beauty, each ideal in its own way, no one could doubt if they compare the best of the newer Irises with the older varieties. And I think that the main principle is symmetry or balance. A f.lower may be small or large, and its form may vary within limits, and yet it may be beautiful if perfectly proportioned. Again, in colour, the ultimate criterion of excellence seems to be richness and purity—harmony and contrast being much more elusive and indefinite.

Let us then sum up the qualities in the flower of the modern Flag Iris. Already it is, on the average, larger—much larger—than the older varieties, and so long as the symmetry and balance of the flower and its substance and colour is maintained no limit can be set, and it may be that even larger flowers will be attained. There are, however, already in existence flowers so large in comparison with the species that have helped to produce them that the work of the immediate future will be in perfecting the form of these giants and producing them in the full range of Iris colours (the pure yellow standard variegata type is still comparatively small) than in any appreciable increase of size. These include such varieties (to mention only a few) as Lent A. Wiliamson (the finest and largest American variety), Vilmorin's Magnifica and Ambassadeur, Hort's Ann Page, Yeld's Asia and Prospero. Denis' Mdlle. Schwartz, and my Titan, Cardinal and Bruno. Nevertheless, the Iris will eventually be larger even than these. In substance likewise there has been a very great advance, of which Dominion was the first and is still the most remarkable example. Many of even these largest-sized Irises have great substance and stand firm through sunshine or rain to the last. It may be noted also that this increase of substance is always combined with, and is probably partly the cause of, the richer colouring of these flowers. The only one of the old standard varieties that has anything like such substance is pallida dalmatica Princess Beatrice.

When we compare the newest with the old varieties, the most obvious improvement in the form is in the broadening of the segments. And it is the most important In this the old florists were right, but when they laid it down that the circular outline was the one and only ideal form they fell into the error of pushing things to extremes. For though it is true that a circle is the logical conclusion of the principle of broadening a surface in proportion to its length, beauty is not based on logical conclusions. The Iris, like all flowers has a distinctive form of its own with three upright standards and three either hanging or spreading falls. In the perfect flower these two sets of petals must be balanced One of the effects of the introduction of Trojana has been to give us oblong unbalanced flowers. Not even the beauty of colouring of Isoline can compensate altogether for its lack of refinement of form. This defect is now being bred out by mating Trojana hybrids with broad-petalled varieties, and in the near future we shall have perfectly proportioned flowers with all the size of Trojana and Macrantha. Such, indeed, are already in existence, and they demonstrate beyond question that size is no bar to refinement of form.

Mr. Hort's ANN PAGE and Mr Yeld's  PROSPERO
'The Garden' 1921.

The form of the standards still needs much improvement. They are always of less substance than the falls, but they should have enough to stand up stiff and not flop in hot sunshine. They should curve outwards from their base, meeting again at their tips. At present few Irises do more than approximate to this ideal, and 1 do not see any special tendency yet to an improvement in this direction. But when such flowers, having finely arching standards, are compared with those having flatter or overlapping or open or erect standards and it is realised how essential this character is to the beauty of form, its selection will be more carefully attended to in the future.

The falls are more nearly approaching perfection, in smoothness and in outline. Their disposition gives scope for varying types—the flat hanging, the rounded drooping, and the spreading or "flaring" (to use the American term). The standards with revolute edges displaying the interior of the flower is often an effective and beautiful type, especially when the style arms are of a contrasting colour, and this form strengthens the standards though it gives a narrower appearance to the flower. Even the type with open cupped standards is sometimes pleasing when it is accompanied, as it usually is, with broad-hafted spreading falls. All these types are being developed, but not, I think, with any definite selection. It is in the colouring that the greatest general advance has been already made, and yet it is also in colour that we may expect the most important developments in the near future.

The richness of the colouring of the falls of the most recent varieties and seedlings already in existence far surpasses anything seen in all but a very few of the old varieties, such as Jaquesiana or Maori King, and this richness is accompanied by a velvety or satiny surface which seems very likely to be due to their extra substance. This will undoubtedly be a feature of all Irises in the future. In all the self flowers we have, now, purer and brighter colours, but there is still scope in this direction, especially in deeper coloured self-violet pallidas, and these may be expected very soon. The range of colour is also extending, and colours are now beginning to appear (as in many other florists' flowers since the adoption of Mendelian methods in breeding) of art blends, soft and delicate in the standards, contrasting harmoniously with warmer, richer tones in the falls Vilmorin's Isoline, Mount Penn, Wyomissing and others of Mr. Farr's seedlings, M. Denis' Troost and Deuil de Valery Mayet, and, in deeper tones, Vilmorin's Opera are examples, and are being added to and surpassed.

Among other new colour developments may be mentioned Miss Sturtevant's Shekinah, a luminous yellow self of pallida form and habit, and Citronella with soft yellow standards and crimson veined falls, also of pallida size and form and exceptionally free flowering. From these it is only a step to a true yellow-ground plicata in fact, a slightly different but similar series of crosses such as produced these should produce it, and it may be even now in existence. Plicatas are now appearing in giant size and more perfect form, and with a wide range of margin colour and often finely spotted. Flowers with yellow standards and white falls are likely to appear someday. Crusader and Blue Bird show that we may hope for a flower at least as near blue as the Monspur or the Sibirica sanguinea hybrids, and though the crimson Iris is still far off, we may at least hope for a substantial advance towards it in the near future.

All these forecasts are, in the light of the knowledge that Mendel's laws have given us, well within sight. There are other possibilities, hints of which have been given by chance seedlings— that may perhaps be mutations—which may be realised some day but in the more distant future. I will mention but one. The seedling I have named Samite, a self-cream white, is remarkable in several characters, and I hoped to get new types from it, but all the more obvious crosses that I made were failures. 
One chance cross, however, most unexpectedly produced a series of seedlings, all of which were more or less of the Tigridia type, with small weak open standards and very broad falls spreading almost horizontally, and some with abnormally broad hafts that, together, almost formed a cup, as in Tigridia. Furthermore, the hafts are covered with comparatively large and defined spots. The resemblance to a Tigridia is certainly far away, especially in colour, but it is suggestive. And it is from such suggestions that our flowers give us that new types come rather than from our unaided imagination. At any rate, it is safe to say that for all the great improvements already, obtained the Iris is yet only at the outset of its career, and there are still infinite possibilities of its development.


Reproduction in whole or in part of this post, its opinions or its images without the expressed written permission of Terry Johnson is strictly prohibited. 

Photo credit and copyright Terry Johnson and Heritage Irises ©.  

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