See Show Calender


First Bulletin of The Iris Society (of England) 1924



I. The title shall be "The Iris Society."

…...........................................................Meeting Place.
2. The Society shall meet in London or in such other place as may be convenient.
3. Among the objects of the Society shall be to encourage, improve and extend the cultivation of Irises, and to regulate their nomenclature.
4. The Society shall consist of members paying an annual subscription. No person shall be entitled to any of the rights and privileges of membership until his or her subscription for the current year has been received by the Hon. Treasurer.
Members of the Society shall be entitled
….......(a) To receive copies of any publications issued by the Society.
….......(b) To vote at all meetings of the Society.
….......(c) To vote by post on any definite motion on the agenda.

5. Shall be payable on January lst in each year. Any member may resign by giving notice in writing to the Hon. Secretary or Hon. Treasurer not later than December 31st, and in default of such notice a member will he liable for the subscription for the current year.

…............................................Application of Income and Funds.
6. The income and funds of the Society shall be applied towards the promotion of its objects.
….........................................................Executive Committee.
7. The management and administration of the affairs of the Society shall, subject to these rules, be vested in a committee consisting of not more than five members of the Society, all of whom shall he elected at the Annual Meeting, and shall hold office for one year. The officers of the Society shall be ex-officio and additional members of the committee. Any vacancy occurring among the members of the committee or officers of the Society during the year shall be filled by the committee, and such appointment shall hold good until the next Annual Meeting. Three members shall form a quorum.
….........................................Appointment and Duties of Officers.
8. The officers of the Society who shall be elected at the Annual Meeting and hold office for one year shall be the following
(a) A President who shall hold office for not more than one year, and who shall be ineligible for re-election as President for one year after the expiration of any term of office.
(b) An Hon. Treasurer who shall prepare and present at the Annual Meeting an Annual Balance Sheet and Statement of Accounts.
© An Hon. Secretary who shall be responsible for all the secretarial work of the Society. The Hon. Secretary shall account to the Hon. Treasurer for all moneys received by him on behalf of the Society.
(d) An Hon. Editor who shall edit all publications of the Society. These officers shall be ex-officio members of the committee.…..........................................Election of Hon. Life Members.
9. Such persons, whom the Society may desire to honour, and who art not resident in Great Britain, may at the Annual Meeting, on the nomination of the Committee, be elected as Hon. Members of the Society, but they shall not as such be entitled to vote or to take any part in the management and administration of the affairs of the Society.

.......................................................Committee Meetings.
10. A meeting of the committee shall be convened as often as it may decide to meet, or whenever the Hon. Secretary shall think it necessary provided that not less than ten days' notice in writing, together with particulars of the business to be transacted to be sent by the Hon. Secretary:
to each of its members. It shall also meet on a requisition in writing signed by not less than five members of the committee, stating the purpose for which such meeting is desired.
.....The Annual Meeting of the Society shall be held in June in each year. Not less than ten days' notice in writing together with particulars of the business to be transacted shall be sent by the Hon. Secretary to each member.

..............................Removal of Member from the List of the Society.
11. For the consideration of any question affecting the conduct of an member of the Society, or of any motion to disqualify a person for membership, a Special Meeting shall be convened at the instance of the committee. Such meeting shall have power, on a vote taken by ballot, an if there is a majority of two-thirds of the members voting, to remove the name of any member from the list of members. A member whose name thus removed shall cease to be entitled to the rights and privileges membership of the Society.

.......................................................Alteration, etc., of Rules.
12. No addition or amendment shall be made to these rules, nor shall any rule be rescinded, except at an Annual Meeting or Special Meeting the Society, and then only with the consent of not less than two-thirds the members voting.


*ASCROFT, R. W., M. B. E., Flower Cottage, Church Road, East Molesey, Surrey
*BAKER, G. H., Ivydene, Bexley, Kent (President, 1924).
*BAKER, HIATT C., Almondsbury, Glos.
BARCHARD, F., Horsted Place, Uckfield, Sussex.
BARKER, GILBERT, Stanlake Park, Twyford.
*BARR, J. W., Bulb Grower, Three Cross, Westmoors, Dorset.
*BARR, P. R., II, King Street, Covent Garden, W.C. 2.
*BLISS, A. J., Morwellham, Tavistock.
BRANDON-THOMAS, Miss (Mrs. BARNES-BRAND), 95, Bedford Court Mansions, W.C. 1.
*BRUCE A. B., Shelford, Cambs.
*BUNYARD, G. N., F.L.S., 25, Bower Mount, Maidstone (Hon. Sec.).
*BURTON, F., Roughetts, Hildenborough, Kent.
CHADBURN, H., March Acres, Middleton-cum-Fordley Saxmundham. CHADWICK, L. T., 1,100 Paris Building, Winnipeg, Canada.
CRAN, Mrs. MARION, The Garden Club, Chesterfield Gardens, London, W.1.
*CHRISTY MILLER, Watergate, Emsworth, Hants.
*CHURCHER, Major GEORGE, Beckworth, Lindfield, Sussex.
*CLARK, W. A., The Nurseries, Dringhouse. Yorks.
CLARKE, Mrs. W. R., Trabolgan, Whitegate, Co. Cork.
COMPTON-MACKENZIE, Isle of Jethon, Guernsey, R.S.O.
*COWLEY, HERBERT, 18, Sutherland Road, Tunbridge Wells.
COX, E. H. M., 4, Bryanston House, Dorset Street, W. 1.
*CRISP, BERNARD, Hare Hatch, Twyford, Berks.
*CUTHBERTSON W., J.P., V.M.H., c/o Messrs. Dobbie and Co., Edinburgh.
*DALRYMPLE G. H., The Nurseries, Bartley, Hants.
° DENIS, Les Amandiers, Tamaris-sur-Mer Var, France.
*DILLISTONE GEORGE, c/o Messrs. K. Wallace and Co., Old Gardens, Tunbridge Wells.
*DYKES, W. R., MA., L.-ès-L., Royal Horticultural Society, Vincent Square, Westminster, SW.
FURNESS, G. H., Berrow Manor, near Burnham, Somerset.
*GIBSON J. L., Oakfield Gardens, Crawley Down, Sussex.
GREENWAY, Capt. H. D. J. K., 91, Cornwall Gardens, S.W. 7.
GRIEVE, A. J., 63, Melfort Road, Thornton Heath.
*HADDON, NORMAN, West Porlock, Somerset
HAGAN, Mrs., Hutton, Cat Hill, East Barnet.
° HOOG, J., c/o C. G. van Tubergen, jun., Zwanenburg, Haarlem, Holland.
*HORT, Sir ARTHUR, Hurstbourne Tarrant, Andover, Hants.
HUTCHINSON, W., The Lea House, Backford, near Chester.
INSOLE, Miss, The Court, Llandaff, Wales.
KEATINGE, H. P., C.M.G., F.R.C.S. 21, Regent Road, Jersey, Channel Islands.

LAURENCE, Sir WILLIAM, Bart., Burford, Dorking.
LEAKE, G., The Floral Farms, Wisbech, Cambs.
LODER, G. W. E., Wakehurst Place, Ardingly, Sussex.
LONG, B. R., Victoria Lodge, Millbrook, Southampton.
MIDDLETON, The Rt. Hon. Lord, Birdsall House, Malton, Yorks.
MILLER, C. W. CHRISTIE, The Deanery, Sonning, Berks.
MORTON, ROBERT, Grangedene, WoodSide Park, N. 12.
*MURRELL, P. B. J., c/o The Orpingtofl Nursery Co., Orpington, Kent. MURRELL, Mrs., c/o The Orpington Nursery Co., Orpington, Kent. PECKHAM, Mrs. WHEELER, Davenport Neck, New Rochelle, New York.
*PERRY, AMOS, c/o Messrs. Perry and Son, Hardy Plant Nurseries, Enfield.
*PILKINGTON, GEOFFREY L., Lower Lee, Woolton, Liverpool (Hon. Treasurer).
*REUTHE, G., Hardy Plant Nursery, Keston, Kent.
SAUNDERS, Capt. E. A., D.S.O., Great Stukeley Vicarage, Huntingdon.
SMITH, Miss ROYDE, 2, Tedworth Square, Chelsea.
STEWART, Mrs. CATHERINE, Bath, Somerset.
STEWART, Mrs. C. M., Fisher's Way, Walberswick, R.S.O., Southwold, Sussex.
° STURTEVANT, R. S., Wellesley Farms, Mass., U.S.A.
THOMAS, D. W., Lowenac, Camborne, Cornwall.
*TROUP, Capt. ROBERT, The Grove, Wembdon, Bridgwater.
° VILMORIN, JACQUES DE, C/o Vilmorin, Andrieux et Cie., 4 Quai de la Mégisserie, Paris, France.
*WALLACE, R. W., c/o Messrs. R. Wallace and Co., The Old Gardens,. Tunbridge Wells.
WARNER, H. H., Part Einon, Briscoe Road, Hoddesdon, Herts.
WATERS, S. P., Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
WATERS, Mrs. S. P., Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
WHITAKER, Mrs., Prior's Court, Broad Clyst, Exeter.
*WHITELEGG, G., c/o Messrs. Whitelegg and Co., Chislehurst.
° WISTER, J. C., Wister Street and Clarkson Avenue, Germantown, Phila., Pa., U.S.A.
*YELD, GEORGE, Orleton, Austen Wood Common, Gerrards Cross, Bucks (President, 1923).
* Foundation Members.
° Hon. Members.




IN putting before the members of the Iris Society, and of the public, these four papers by experts on the cultivation of Bearded Irises, I feel that attention ought once more to be drawn to the fact that there are other Irises than Bearded Irises, and that there are among them many beautiful garden plants, which are in danger of being neglected. I When we remember that our garden Bearded Irises have been derived by hybridization from some half-a-dozen wild species, and that there are at least 160 species, and probably more, in the whole genus, we shall realise how slight our acquaintance with Irises will be if we confine our attention to the Bearded Irises of garden origin.

Even the Bearded species are very commonly neglected and seldom seen in our gardens. How often, for instance, do we see the real Iris pumila, though it is capable of producing such masses of flowers as almost to hide its foliage? Iris aphylla, too, in its many wild forms will give us flowers of every shade of purple as well as of white, pale yellow and pearly grey, and, moreover, some of its forms will flower a second time in the autumn although they have already bloomed in April and early May.

It is hard to understand this neglect of the wild species, for it is with their help alone that the hybridizer is now likely to obtain striking novelties among garden bearded Irises. Thus I. Alberti, an early flowering species from Turkestan, is capable, when combined with I. pallida, of giving us tall, early-flowering hybrids which stand out above all other varieties in bloom at that period of the season. I. Alberti passes on its early flowering habit and its colour, while size of flower can easily be supplied by our garden hybrids.

Roughly speaking, and unless we are willing to make or remake the soil of our gardens on an extensive scale, the Irises which we shall grow are determined for us by the soil and situation in which we garden. Where the soil is heavy and yet well drained the Spuria Section, which contains such good garden plants as I. ochroleuca and I. aurea, should do well, while I. graminea which is by no means fastidious as to soil, should be grown by everyone who appreciates a finely scented flower.

I. sibirica and its beautiful Chinese relatives, such as I. Delavayi, I. Forrestii and I. chrysographes, do best in a cool soil, rich in humus. They will also do well at the edge of ponds, though they seem to prefer not to be too wet in winter. The same applies to I. Kaempferi, of which the hybrid forms are so well known as Japanese Irises. They are distinctly not water plants, if by that we mean a plant which stands in water throughout the year. I. Kaempferi likes to be wet during the growing season and comparatively dry in winter.

On the other hand, I. laevigata, the deep blue purple type, its albino pure white variety, and the purple spotted albo-purpurea are real bog plants, and so are also our native I. pseudacorus and its American cousin, I. versicolor. These three species seem to form a closely related group, if we may judge by their seeds, which are practically indistinguishable.

In rather light rich soil, where no appreciable amount of lime is present, a very attractive bed can be made by planting seedlings of some of the Californian species. None of these Irises like being moved, though the plants can be divided and replanted in spring when growth is active. They do best when they are planted out as seedlings some four or five inches high, if possible in May, and in any case before midsummer. If they are kept too long in the seed pots, they have no time to grow to sufficient size to withstand the winter, and it is equally a mistake to let them spend the winter crowded together in the seed pots. The easiest and most variable species are I. Douglasiana and I. tenax, and of these hardly any two seedlings are exactly alike.

I. longipetala is another Californian Iris, but this will thrive in the heavier soil of any good garden border, and it is a plant that deserves to be more widely known and grown than appears to be the case at present.

Bulbous Irises, with one exception, like a warm, dry soil and a thorough rest in summer. The exception is I. xiphioides, the misnamed English Iris, which comes from the wet alpine meadows of the Pyrenees, and which is never happy except in cool, moist soil.

All Irises like sun, and the vast majority must have it if they are to flower freely. Our native, I. foetidissima, will, however, flourish in wood-land, and even flower sparsely, and some small species, such as the tiny Japanese, I. gracilipes, and the American I. cristata and I. lacustris, seem to prefer half shade, but it is a mistake to suppose that Irises will flourish and flower in any dark sunless corner of the garden, where all the nourishment is sucked from the soil beneath the rhizomes by the greedy roots of overhanging trees.


MUCH has been written about the cultivation of the Iris, not a very recondite mystery so far as most members of the genus are concerned.
…..But readers of this journal will be glad to exchange experiences, inasmuch as our little island presents a very great variety of conditions. I hope that some of our Society will be able and willing to contribute practical suggestions for growing some of the more exacting species, in which category (to say nothing of the Oncocyclus group) I at least should put arenaria, nepalensis, sikkimensis, gracilipes and veins. It is well to begin with a group which, taken as a whole, presents little difficulty: the great "tall bearded' group are mostly everybody's plants, yet, as to grow a thing is not always to grow it well, there is room even here for discussion of the how, the when, and the where. In the hope that others will do the like I will be frankly egotistic and simply put down my experiences for what they are worth.
…..My interest in the subject dates back to about the beginning of the present century, when, infected I know not how by the iritis disease, I began a series of annual visits to Sir Michael Foster's Chalk-hill Garden at Shelford, near Cambridge. On each occasion after the first I went armed with a sack, which I conveyed back to Harrow, filled with rhizomes. These sackfuls were the foundation of my little collection, which has been supplemented by the gifts of other friends, and by my own seedlings. I have also done a little collecting on my own account, chiefly of Varieties of Iris Germanica in the south of France, and of Cengialti about the head of the Lago di Garda.
At Harrow I grew Irises successively in two gardens; in either case the sub-soil was London clay, which contains little or no lime, the top soil is what is called "old kitchen garden soil," a rather heavy black loam. Under such conditions a slope is clearly desirable to secure better drainage, and fortunately Harrow gardens are mostly pitched at a fairly steep angle.

…..I very soon gave up using stable manure, as being likely to encourage rhizome rot. Some part of the ground devoted to Irises was thoroughly dug in July about every third year, when all the bonfire ashes available and a liberal amount of mortar rubbish were added. I never used any chemical except superphosphate of lime for a few invalids put into a separate piece of hospital ground after the severe visitation of "rot," which most Iris growers above a certain age will remember. This scourge bade fair to wipe out my collection one season; in subsequent years it occurred sporadically, but never again became epidemic. (Foster told me that he always had it, more or less, at Shelford.) There was, however, another trouble, which, rightly or wrongly, I ascribed to the effect of damp winters on a heavy soil, not too well drained. Every spring a certain number of plants came up unsatisfactorily, the leaves only growing two or three inches and then turning yellow; the plant in fact appeared to be remaining dormant. I used to go round once or twice with a fork and dig up and burn any unhappy looking subjects, and it generally proved, when the plant was lifted, that the rhizomes were hard and apparently sound, but that no new roots had been formed. I should be interested to know if this is a common experience, and to hear other suggestions as to the cause of this "arrested growth." I have not, so far, noticed it in my present well-drained garden. At Harrow my chief Iris borders get very little sun in winter. American and other visitors have surmised that such success as I obtained there was due to "high cultivation"; this, however, is a delusion, if the term implies any elaborate cultural attention; my own belief is that elaborate feeding of these plants, who are at home on stony hill-sides, would probably tend to produce foliage rather than flowers. A roasting summer does more towards producing a flowery next season than anything that the gardener can do. The great drought of 1921 secured (though not for me) such a display of in 1922 as I had never seen, plants stuck in odd corners for want of room to give them "a place in the sun" were covered with bloom. I may add that I had left Harrow in 1922 before the flowering season began!
…..Since that time I have made a new start in totally different conditions, and my experience is still in the making. My chief Iris bed (about 22 yards by 10 yards) is on the steep slope of a North Hampshire chalk down, facing south and defended from the north by the down rising above, and by a belt of trees some way back. The soil is a light porous loam, fairly well cultivated hitherto for vegetables, but never, I should think, trenched. The chalk, at the top of the slope at least, is only a few inches down, and flints abound. It remains to be seen whether it is beneficial not to break up the sub-soil. I hope to trench a piece this year as an experiment. I should be inclined to acquiesce in the shallowness of the top spit, but that the bed has suffered the last two years (whether the cause is 'seasonal' or not) from. severe attacks of leaf-spot (Heterosporium gracile); while parts of it, though the conditions are normally dry, get coated in autumn with a growth of moss, which must to some extent interfere with drainage; this too may possibly be a 'seasonal' excrescence: one would not like to condemn the British autumn on the evidence of 1922 and 1923. Meanwhile I am trying what can be done on the surface, giving liberal dressings of wood-ashes; and this spring I have treated the whole bed with superphosphate.
…..Samples of my Harrow collection (which, in spite of constant weeding out of inferior varieties, had really become rather unmanageable) were transfered to these new conditions in July, 1921, the middle of the great drought. It was noticeable that, whereas the ground was dust dry when they were planted, and no rain beyond a thunder shower or two fell for several weeks, the plants were well established by September, and for their size, flowered well the following year, far better indeed than in 1923, when a mild winter encouraged too early growth, and the deadly frosts of April and May made many a flower spike abortive. The result is that scores of unflowered seedlings which came with me from Harrow have not yet declared their quality.
…..It seems now to be generally accepted that 'after flowering' is the best time to move Irises of this class, though I remember the time when nurserymen shook their heads at an order for delivery in July. The only question is 'how soon after?' I must own that in my own case this is decided by convenience. One naturally prefers not to choose a period of absolute drought: when driven to do so at Harrow I plied the hose freely after planting, but I doubt if this is really necessary. I now operate about the end of June, in fact as soon as all have finished flowering.
…..It is no doubt advisable to break up large old clumps, especially if the rhizomes are getting piled upon one another. But I have a notion that some of the very large flowered kinds, especially those derived from giants like Mesopotamica and Cypriana, need to develop a good mass of rhizomes in order to flower well. In such cases I prefer not to lift the whole clump (unless the ground is to be re-made), but to break pieces off to increase stock, leaving a good lump behind.
…..It is perhaps superfluous to say that the plants should be kept clean in winter. I never cut off healthy leaves, but two or three times between October and February I pull off all dead foliage which comes easily away. I have done this the more assiduously the last two years, because the leaves were rusty: of course they all go on the bonfire.
…..In a large garden it is doubtless well to recognise that soil may get "Iris sick" in time, and the ideal thing would be to plant new patches every three or four years and grow something else in the old ones. But with many of us ideals must give way to practical considerations. I do plant new Iris beds, but the old ones remain as full as before! My big plot is divided into sections by paths, merely trodden, not graveled, three feet wide. Hence it is possible to get some change of soil by digging and planting a path, making a new path where formerly was "bed."
…..Those sections have each a distinct character. So that the scheme gives a rough classification according to affinities. Thus my principal sections or groups are denoted Mesopotamica, Cypriana, Trojana, pallida, variegata, Germanica, and there is a large patch of miscellaneous garden forms. The first four named consist chiefly of my own seedlings, and the arrangement is convenient for comparison. Of course, some aliens have found their way into most of the sections, and it may not prove possible to keep up such a formal scheme. Formal it sounds, but the effect is perhaps as satisfying as a colour scheme. However, for aesthetic reasons, I include a certain number of varieties, mostly of peculiar colouring, from the main patch, because their tones seem to show best in an isolated clump planted in a mixed border. I thus isolate (among others) Edouard Michel, Mount Penn, Isoline, Eldorado, Asia, Goldcrest (whose almost blue tone is rather lost among purples and violets), and some of my own seedlings.

But when one begins to discuss questions of taste, it is perhaps time to stop.


HAD I been asked to write a short paper on how to grow Bearded Irises twenty or even ten years ago I should have faced the task with much more confidence than I do to-day. Why, you will ask, should I with greater experience write with less confidence? In those days I thought little or nothing of Iris diseases. To-day they have thrust themselves on my acquaintance and are even more unwelcome than the pushing bore who would fain be intimate with you whether you will or not. In old days we grew excellent apples in our Hertfordshire garden with very little or no knowledge of the apple tree's enemies. To-day the apple tree's dangers are dinned into my ears with insistence and I have to admit the necessity for all sorts of safeguards if I am to hope for a crop of fruit.
…..Well, then, whilst danger may loom in the background in the shape of those diseases which thrust themselves upon the notice of the Iris grower. I will briefly give my views on Iris growing.
…..Firstly, choose a sunny position-the more sun the better. This injunction had, I thought, by this time sunk into the minds of all who have had experience of Bearded Irises, and yet I read a few days ago in the catalogue (published in 1924!) of a popular nursery: "They do well in shade." I do not mean to say they will not grow in shade and perhaps give a few flowers, but they will not flourish. And yet two of my own seedlings which have appeared in Messrs. Backhouse's list for some years are, in my judgment, improved by moderate, not heavy shade, viz., Celia (a seedling from Bridesmaid), and Porsenna. The improvement in Celia consists in the increased whiteness of the blossom, and in Porsenna in the increased stature of the flower-stem.
…..Secondly, give them good drainage-I grow my plants for the most part in narrow beds raised a little above the ground level. The soil in most of my garden here at Gerrard's Cross is a rather heavy loam over gravel (it suits roses remarkably well). I expected Irises to take to it, and so they do, but this year I have carried on a by no means trifling struggle against disease-but, as I am not now treating of Iris diseases, I say no more about them. If the soil is very heavy I should add sand and some light loam to it when planting the Irises. Careful weeding and the removal of dead leaves (not the premature tearing away or clipping of the foliage) are taken for granted.
…..It is seldom that Bearded Irises suffer from drought-should such an unusual emergency arise I should give them water if I thought it absolutely necessary--but this will be a very rare occurrence.
…..Thirdly , give them a judicious dressing of lime, I never used to do this, but I have been converted to the practice by the effect produced by lime in the gardens of my friends. Mortar and brick rubbish is recommended by some authorities as a satisfactory home for the Bearded Irises. In my garden which is very much exposed the Irises are what Tennyson calls caught and cuffed by the gale. For this reason perhaps I always find myself assessing the amount of protection afforded to the flowers whenever I enter a new garden. The most successful private Iris garden which I know is protected on all sides, and the plants seem to show by the excellence of their growth that they fully appreciate this as well as their other advantages.
To sum up I will take refuge in rhyme:
…................................Give good drainage, give them sun,
…................................Add lime-tis thus success is won.
Orleton, Gerrard's Cross.


MY introduction to the bearded Iris is of very long standing: I would not like to say how long, suffice it to admit that I remember accompanying my friend, Mr. George Yeld, to Parker's Nursery at Tooting, where I purchased the nucleus of my present collection, which includes some of to-day's favourites, such as Pallida dalmatica, Celeste, and odoratissima, atropurpurea, cengialti, Cordelia, Gracchus, Darius, Ganymede, Jacquesiana Victorine, Innocenza, Queen of May, and possibly others of doubtful origin.
…..In my early gardening days I made no particular study how best to grow the Iris, but subsequently when in Italy, Bulgaria, and Asia Minor, having observed them growing in vases surmounting the pillars of a gateway, or on the roof of an oriental fountain, or in the chinks of mortar-made stone walls, much as Wallflowers and Snapdragons grow in this country, I came to the conclusion I would try them on a clay soil bank overlooking and surrounding a sunken lawn. The position has proved very successful; there is no danger of the plants becoming water-logged and when in full bloom their varied colours, like so much stained glass, can be viewed from the sunken lawn with great advantage.
…..A well-worked stiff loam or even clay with some mortar grit on such a site is an ideal mixture. The bearded Irises make very long roots, working downwards through the clay a foot or more long; they are also surface feeders and in this connection great care must be exercised not to disturb the surface of the soil during the growing season. The Iris is amongst the hardiest and most accommodating plants we have and it has been for this reason that amateurs have taken advantage of their good nature to relegate them to shady places under trees and to any odd corners. They will grow in such places, but they will not flower; they delight in sunshine where the rhizomes growing on the surface of the ground may ripen and insure healthy plants for the following year.
…..Now although I am an advocate of a bank, terrace, or a slope, I will not condemn any level plot provided always that it is well trenched and well drained. Some of my more precious varieties are so located, only I take care to give them a lighter soil. It must, however, be pointed out, that on a flat surface they are more prone to rot at the base of the stem. When this occurs the diseased portion must be immediately cut out and a dressing of silver sand, to which may be added a weak solution of Condy's fluid and water inserted in and around the wound. The alternative is to cut away a larger portion of the plant and burn it.

My enthusiasm for the culture of the Iris is due to our President. Some years ago he sent me some of his seedlings, his intention being that I should raise them as a sort of understudy to similar plants he was growing in York for exhibition purposes. It so happened that my plants were not only ready for exhibition when wanted, but they possessed the merit of being particularly good. In this way Lord of June and Asia both made their debut, each receiving Awards of Merit at the R.H.S. The stems of Asia, if my memory serves me aright, measured 4 ft. 7 in. high.
…..I make it a practice to divide and transplant my plants into fresh soil every fourth year, as soon after blooming as possible. I plant the larger varieties from one and a half to two feet apart, and as this planting suffices for one year's growth, I destroy or remove every other plant in the second or third year. In this way the clumps in the early part of the fourth year are three to three feet six inches across, and I have counted as many as twenty to thirty stems to a clump.
…..In taking up the culture and study of such a genus as the Iris as a hobby, one is naturally led to investigate its past history. It would appear that the Iris of 300 years ago was grown more for its medicinal and perfumery properties than as garden plants. In Gerarde's Herball, 1633, some thirty varieties are described or illustrated and these cover the whole field of the then known genus as grown "in the gardens of London amongst Herbarists and other lovers of plants." Florence, Dalmatia, Germany, and Austria each had their Fleure de luce. Iris Susiana or chalcedonica being credited as the Fleure de luce of Turkey.
…..In Holland, at this same period and earlier, Irises were raised from seed in the same way as the Dutch raised Tulips. In the early part of the l9 th century, when the French horticulturists commenced. to grow their plants also from seed, it is estimated that a hundred or more varieties were known and listed. Not, however, in the preceding centuries nor yet in the last century was hybridization practised with any methed, and it is only during the last twenty years that cultivators have adopted hybridization on any scientific basis. The great strides made in recent years by the introduction of natural species from Asia Minor marks an entirely new development. Such varieties as cypriana, Ricardi, mesopotamica, trojana and Amas offer the hybridizer good strong parents on which to work, the dominant feature being long broad falls and large standards. My own personal experience in hybridizing is of too recent a date to offer any helpfui information on the subject. I make no claim to have produced anything uncommon. I have tried artificial cross fertilizing with certain of the Dominion, cypriana and pallida varieties. The fecundity of the pollen of Dominion as compared to any other of the hybrids, has astounded me, and whilst I have been quite successful in fertilizing and raising seedlings from Dominion on to Neptune, Asia, Alcazar, Boyer, and a white I have not succeeded in reversing the process.
…..The new race of hybrids of which Dominion is a result, and introduced by Mr. A. J. Bliss, will possess particular merit to Iris raisers in a climate such as ours. It is a plant of exceptional vigour and will withstand our variable climatic condition better than varieties of Syrian and Palestinian parentage. My clumps of Dominion at this season when the buds are not visible are in perfect condition (far better than the majority of other sorts) the colour of the foliage is blue-green, taking after Cordelia, one of its grandparents. The texture of the velvet fall of Dominion is really remarkable; no looms of Keshan or Genoa ever produced any silk velvet to equal nature's rich weaving. There is, however, one serious fault in it, growth; the main stem is sturdy and not high, but the buds on the lateral branches grow and point inwards towards the stem, which gives them the appearance of being in the way; it lacks the tall branching habit of hybrids of pallida and trojana origin to make it the most perfect Iris of the Germanica variety, in my judgment, so far produced.

It is doubtful if the true mesopotamica can be grown with success in this country. M. Denis in the South of France gave me some plants and predicted I would not succeed with them. He was correct; I can no more grow them than I can the white Iris of Kashmir. In 1907, and again in 1922, I received some roots of this variety; they flowered in the following year, and towards the autumn they grew apace, so much so, that when the winter set in and other Irises discarded many of their leaves, my clumps exhibited no signs of withering. Fearing they would be caught by wind and frost I had them enclosed within a screen and protected overhead. The following year, 1923, they did not bloom, and although at the moment the plants have an abundance of leaves, some of which are broad and large, their colour is not healthy; too yellow and inclined to be blotchy and irregular in tone.
…..Pumila Irises I have grovn for a number of years, having either collected the original plants myself when in my younger days business or climbing mountains took me into the near East, or else they have been sent to me from Macedonia, Bulgaria, Roumania, Turkey, or Armenia. It was my good fortune to have Dr. Post of Beyrout, the author of "Flora of Syria, Palestine, and Sinai" in my party on the Mysian Mt. Olympus. We camped at different altitudes and collected some 140 varieties of plants above an altitude of 5-6,000 feet. Dr. Post was an indefatigable worker, for, although by no means a young man, he never would rest or eat his meal on returning to camp for the day until he had sorted and pressed all the plants he had collected.
…..Pumila Irises of the natural species are not as easy to grow as the Germanica They sulk and sometimes for no apparent reason refuse to bloom. Like the Oncocyclus they need special study; one has to learn the conditions under which they grow in their own habitat and cultivate accordingly.
…..In Greece and the Levant the rains are usually torrential in September- October and continue with more or less rain, snow ni-id sunshine throughout the winter. In April-May fine weather sets in and lasts throughout the summer. From July to September the rhizomes get a thorough baking and it is under these conditions that we also must treat this species in order to insure successful culture.
…..I have had many failures which would bring to despair many gardeners, but these dwarf Irises appeal to me as friends, I have lived with them in the hills and notwithstanding disappointments, I have had some delights; I cannot and will not abandon them. I have one much treasured clump of a variety of balkana from the battle front in Macedonia, the hills overlooking Lake Doiran, sent home eight years ago. The colony now composed of some ten plants is growing in a somewhat raised position within the rim of a barrel cut in half, its bottom knocked out and inserted in the ground. It of course has good draining and is made up of loam and mortar rubbish. I ripen the rhizomes very much as one does the Oncocyclus variety by covering the plants with a frame, though of course in a less severe degree. In October -November I give fresh soil and growth starts again.
…..As Mr. Dykes points out, mellita, balkana, rubro-marginata, Reichenbachii and other of the pumila varieties are closely allied one to the other, and accordingly the treatment for one applies to all.
…..In conclusion a word of caution: do not encourage your Irises to out-grow their strength. I have in my mind a noble and curiously coloured variety introduced by M. Denis with much Ricardi strain in its constitutiori named Mme. Durand. Three years ago this plant bloomed and seeded so generously that towards the end of the summer it lost all its leaves and looked hopelessly dead. When I took up the rhizomes I found them without roots; accordingly I replanted them in a specially prepared new bed and now after two years they have recovered their normal vitality and promise again to bear offspring. Irises after all are only like all other plants and must not be expected to do too much.



Some observations regarding soil--its effect on growth and health and some
remarks on Rhizome Rot.

THE Tall Bearded Irises are admittedly impartial as to soil, provided good drainage and ample sunshine are afforded them. The presence of lime is also known to be beneficial. The effect of poor and light (sandy) soils as compared with rich and heavy (clay) soils on the growth, blooming and health of these Irises is, however, noticeably different and it is of these two conditions, in their extremes, that I propose to write, having given both types of soil a somewhat lengthy trial during the past fourteen years. The natural soil of my garden was a rich loam with a sub-soil of red clay and the drainage, in consequence, was very indifferent.
…..After a visit to Holland in May, 1911, where I saw Bearded Irises growing and blooming profusely in more or less pure sand I was tempted to try and reproduce the same conditions in my own garden in the hope of obtaining similar results.
…..The garden in question was a natural "sun-trap" facing due south and protected from the north, west and east by thick shrubberies.
…..The design of the garden comprised a large circular bed of some thirty feet diameter rising to a central point and intersected by flagged paths, thus giving me seven beds.
…..Recognising that drainage was most essential, the first difficulty to be overcome was the clay subsoil. I, accordingly, set to work first to remove the top layer of loam and, having done this, I then proceeded to dig nut the clay to a further depth of a foot and, having replaced it with broken bricks and old turf, I put back the original loam, adding an equal quantity of sea-sand.
…..I also laid land-drains round the circumference of the bed to carry away any surplus water.
…..The Irises were then planted (August) and, in the years 1913 and 1914, flowered exceedingly well.
…..During the following years, and until July, 1919, they received no attention owing to my absence with the Colours. By this time the different varieties had all grown into one another, and the garden was a confused mass. Furthermore, the fact that 1919 was a very poor season far blooni with me, and also that many of the labels had become illegible, male the task of identification a difficult one, and I had to trust to my original planting plan and memory to unravel the tangle. One feature, however, was most noticeable, namely, that all the plants had deteriorated greatly.
…..The growth was small and "thin," and the colour of the foliage was pale and anmemic, instead of being a good healthy green. I accordingly lifted the whole lot and replanted the strongest pieces, after partly remaking the beds by the addition of loam, at the same time giving a liberal dressing of basic slag, and also superphosphate of lime before planting. The growth in the following year (1920) was much improved, and the display of bloom moderate.
…..The plants, moreover, were pretty healthy, and I suffered very little from rhizome rot, although Irises growing in other parts of the garden were rather badly affected vith this disease.
…..Since 1920, for comparative purposes, my new Irises each year have been planted in the natural soil; in raised beds, of course, with the addition of limestone clippings and basic slag and have always made very vigorous growth.
…..The amount of bloom has not been anything out of the ordinary, hut a slight attack of rhizome rot last May (1923) deprived me of what promised to be a very good show of bloom.

The flower spikes which survived, however, were of very high standard, many being 4 feet in height and of great thickness and rigidity, the foliage also was of a good deep, healthy green.
…..Considering all things, I am of opinion that a rather heavy (rich) soil is preferable to a light (poor) soil, and is likely to give the best all-round results.
…..The light and sandy soil, undoubtedly, has some advantages, the chief of which is that the ripening of the rhizomes and consequent good display of bloom is almost sure to be better than in the case of the heavy, retentive, soil, and the plants probably less liable to the attacks of disease. It is pretty safe to assert that a well-ripened rhizome will stand almost any climatic conditions-
…..The main disadvantage, however, of a light soil is its liability to become exhausted. This is bound to take place sooner or later, with consequent ill effects on the condition of the plants; it therefore requires "strengthening" periodically if anything like decent results are to be maintained.
…..After all, Tall Bearded Irises can be grown anywhere, and by anybody and are most accommodating plants in every way. I, therefore, am inclined to place vigour of growth and "quality" of bloom as the two first aims in successful culture and, given a good rich soil, you will certainly obtain them, and with a good hot September, you will get the "quantity" thrown in as well.
…..In common with most of our hardy plants, the Tall Bearded Irises should, after blooming in June, make their growth, then rest and "die down" during the late autumn and winter months.
…..From what we know of rhizome rot the plants are generally attacked just before, or during, the flowering season.
…..It is fairly clear that it generally is worst following a mild autumn when the plants continue growing late, and enter the winter in a "sappy" state, with consequent "frosting" of the foliage in the spring. The foliage thus frosted soon becomes limp, and, in many cases, the central growth will be observed to have brown markings on the leaves, the whole tuft eventually becoming slimy, and pulling away from the thizome with ease. If allowed to remain untouched, the rhizome itself soon becomes affected and turns soft.
…..The autumn of 1923 was, in some parts of the country, a particularly adverse one for Tall Bearded Irises. The weather remained very "open," and the rainfall was above the average-in fact, it was a "growing" autumn, certainly in the north-west of England.
…..Irises were "growing" in the last week of October, and the first frost did not take place until November 10 th. In consequence, the Irises did not really rest at all, and the consecutive weeks of hard frost in January and February found the plants in a thoroughly unripened and unprepared condition, with the inevitable result, rhizome rot.
…..It would be both interesting and instructive to collect annual reports from growers of Tall Bearded Irises throughout the country as to the incidence of this disease, giving "data" as to soil, climatic conditions, etc., from which comparative results could be compiled which should certainly lead to an increase in our knowledge of this subject.
…..I am certainly inclined to believe that in cases where the Irises had died down and rested in the normal manner, the losses would be found to be less severe than when the reverse was the case.

-- BobPries - 2014-05-12
Topic revision: r3 - 21 Dec 2018, BobPries
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