See Show Calender


Hybridizer Kenneth(1896-1965) and Catherine(1904-1975) Smith

Staten Island, New York, USA

Kenneth Smith Medal.jpg

Kenneth Smith Medal 2.jpg

The Kenneth D. Smiths' Garden American Iris Society Bulletin, Issue 159, October 1960, pp 39-41. BARBARA F. WALTHER

Among the iris gardens the American Iris Society membership attending the 1961 convention will visit will be the garden of Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth D. Smith, on Staten Island.

The Smith home is on a hilltop overlooking the great New York harbor. As one gazes over the waters one may think of the time when Henry Hudson sailed his sloop up the harbor, and perhaps as one is thinking this a great ocean liner steams into view. Henry Hudson wrote in his annals as he explored the river that later was named for him, that the new land had great stores of trees-tall oaks and walnuts and pine trees. Today, dominating the approach to the Smith home is one of these giant oaks: a majestic black oak throwing out great arms as if to protect the home it towers over.

The Smiths are fond of growing things of all kinds. During the winter their conservatory is filled with interesting exotic plants. In the summer Catherine tucks these away in odd spots of the garden, so that when one stops to enjoy some lovely hybrid azalea he is apt also to find himself looking down on some unusual plant placed underneath the shrub, or may see on a tree trunk a strange fern sprouting. Catherine and Kenneth are hybridizers of daffodils and hemerocallis as well as of iris, although the iris are the principal feature of the three acres.

The Smiths have long been connected with the American Iris Society and their garden has often been the scene of gatherings of notable hybridizers, so that one who visits the garden each year may feel that Dr. Graves is there as he used to be, towering over some iris seedling and discussing its potentialities. One of the features of the Smith garden is that the seedlings, the year they bloom, are set out in beds, making it easy for the visitor to enjoy them. There the visitors may engage in the delightful pro-and-con arguments that are among the pleasures of viewing seedlings. The visitors in 1961 will have some 600 of the Smiths' new seedlings, aside from the guest iris, to view.

The main iris beds of the Smiths are intriguingly laid out. While one enjoys the great array of iris flowers he is hardly aware that hemerocallis are planted as background in these beds of iris. Did one visit this garden in July he would be breathless over the riot of color of the hemerocallis in the same beds in which he had witnessed great sweeps of colorful iris just a few weeks before. Had a visit been made to the garden in April masses of daffodils would have been seen along these same beds.

Kenneth Smith is a native of Staten Island, that great island rising from the harbor close to the Jersey shore. He is a descendant of Anneke Jens of early Manhattan history, famed for her courage and initiative, and her m,any undertakings in the colonial days. Catherine Hemingway Smith was born in St. Louis, but she came to New Jersey some thirty years ago and for many years was associated with horticultural work in New Jersey, until her marriage with Kenneth took her to Staten Island. Catherine has been president of garden clubs and chairman of flower shows and is well known for her flower arranging and lecture work. She is chairman of the 1961 AIS Convention Committee. During the war she was Widely known for her work with the Gray Ladies and insists she was the Army's original guinea pig in this work.

Kenneth Smith began his hybridizing work in the middle of the thirties and for his first crossing sent to France for one of Cayeux's iris, MME. MAURICE LASSAILLY. He pays tribute to Junius Fishburn for help in his early hybridizing days. Mr. Fishburn had suggested that he work for yellows and blues. This Kenneth did, and with outstanding success, for his irises have received many honors. Of his first six hundred seedlings, eight were named and introduced, six of these received the award of Honorable Mention, and four later received the Award of Merit.

His VIOLET SYMPHONY, LORD DONGAN, and PINK RUFFLES are still well liked. Among his later introductions which are widely known are BLUE VALLEY, KEENE VALLEY, GRASMERE, LADY ILSE, GOLDEN HAWK, and SOUTH PACIFIC. One of his early introductions was a very fine plicata, EDITH RORKE, named for his mother; but Kenneth was more interested in clear colors. Though a line breeder, Kenneth believes in it only to a limited degree, and feels that out-crossing is often necessary. He claims that his ability in pictorial photography, in which he had earned international recognition, aids him in the selection of seedlings.

The American Iris Society owes much to Kenneth Smith for his development of the Society's "Symposium" for the selection, by the accredited AIS judges, of the best irises in commerce. For nine years he directed the annual symposiums. Previously, various efforts at evaluating irises had been attempted, but these petered out and most iris enthusiasts depended upon the list of "One Hundred Best Iris" in the Schreiners' catalog. It was nice seeing come to pass what Robert Sturtevant, the first AIS secretary, has so ardently wanted: a worthwhile annual symposium to select the best irises.

Come to the Smith's garden in 1961, old friends and new friends; come and meet this hospitable iris-minded couple. Their welcome will help you enjoy to the full their lovely garden.

Barbara F. (Mrs. F. P') Walther is director of the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, Montclair, New Jersey. Address: 474 Upper Mountain Avenue, Upper Montclair, New Jersey.

Catherine Smith.jpgFrom The Bulletin of the American Iris Society No. 217(April 1975): As we go to press word arrived of the death on March 14th of Mrs. Kenneth (Catherine) Smith of Staten Island, New York. As one of the East's leading hybridizers she was claimed as a member by both Regions 2 and 19. Those attending the 1970 New York convention will remember her as a gracious hostess of one of the tour gardens visited. For a number of years Catherine had carried on the hybridizing efforts of the partnership begun with her husband, Kenneth. These efforts produced the classic intermediate iris, PINK RUFFLES, a number of outstanding blues and, more recently, such favorites as AMOS SHERARD, BREAD AND WINE, and REPARTEE, to name only a few. These achievements will help keep fresh for us the memory of a gracious person and competent irisarian.

From Mrs. Thomas Nesmith, Fairmount Gardens Catalog, Lowell, Massachusetts, Summer 1942-Spring 1943.

We have introduced several very fine iris for Mr. Kenneth D Smith of Staten Island, N.Y. and 'Yellow Glory' that we are presenting this year is considered to be among his best. It is a large flower of firm substance, deeper in color, and later flowering than his well known 'Yellow Jewel', and bids fair to be liked even better. I have grown this iris for three years, and at blooming time it is always the center of attention in the garden. This iris won the Award of Highly Commended in 1941.

Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth D. Smith have a most attractive garden that is noted for the perfection of growth and splendid display of iris and hemerocallis. Many of these are products or their own breeding for they are most successful hybridizers. Their iris introductions for 1958 are under the heading of Catherine and Kenneth for in recent years Mrs. Smith has planned most of their crosses. For many years Mr. Smith has wished to name a fine white iris in honor of his good friend Dr. Graves. Finally he had two pure white seedlings which are considered worthy and since one is early and one is late they are both named in honor of one of the finest men that ever lived, Dr. Robert J. Graves. Dr. Bob is the early one with large flaring blooms that are very ruffled. Robert J. Graves is late flowering with large blossoms similar in form to South Pacific, but are more broad in both standards and falls. Three others of great merit are; Imperial Woman, tall and very ruffled this blue-violet self has great individuality and beauty. Moonlight Mist is an exquisite flower of pale lavender-violet. Bounding Main, a most spectacular self of medium blue with 7 inch blooms and received the High Commendation Award in 1957. (Nesmith, 1958, p. 3).


Border Bearded: 'Little Demon',

Intermediate Bearded: 'Honey' 1941, 'Louise Blake', 'Meringue' 1940, 'Pink Ruffles' 1940, 'The Bride',

Tall Bearded A-L: 'Adirondack Chief', 'Admiration', 'All Gold' 'Amos Sherard', 'Anaconda Copper', Angela Borgia', 'Ballet In Orange', 'Baroque Pearl', 'Blue Valley' 1947, 'Bound Brook', 'Bounding Main', 'Bread and Wine', 'Breaking Wave' 'Captain Bligh', 'Caribbean', 'Caroline Burr' 1940, 'Cascade', 'Castles In Spain', 'Champion', 'Chinese Gold', 'Cinderella', 'Commando', 'Cool Harbor', 'Copper Craft', 'Daughter Marlene', 'Diana' 1939, 'Dolly Lorey'. 'Dongan Hills', 'Dr. Bob', 'Dynasty', 'East Indies', 'Edith Rorke' 1946, 'Elegans' 1943, 'Elizabeth Noble', 'Ellen' 1944, 'Enigma 1967', 'Enterprise', 'Fall Days', 'Fort Ticonderoga', 'Freedom', 'Gertrude Wister', 'Golden Days', 'Golden Hawk', 'Grasmere', 'Great Joy', 'Grosvenor', 'Harriette Halloway', 'Heaven On Earth', 'Helen Collingwood', 'Helen Myers', 'High and Mighty', 'Hilary', 'His Excellency', 'Ilse Louise' 1943, 'Imperial Woman', 'Inland Sea', 'Janie Vaughn', 'Jezebel', 'Katy', 'Keene Valley', 'Kings Highway', 'Klondyke', 'Lady Ilse', 'Lake George' 1945, 'Lemonade', 'Liberator', 'Lord Dongan' 1940, 'Louise Blake' 1943, 'Lovely Melody', 'Loyalty',

Tall Bearded M-Z: 'Mardi Gras', 'Marie Antoinette', 'Marion Vaughn' 1947, 'Martini', 'Maui Moon', 'Medora', 'Moonlight Mist', 'Mt. Robson', 'Neighbor', 'Neverland', 'New Yorker', 'Paradox', 'Pearl Mosque', 'Personality Plus', 'Pink Rhapsoby', 'Precious Days', 'Rajah', 'Red Witch', 'Regal Splendor', 'Repartee', 'Richmondtown', 'Roanoke', 'Robert J. Graves', 'Sally Ann', 'Samurai', 'Sarah Averell', 'Sarah Shockey', 'Sea Nymph', 'Serene Valley', 'Siesta', 'Silver Hawk', 'Snow Valley', 'Snug Harbor', 'South Pacific', 'Spellbinder', 'Staten Island', 'Stella Polaris' 1939, 'Sumi San', 'Sun Valley', 'Tawny Pink', 'Thai Silk', 'The Red Admiral', 'The White Sentinel', 'Thunderhead', 'Tidesong', 'Tradition', 'Tropical Skies', 'Valentine', 'Valley Mist', 'Victorian Era', 'Violet Symphony' 1940, 'Violet Vista', 'Wheel Of Fortune', 'White Glory', 'Wisdom', 'Witchcraft', 'Wonderful', 'Wood Thrush', 'Yellow Comet', 'Yellow Glory' 1942, 'Yellow Jewel' 1939. 'Young and Gay 1967',

-- Main.RPries - 2012-05-18


Nesmith, E. (1958). Foreward. Fairmount Gardens Catalog for 1958. American Iris Society Iris Encyclopedia. Retrieved from
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
Catherine Smith.jpgjpg Catherine Smith.jpg manage 94 K 15 Feb 2018 - 22:06 Main.davepote AIS Bulletin 199(October 1970): 66.
Kenneth Smith Medal 2.jpgjpg Kenneth Smith Medal 2.jpg manage 263 K 30 Jan 2020 - 12:46 Main.davepote From AIS Bulletin #106 (July 1947): 5.
Kenneth Smith Medal.jpgjpg Kenneth Smith Medal.jpg manage 312 K 30 Jan 2020 - 12:46 Main.davepote From AIS Bulletin #106 (July 1947): 4.
Kenneth Smith.jpgjpg Kenneth Smith.jpg manage 238 K 17 Feb 2018 - 02:53 Main.davepote Photo scanned from AIS Bulletin #106(July 1947): 4.
Topic revision: r28 - 04 Nov 2021, davepote
This site is powered by FoswikiCopyright © by the contributing authors. All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
Ideas, requests, problems regarding Iris Wiki? Send feedback