Saturday, November 12, 2016

Tall Bearded Classic Iris SUMMIT

'Summit' photo taken yesterday.
Part of my program each season is to replace the older earlier photos on my Blog to portray a more accurate photo for ID which is after all the purpose for the blog, its my record of the Irises growing at home.
The photo is as the Waterson Catalogue description below and shows the rich yellow of the falls. 

Waterson Iris Garden, Wanganui, Irises 1960-61.

SUMMIT A lovely iris which, like Pinnacle, is a combination of white and yellow. The standards are the same pure white, without even a hint of cream, but the falls, instead of being primrose yellow as in 'Pinnacle', are a rich yellow. In the clump it is breathtakingly beautiful. There is an exquisite quality of beauty about this combination of white and gold which appeals both to the lover of bright colours for colour's sake and to the lover of artistic colour combinations- Summit is a tall and stately iris with widely branched stems carrying classically formed blooms.

D'Arcy Blackburn, Clifford Street, Gisborne, Bearded Iris Catalogue, 1957-1958
Summit (Stevens) A famous iris, one of the raiser's white and yellow amoenas, which has been acclaimed overseas as an outstanding iris. Tall and widely branched, with standards of pure white and falls of golden yellow, it makes a wonderful clump. Excellence substance and habits of growth. (48 inches)

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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Friday, October 28, 2016


Yes I am keeping notes regarding plant habits and bud count and all the other important things but I do not have enough time to extrapolate the data to the blog at the moment.
There are about twenty 'Ron Busch Irises blooming at the moment some in different gardens in different parts of the North Island so gathering the information and taking photos are the priorities at the moment. The dots will be joined and filled in later so if you need the bud count, or information of plant health you will have to return at a later date.
I hear some call these photo's glamour shots but I like to think of them as a method to ID irises and by time I have finished 'The Ron Busch Collection' will be well documented and after-all that's the end game. So here is another of Ron Busch 2010 stunning introductions blooming at home today.

2016 New Zealand Iris Hybridisers Cumulative Checklist
IRWELL SIMPLICITY (Ron Busch, R. 2010). Sdlg. 1764-4015. TB, 30" (76 cm), EM. S. white, yellow base; style arms white; F. white, ¾" lavender margin edged pale lemon, pale lavender spot with texture veining; beards yellow. Parentage unknown. PBF.

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version. 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 ©.
The copyright of course includes the well known Iris photo kleptomaniac in France known as 'Irisenligne' who seems to back to his bad old habits again.

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Saturday, October 22, 2016


I knew the early blooms would include some of Ron Busch incredible catalogue.
So here is one of the early starts after a night of heavy rain.

2016 New Zealand Iris Hybridisers Cumulative Checklist 
IRWELL CASUAL FLIRT (Ron Busch, R. 2010). Sdlg. 1852-4044. TB, 30" (76 cm), EM. S. lemon, violet midrib; style arms old gold, wine midrib; F. rose wine plicata on white; beards bronze. Parentage unknown. The Iris Garden, 2014.

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version. 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 ©.
This of course includes the well known Iris photo kleptomaniac in France known as 'Irisenligne' who seems to back to his bad old habits again.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Zealand Tall Bearded Iris EARLY BEAUT

Hardly any iris  bloom stalks anywhere at home just yet, and it feels like it's going to be one of those 'all at once' iris seasons once nature finally makes its mind up when spring will start so the irises get an temperature 'go' signal that is consistent over a few days or weeks not an hour or so like it is currently, and that the daylight hours change from just a astronomy calculation to reality.
Even with all of these challenges it seems that our garden Tall Bearded Iris season starts these days with a couple of David Nicoll's 'Early' series Irises.
'Early Beaut' is an unusual colour tone with a pollen parent that is a well known Southern Hemisphere beauty of Barry Blyth 'Chinese Empress' that has softened the rather coarse colour tones of its famous pod parent 'Thornbird'. Double budded with good bud count, good plant health with strong plant habits.   

Richmond Iris Garden, 376 Hill Street, Nelson. Issue #54, 2004-2005 Catalogue.

* EARLY BEAUT - D. Nicoll Early flowering Violet blue standards infused with green at centre, falls veined violet merging to creamy mustard edge............................$15.00

2016 New Zealand Iris Hybridisers Cumulative Checklist
EARLY BEAUT D.B. Nicoll, Reg., 2004. Sdlg. D98T12-l. TB, 33″, (85 cm), VE ; S. light violet blue with a light infusion of green-gold from the centre midrib; style arms light creamy mustard with a touch of violet on the lip; F. veined violet centres merging and fading to light creamy mustard edges, under surface of central midrib green; beards bright orange; slight sweet fragrance. Thornbird X Chinese Empress. Richmond Iris Gardens 2004/05.

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version. 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 ©. 

This of course includes the well known Iris photo kleptomaniac in France known as 'Irisenligne' who seems to back to his bad old habits again.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tall Bearded Iris BURNT TOFFEE

The unusual is to breeders and some select growers a delight, toss in a unknown parentage or two and the intrigue goes to overdrive!! 'Burnt Toffee' is another of what I like to call my "Colour Chaos Irises" with it's original mysterious colour concoction. Smoky copper red-violet standards, brick red edged hafts with a airbrushed violet blue centre that expands down the falls and a decided margining of gold bronze, a blue beard tipped with bright old gold. Orange blossom fragrance. Impressive branching (3 plus spur). 'Burnt Toffee' disease-resistant foliage is a deep blue green, but plant has only average growth, eventually producing a stunning clump in the garden. For some though an acquired taste.

Schreiner’s Iris Lovers Catalog 1977
BURNT TOFFEE, (Schreiner 1977) ML. 37"
No one color completely characterizes this Iris for it subtly blends a gradation of several colors. Its standards are medium red-violet suffused with golden bronze. The falls present a change of pace. Their center is a pronounced blue-violet wash that diminishes to the precise border edging of gold-bronze. The beard starts as blue tipped but gives way to old gold deep down in the throat. Hafts are a metallic olive-gold-bronze. This smoky colored Iris is indeed unique! Three branches, 7 to 9 buds.

Eden Road Iris Garden, Wenatchee, Washington. 1979 Catalog.
BURNT TOFFEE, (Schreiner 1977) ML. 37" (Unknown)
Very effective blending of dark chocolate and blue-lavender. Beard is dull gold to blue. This one will make you stop and enjoy its rich coloring.

Tempo Two, Barry and Lesley Blyth, East Road, Pearcedale, Victoria, Australia, Season 1983-84
BURNT TOFFEE (Schreiner '77 USA) ML 37". A unique smoky Iris that subtly blends a graduation of several colours. Standards red violet suffused golden bronze. Falls gold bronze with blue flush through centre around blue beards. Good branching. (Parentage unknown) HM '79

AIS Checklist 1979
BURNT TOFFEE Schreiner's, Reg. 1977. Sdlg. G 1519-3. TB 37" (94 cm) ML.  Standards  light chocolate, flushed blue-lavender to center along midrib; Falls richer chocolate with darker chocolate hafts, blue blaze in center; dull gold to blue beard. Unknown parentage., Schreiner's 1977. 

Big hat tip to Calos Ayento of Brighton Park Iris fame for the 1977 Schreiner's description its much appreciated.

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version. 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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Saturday, July 16, 2016

The past is never where you think you left it until you find it again

Mademoiselle Schwartz.
Photo courtesy Michèle Bersillon [Ref 1]

In summer of 1973 I received from Corinne Bromberger, Redlands, California, eight varieties originated by iris breeder Dr. Samuel Stillman Berry who, along with William Mohr and Grace Sturtevant, was one of the pioneering hybridizers in the United States. The previous year I had learned that Corinne lived immediately adjacent to the Berry property where--to my surprise--Dr. Berry still lived, spry and alert in his mid 80s. Immediately I contacted Corinne to ask if he had any of his introductions from the 1920s and 1930s still in the garden. His Mauna Loa was in a few collections as was Acropolis, but all others seemingly had vanished. Her reply stated that yes, he probably had most of his originations but that the garden was in considerable disarray and the irises had no labels. But...when they flowered he would note, "Aha, there's so-and-so." She then mentioned this to Dr. Berry who was, she said, quite touched that someone remembered his work after about thirty years out of the iris world. So the die was cast. In the meantime, Dr. B. gave Corinne a nearly complete set of his catalogs (1926-1948) as a gift of appreciation--a gift that proved to be invaluable.

Among the irises received from Dr. Berry's garden was his Canyon Mists (1926), a name I knew only from the Check List entry. Even accounts of his irises by Lena Lothrop in AIS Bulletins had neglected to mention it. His catalog description read, in part: "A very light mauve self, quite similar to Mlle. Schwartz, but has a longer season and does not fade out seriously in bright sun...." What flowered here was, indeed, a light mauve self, so I was satisfied.

Approximately thirty years later I received an assortment of rhizomes from The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens where they were trying to authenticate identities in plantings that had become considerably mixed in the years following the death of long-time director Barbara Walther. Most had names attached (true? false?) and a few were "what is it?" Among the latter appeared...Canyon Mists. At first I was surprised that such an obscure iris would have been grown at Presby, but then I realized that hybridizers in Presby's early years were solicited to contribute (and eager to do so!) their originations to the collection. I figured Dr. Berry had heeded the call.

The story continues in 2010 when Michele Bersillon in France sent me a short list of historic irises available in a last-chance sale from Lawrence Ransom, a British ex-pat who had rescued what he could from the shards of the Simonet collection. One in that list stood out: Lady Foster (M. Foster 1913). a significant garden iris and parent (sib to Caterina and Crusader) which had eluded collectors. So I told her to ask for Lady Foster, which she did; Ransom sent all his plants, which she thought would be better grown in her garden for a year before shipping to me. Thus in 2011 I received ten husky Lady Foster rhizomes. You can imagine my surprise and disappointment to discover, the next spring, that they were the same as Canyon Mists! But that made no sense whatsoever: why would such an obscure California origination be in Simonet's collection? That also called into question of "Why at Presby?" By this time I had a copy of Ridgway's book Color Standards and Nomenclature which was widely used in the States to precisely describe flower colors, and for Lady Foster the described Ridgway colors, along with a superb black and white photo in a Wallace catalog, proved this was not Lady Foster. But was it Canyon Mists? The "light mauve" of Berry's catalog description did fit, but I recalled the mention of a similarity to Mlle. Schwartz. The Ridgway color for her was "palest mauve." Close enough to suggest pursuing the Mlle. as the true identification. But the only photograph I had seen is in Les Iris Cultivees. and it didn't show enough to either rule in or rule out our iris. By this time Catherine Adam was in the discussion, having been in touch with Lawrence Ransom in her zeal to preserve, correctly identified, historic French irises, and from him and me she was aware of this puzzle. Her take was that it must be Mlle. Schwartz, but how to prove it?

In the next chapter, enter Terry Johnson to the question. The only other image of Mlle. Schwartz recorded was a note in the 1939 AIS Check List of a black and white photo in Gardening Illustrated, January 5 1929. I knew Terry had accessed old British gardening publications, so I asked if he could track down this photo. And he did, sending it with the caveat that it was a clump shot rather than closeup. Well...that is exactly what was needed: a photograph showing flowers at all angles, full stalks with branching. For my money there's no question: this iris which has traveled under the names Canyon Mists and Lady Foster actually is the seemingly lost Mlle. Schwartz--lost, but right before our eyes!

Phil Edinger, May 2016.

One of the great privileges in my iris world has always been a email from Phil Edinger, and  it was a recent email conversation we had regarding Mademoiselle Schwartz that included Dr. Samuel Stillman Berry made the above post possible, it was an email full of past and present history that I asked Phil to write it up for the blog and wallah!!!!!! Much and many thanks to Phil. 
A mighty big hat tip to Lawrence Ransom who rescued what he could from the Simonet collection that eventually kick started this new journey for 'Mademoiselle Schwartz'

Many thanks to Catherine Adams who kept giving encouragement to give 'Mademoiselle Schwartz' oxygen and to Michèle Bersillon for the above amazing photo, the plant conservation and the international logistics that also helped make this all possible.

[Ref 1] The above photo Michèle Bersillon emailed me after reading the post Mademoiselle Schwartz.
Her email mentioned
"I just read your article (bravo!) about this lovely historic that I have had the privilege of cultivating in my garden, Mademoiselle Schwartz.  I had been a bit disappointed that it didn’t turn out to be Lady Foster as Lawrence thought, but it certainly turned out to be a treasure and well worth the wait to send it to Phil.  It is presently in bloom here, so I took a photo the other day—before the rain!—and thought you might like to have a copy." 

As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version. 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  Michèle Bersillon ©.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2016, 100 years of British Iris Breeding,

British lovers of heritage irises will be excited to learn that Anne Milner and Sarah Cook will be at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show celebrating 100 years of British Irises. As for Hampton Court, they are doing a joint stand, highlighting, and selling irises from both of their collections.   Anne has the A.J. Bliss collection while Sarah has the collection of Cedric Morris irises.

The theme of the display will be 100 years of British Iris Breeding, 1899 to 2000. It will be largely a photographic display, as there will be little flower left there by early July, but the RHS has been happy to accept that. This year, for the first time, all the National Collections will be in the main floral Marquee, alongside all the big nurseries, so it is quite a challenge to come up with an appropriately dramatic stand. Anne will also be selling copies of her informative book, "Bliss Irises- Family and Flowers; the journey to a National Collection." Their stand number is PH309.

The plants for sale will be from both collections including the following from Anne Milner's Bliss Collection : Benbow, Bruno, Clematis, Cardinal, Duke of Bedford, Evadne, Francina,  Lady Byng, Lurline, Majestic, Marsh Marigold, Morwell, Mrs Valerie West, Mystic, Pioneer,  Romola,  Senlac, Sudan, Susan Bliss, Sweet Lavender, Tenebrae and Tristram, with limited quanities of  
Grace Sturtevant, and Princess Osra, and may be a few others also in very small quantities. They will, of course, all be bare rooted.

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is the world’s largest flower show boasting an eclectic mix of gardens, displays and shopping opportunities spanning over 34 acres either side of the dramatic long water with the stunning façade of the historical palace in the background. Every year the show has more exciting and interactive content to excite and inspire. Visitors have the chance to experience the variety of gardens by walking through them and getting up close with the incredible designs. There is also a great range of garden tools, sculptures, furniture and more on offer from the array of trade stands, as well as the best, newest, finest and most unusual and colourful blooms imaginable in the floral marquees. The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show will run from 5 – 10 July 2016. For further information or to buy tickets, please visit the RHS website at www.rhs.org.uk/hamptoncourt

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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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