Saturday, January 31, 2009

Early Siberian Iris History

Siberian Iris have a limited early history in Hybridising. It maybe interesting to collectors of historic Irises that, only 157 Siberian Irises were recorded up to and including the year 1960 by the AIS checklists. Of these according to the AIS 1939 Checklist only 20 Siberian hybrids were in commerce or registered before 1920.(not including species) Some entries in the 1939 Checklist are not listed in the Cumulative Check List of Siberian Irises Some Irises catalogued by commercial growers do not appear in either Checklist so the above figures can only be considered provisional but give a reasonable indication the limited size of early Siberian plant breeding history when compared to Tall Bearded Iris over the same era.
An Example of checklist problems includes the above Photo and the Show information below and is courtesy of the British Iris Society Year Book 1937.

Iris Society's Show 1937,List of Trophies and Medals Awarded other than for new Seedlings, Lady Byng of Vimy was awarded The Spender Challenge Trophy for Iris Sibirica Division V (class16) 6 varieties of Iris sibirica and/or Iris orientalis and their hybrids not more than 12 spikes each vase.
Varieties in the prize winning exhibit of Viscountess Byng are as follows, Thorpe Aquamarine, Thorpe Azure, Thorpe Glory, Thorpe Purple, Thorpe Sapphire, Thorpe Turquoise.

All of these varieties are listed in the 1939 AIS check list, but not listed in Cumulative Check List of Siberian Irises, yet they are well documented.
Varieties prefix is in reference to Thorpe Hall, Thorpe-le-Soken, England. Described as a plant and shrub garden covering about 12 hectares, laid out between 1913 and 1945 with formal and informal features including lawns, pools and lakes, rock garden, rose garden and sunken garden developed by the owner, Lady Byng, from 1913 onwards. Garden still exists and should some enterprising Historic Iris enthusiast take the time could find the above varieties still growing in the grounds today. Happy Hunting

Iris plant History will always be a work in progress and will never be considered definitive.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Siberian Iris 'ROARING JELLY'

No feature on Siberian Irises would be complete without including 'ROARING JELLY'.
In New Zealand it was originally imported from America by Eddie Johns of Otara Birch Gardens fame (Shows he has good taste) and in gardens where it grows it still is a sensation.
This Iris consistently features in the Siberian Iris Society 'Favourite Cultivars List' year on year which is voted by the society members. Awarded the Morgan Wood Medal in 1999

Paul Black, now he knows a thing or two about Irises had this to say about Roaring Jelly in his 2005 Mid America Garden Catalogue 'Oh so yummy, the finest Siberian we grow, WOW'

From the Joe Pye Weed's Garden Catalogue 2008
ROARING JELLY - '92, M & RE, 36". Makes a magnificent clump! Falls dappled bright raspberry with pale lavender standards lightly dappled. Flowers full, round and slightly
recurved. Strong repeat. Morgan-Wood Medal '99.

2006 Cumulative Check List of Siberian Irises
ROARING JELLY Schafer, Marty and Sacks, Jan Reg. 1992 Sdlg 86-36-1 SIB (dip.) (36" 91 cm) M & re S. lavender-grey (RHS 85D) with diffused red-purple veins; style arms same, flushed blue-aqua; F. shaded and dappled throughout (overall effect is red-purple maroon), white signal with dark veining and dark blue flush. Warburton ARV82-31: ((Atoll x Ruffled Velvet) x Ruffled Velvet) X Springs Brook. Joe Pye Weed's Garden 1992 HM 1995; AM 1997; MORGAN-WOOD MEDAL 1999

Available in America from Joe Pye Weed's Garden, and also Iris City Gardens.
I am sure there are many other suppliers around the world and visitor's could try and search Google

Big Hat tip to Jan and Marty from Joe Pye Weed's Garden for photo and information

Photo Copyright Schafer/Sacks

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Siberian Iris 'RAUCHBLAU '

An Iris I have always admired from the day I first saw it RAUCHBLAU is a very classy tetraploid Siberian introduction from Tomas Tamberg
Available for Spring delivery from both Tomas Tamberg's Garden in Germany and Joe Pye Weed's Garden in America. To receive Spring delivery of Siberian Irises from Tomas Tamberg orders must be received no later than the 31st of March, 2009, Joe Pye Weeds Catalogue states that you can chose an April, August or September delivery date.

Joe Pye Weed's Garden Catalog 2009
RAUCHBLAU (Tamberg 2007)
A large flowered tetraploid Sibirica derived from a cross between a mottled seedling, called "Milky Way seedling", and a pure white Tetra-Sibirica. Falls are ruffled and show a smoky blue colour. Standards and style arms are of a lighter blue resulting in a special clump effect of this variety. The flower stems are strong, up to 90 cm high and produce a side branch. A vigorous and fertile new introduction

Siberian Iris Society Checklist
RAUCHBLAU (Tomas Tamberg 2007) Sdlg. SSTT669 SIB (tet) 35" (90cm) M S. style arms and F. light blue. F. dappled darker blue. (Blue Reverie X (Zweites Hundert X Dear Dianne)) X white tet sdlg. Tamberg 2007

Big Hat tip to Tomas for the great clump shot and information and to Jan and Marty from Joe Pye Weed's Garden

Photo Copyright T. Tamberg

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It give's me no end of pleasure to share with you all this fantastic 2009 Dunlop & Cole introduction "Another Pretty Face' with its dark blue black buds which when opened reveal an absolutely 'Top Class' Siberian, iridescent blue-violet coloured with red-violet highlights.

Fieldstone Gardens 2009 Catalog
ANOTHER PRETTY FACE Jeff Dunlop, R.2008). Sdlg. 99256-2T. SIB (tet), 28” (71cm), Mid thru Late season. A lovely new blue-violet with red-violet highlights. Standards are violet (RHS 87A). Style arms similar with red-violet infusions and slightly darker keels. Fall are blue-violet and a little deeper colored than the standards and styles (89B/C). Small yellow-white signals and yellow hafts. Pleasing and well ruffled flowers. Stalks have one branch and 4 to 5 blooms. Proving to be a parent with interesting kids too. A nice red seedling, 96102-3T: (Harpswell Chanteuse x McEwen T8 87/80-1) X Strawberry Fair. Dunlop & Cole, Fieldstone Gardens, 2009.

Cumulative Checklist of Siberian Irises
ANOTHER PRETTY FACE  Jeff Dunlop, Reg. 2008  Sdlg. 99256-2T. SIB (tet.), 28" (71 cm), ML ; S. blue violet infused red-violet (RHS 87A); style arms same, slightly darker at keel; F. blue violet (89B/C), slightly darker than S. and style arms, yellow hafts, small yellow-white signal; ruffled. 96102-3T: (Harpswell Chanteuse x McEwen T7 87/80-1) X Strawberry Fair. Fieldstone 2009.

Available this season Exclusively from Fieldstone Gardens

Big hat tip to Jeff Dunlop for sharing Information and photo
Photo Copyright Jeff Dunlop
Visitors are welcome to click on any photo to view a larger image

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, and Grow Siberian Iris

'Fond Kiss' Courtesy Joe Pye Weed Garden

Today starts the series "Siberian Iris"
Photo above "Fond Kiss' the Morgan Wood Medal winner for 2008 and my sincere congratulations to Jan Sacks and Marty Schafer of Joe Pye Weed's Garden fame. Plant can be ordered in America for April delivery from Joe Pye Weed's Garden.Order Early, I am sure it will be popular.

Description from JPW Catalog 2009.
FOND KISS - 1999, M & RE, 33". A big extravagant flower and an even more extravagant display. Warm white with a large pink flush on the falls. Three buds open in slow succession followed by repeat. AM’04

Fond Kiss was sold in New Zealand so it is growing somewhere in the Country I'm sure

The coming few weeks there will be post with information on "How to grow' and of course where to buy them from. Plus we have been sent some amazing Siberian Iris photos most from the hybridisers themselves. Siberians are sold in the US of A in the Spring and Fall and by Tomas Tamberg in Germany in Spring. In New Zealand Siberians are sold in the Autumn so with the Spring next up in the Northern Hemisphere, and with Autumn next up in the Southern part of the World we can promote the Irises and no one will have to wait to long for their plants to arrive. Visitors will also note a New Siberian Iris Link on the left side column this will make it easier for visitors to link with the growers Web Sites and the Siberian Iris Society for the period of this series of posts.

So "Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, and Grow Siberian Iris" I guarantee they will brighten up your day and the garden no end.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Intermediate Bearded Iris 'Confederate Soldier'

An Historic Intermediate Iris that is in our collection is a distinctive plicata colour tone not often seen a lot in bearded Irises, well described in checklist description below as a lavender, grey, blue. Clumps up well with an abundance of bloom stalks.

Nichols Iris Gardens 1978 Median Introductions

CONFEDERATE SOLDIER IB 18" (Lucy Lee x Rococo) X Knotty Pine.
Well formed and ruffled lavender-gray-blue plicata with orange beards. Fine branching. Fertile 5-6 buds

The Iris Yearbook (BIS), 1990, “Shorter Bearded Irises in 1990”, page 61, C.E.C. Bartlett.
A much overlooked shorter IB is 'Confederate Soldier' (H.Nichols '74) a white ground, greyed mauve plicata which is absolutely reliable, typically with five buds per stalk and frequently more than one stalk per rhizome.

1979 AIS Checklist
CONFEDERATE SOLDIER (H. Nichols, R. 1974). Sdlg. 22115A. IB 16" (41 cm) M-L. S. lavender-grey-blue; F. white, banded lavender-grey-blue; orange and white beard. (Lucy Lee x Rococo) X Knotty Pine., Cordon Bleu 1978.

Available in the USA from International Iris

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

Photo Credit and Copyright Iris Hunter
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Monday, January 19, 2009

Historic Iris "BRIDE"

THE BRIDE or BRIDE is a historic dwarf Iris that grows very well here at home.It is somewhat special to have a very small part of early British iris breeding history in the collection.
Originally classified by John W.Caparne as a 'New Intermediate' in his catalogue 'The Iris Plant and Bulb Co'. St.Martin's Guernsey 1903 Catalogue.
I am not 100% certain that the 1929 checklist pedigree shown below is in fact correct as 'Candida' is listed as 1920 introduction

AIS Checklist 1929
BRIDE Caparne, 1901 DB, 7", E, W4 (Statellae X Candida), AM RHS 1927

From the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society. Bearded Iris Tried at Wisley 1925-1927 page 120
Dwarf Varieties (5 to 6 inches)
Of moderate vigour and rapid increase. Foliage green, 5 to 6 inches 2 fld. Flowers small well proportioned, stiff. standards somewhat domed, 2 X 1⅜ inch; falls hanging straight 1⅜ X 1⅜ inch: white with faint bluish tinge. Flowering for a fortnight from May 5th 1927 Raised by Messrs.Caparne Sent by Messrs. Barr

The Iris Plant and Bulb Co. St.Martin's Guernsey Catalogue 1903
BRIDE (Caparne 1899)
Pure white Self, with a white to primrose beard.

Lee R. Bonnewitz 1928 Catalog p25; DWARF IRISES
White .......... $0.35

John William Caparne work in median Irises is still today less well-known than it deserves. Long before the British or American Irises Societies were even contemplated he was breeding and promoting Iris. A personal friend of Sir Michael Foster who commissioned illustrations by Caparne for his works and many appear in Sir Michael's 1892 book 'Bulbous Irises' where he states "Those figures which bear the name 'Caparn' were most kindly drawn for me by my friend Mr. J. W. Caparn, of Oundle."
Caparne was a talented artist whose introduction to Irises came from a desire to paint them.
W.R Dykes in 'The Handbook of Garden Irises',1924 "Within the last few years some growers have attempted to enlarge the Intermediate section by including in it such early flowering varieties as florentina, Siwas, Kochii and Karput. The term intermediate was probably first used in this connection by Caparne and he certainly understood by it dwarfer varieties than these. He defined it, in fact, as meaning an Iris of the size and growth of a large chamaeiris but with flowers the size of atropurpurea or Kharput."

"The Bride" is available in New Zealand from Kingswood Irises
Will no doubt post more on John William Caparne at a later date.
As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.
Photo Credit and Copyright Iris Hunter

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tall Bearded Iris "OLD BLACK MAGIC "

"That old black magic has me in it's spell."

I was very pleased to be given this Iris by Julie May of The Iris Garden when I was last in Christchurch working. Photo taken as the early morning sun casts its rays across the garden creating the bright light and long shadows making the iris sparkle.
Black is the stand out colour in any plant variety and whilst most 'Black' irises have a purple or red tone a true black is not that far away. I like the colour a lot and having just checked the database of plants growing at home I see that there are 49 black varieties listed with 3 new varieties to arrive this year, twenty one of these varieties have been hybridised by Schreiner's.

The well respected 'Perry Dyer' writes in his Contemporary Views 1994-95.
"My favorite of the hundreds of reselect's which l evaluated in Oregon was one of the highly advanced blacks: Schreiner Seedling #AA401-A (now named "OLD BLACK MAGIC", a 1996 introduction). The saturation is as deep as that of 'Hello Darkness' (Schreiner) with waved horizontal falls. Beards are also black, discreetly tipped mustard. More sultry than shiny, and the overall plant habits and quality of stalks will surely make this seedling yet one more player in the Schreiner's family's quest for the 'ultimate black'."

From Schreiners 2002 Iris Lovers Catalog
Coal black color and mysterious yellow beards. Although smaller flowered, it makes up for size by producing a plethora of buds (8-12 per stem) Add the pleasant scent of sweet raisins and you have an irresistible combinationThe introduction of the Iris BLACK FOREST in 1945 was the beginning's of the magnificent Schreiners legacy of hybridising top class, Black and Dark Violet Irises which continues today with their 2009 introduction ' DRACULA'S KISS', their first red bearded dark Iris.

AIS Checklist 1998 
OLD BLACK MAGIC Schreiner 1996 EM 36" 91cm Lightly ruffled coal black self; beards yellow; pronounced sweet fragrance. Midnight Dancer X Back in Black HM'98, AM'00

'Old Black Magic' is available in New Zealand from The Iris Garden, and Amazing Iris Garden. In America it is available of course from Schreiner's, but Generally in America all one has to do is google this variety and find there are many sellers of the iris, such is its popularity. 

Click on any photo to view a larger image.
Photo Credit and Copyright Iris Hunter

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tall Bearded Iris "IMPRIMIS "

Purchased this Iris last season and I am mighty glad I did, I just love irises that push the Envelope in colour tones and form. The slightly fragrant 'Imprimis' has came back into vogue in some breeding circles and Dave Niswonger recently used it as the Pollen Parent on his 2000 Introduction MILK ON APRICOTS which is a startling Amoena

So we may as well see what the man himself has to say about it, Barry Blyth writes his opinion in his 
Tempo Two Catalogue1994-95
One of our favourites and sure to please those looking for something different. The name means "In the First Place'. The standards are icy oyster and the falls are smoky rose and the beards are bronze with tangerine in the throat. Wide and ruffled with super branching. Will win on the show bench. It is a super parent and it has nice light perfume. (Reciprocal cross of Breezes).

AIS Checklist 1999
IMPRIMIS (Barry Blyth, R. 1991). Seedling Y6-6. TB, 40" (102 cm), Early thru mid bloom season. Standards icy oyster; falls smoky rose; beards bronze tangerine; slight fragrance. ((Inca Queen x (Tranquil Star x (Love Chant x Festive Skirt))) x Amber Snow) X ((Alpine Journey x Beachgirl) x ((Beachgirl x (Tranquil Star x Coral Strand)) x (Persian Smoke x Chimbolam))). Tempo Two 1992/93.

In America it is Available from Schreiners Iris Gardens and Wildwood Gardens

Photo Credit and Copyright Iris Hunter

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Toadstool Thou Art




.“In the vaunted works of Art, The master-stroke is Nature's part”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (American Poet, Lecturer and Essayist, 1803-1882)

A Toadstool that turned into a living sculpture. Growth contortions caused by to much moisture after a long dry period.
Photo taken New Years Day at Otara Birch Gardens. Click on any photo to view a larger image

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Tall Bearded Historic Iris "WHITE CITY "

"To me, the sight of a large clump-perhaps a dozen or eighteen spikes of 'WHITE CITY', standing up tall and straight with no hint of support, with cool, clean, perfectly distributed flowers, no frills, no fripperies, completely self-reliant, imperious and serene, is the highlight of any iris garden." 
Tall Bearded Irises; A colour Symposium; White Irises; C Shackleton P57; BIS The Iris Year Book 1949

'WHITE CITY' A white heirloom iris flowering in New Zealand this season. I had found the iris growing outside an old villa in Greytown (A town not far from me) The buds before opening are a soft cool blue that open cool blue then turning white. Delicate ginger veining at the base of the hafts. Blooms have a habit of becoming more dog eared the older the bloom becomes. Bloom stalks are 40", wide branching and good bud count. Contrasting yellow blue/white tipped beard. Slight sweet perfume, Early to Mid season flowering. Foliage is a glaucous green clean wide leaf.
An Historical iris with tailored elegant flowers. To me it is breathtaking in its simplicity,truly one of the finest heirloom irises in my entire collection and is greatly admired by all.
Fertile, Sets seed readily, and has produced two large seed pod's after this year's flowering. Received an Award of Merit and Dykes Medal in 1940,and was highly praised both in England and in America. Raised by Mrs Olive Murrell the co-owner with her husband Major P. B. Murrell of Orpington Nurseries . Olive Murrell also raised many Irises over the years; among others MOOMBEAM, EVERLYN BENSON, SHOT SILK, HONOR STERNDALE, and CLEO. Acknowledged as an observant and reliable judge of irises who had a wonderful knowledge for parentage, colour-points and raisers of Irises. Widely renowned for her generosity, encouragement, and in introducing many new seedlings from new and up incoming hybridisers. Her links with New Zealand were strong and Introduced many of Jean Stevens varieties, DESTINY, RANGATIRA, INSPIRATION among others, also introduced NINA LEVETT, Raised by Miss.P.Levett of the township,Bulls, NZ.
'White City' was awarded the Dykes Medal in 1940 just three years after it was Registered in 1937, but it probably never received the international commercial success it truly deserved due to the Iris been released just prior to World War 2. During the war, Iris nurseries in England had their plants ploughed under and the land converted to growing food crops and it took many years after the War for the Iris Nurseries to re-establish themselves and to start hybridising at the pre-war level again.

Orpington Nurseries 1945 advertisement

Hill Iris and Peony Farm, Lafontaine, Kansas 1946.
WHITE CITY (Murrell 1939) English Dykes 1940 Medal. White with flaring foem and wide branching, some blue on center of falls with frosty lustre. Strong. $4.00

Cooleys Gardens Catalog 1946
WHITE CITY (Murrell 1939)
Dykes medal winner in England in 1940. An immense flower of blue-white with a deeper blue flush at the heart. A stalwart grower, the great flowers possessing a silken finish and ice cold effect AM AIS 1945

Stevens Bros. Catalogue, Bastia Hill, Wanganui; New Zealand. Novelties 1947-48.
WHITE CITY (Murrell, England)
This is the best iris to come out of England in the last ten years.. It was awarded the Dykes Medal in that country. The large, beautifully formed flowers have that carved precise styling that lays undisputed claim to genuine quality. The colour is white, blue-shadowed on opening and the branching is perfect. 3½ ft. 25/-

Schreiners Iris Lovers Catalog 1948
WHITE CITY (Murrell 1939) E.M. 42"
Immense flowers of silken blue-white with a flush of plumbago-blue around the heart of its stiff stalwart bloom. Crisp finish and ice cold effect of the blooms is very striking.

Orpington Irises 1963 catalogue
WHITE CITY (Murrell 1939)This superb white iris has more than justified the admiration it first created.The immense blooms are white with the faintest flush of plumbago blue when first opened. Sweetly scented. 4 ft.

My Wartime Collection : G. L. Pilkington BIS The Iris Year Book 1945
WHITE CITY (Murrell 1939) As near perfect as you could wish for, but it's a real cold white- in fact it opens pale blue almost but has grand 'form' and is a good 'doer'

An Appeal to British Hybridisers from New Zealand Charles A. Thomas BIS The Iris Year Book 1963.
The writer of this note lives in New Zealand a country famed for its climate and strong winds which are the despair of all those iris growers who go for the modern varieties with their huge flowers and tall stalks which invariably require staking. A number of years ago the late Mrs Olive Murrell sent me a rhizome of WHITE CITY. This was a success from the start. It increased rapidly and grew strongly, but above all it stood up to the New Zealand weather. After one particularly bad storm an inspection of the beds showed that at least 80% of the tall irises were down and required staking whereas every stalk of WHITE CITY was erect and looking as if it was proud to be alive. One realises that WHITE CITY can no longer be classed as an up-to-date iris, but if some of its qualities could be injected into a number of the more recent introductions it would be all to the good. As a lover and grower of the Genus Iris for approximately 40 years may I in conclusion, appeal to British hybridisers to make 'conservative perfectionism' their watchword for the future.

Irises A Gardener's Encyclopedia; Claire Austin
Iris 'White City'
This smoothly shaped white flower is touched with a hint of blue. The standards are gently ruffled, and the flaring falls curl up around the edges. The white beards are brushed with yellow, and a few brown stripes emerge from the hafts. Each flower is perfectly balanced against the other.

1939 AIS Checklist
WHITE CITY (Murrell 1939) TB- M-WW Orp. 1939 R.1937 (Pagent X Pervaneh), Silver Medal I.S 1937 AIS AM 1945, British Dykes Medal 1940 Many thanks to the British Iris Society Yearbooks (my collection from 1924 No1 to 2009) and their detailed Articles and observations that make the ID of British Irises just that much easier and a massive hat tip to Sarah Cook and Phil Edinger for the interaction of thoughts and discussion's concerning the above.

 A year or so ago an iris listed as WHITE CITY was sold on Trade Me in New Zealand although it has a white colouration this was the only thing it had in common with its namesake. Makes one wonder who purchased this impostor (obviously not someone who has any knowledge of Historic Irises) and will the iris wrongly labeled as WC be past on or traded with the name, only to spread and increase an Iris with a contentious name. Sometimes to ID irises is a lot like beating a dead snake.

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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