Reprint: Irises of French Origin

Robert S. Sturtevant, MA

A note on some of the newer Bearded Irises of French origin may be of interest. In the fall of 1918 I received a collection of about fifty varieties and these together with a number of others bloomed sufficiently well for a flower comparison at least, though many undoubtedly will prove more worthwhile in mass or as a well developed clump of two or three years standing.

In France whose nurserymen are so noted for horticultural developments in many lines, the Iris has received its mead of attention and Alcazar, Monsignor, Oriflamme and others, all introduced by Vilmorin, have done much to raise the standard. In the past, Verdier, Cayeux, Crouse and Lemoine are known, but at present Millet, Denis, and Vilmorin, Andrieux et Cie, are more closely connected with the iris.

As far as my records permit I shall consider the varieties from the same source as many of them do not lend themselves to the old group classification, particularly when blended, but far from squalid shades should be grouped under squalens.

M. Denis is a private grower, certain of whose productions may be found in our catalogues; Dalila, a velvety pink toned bicolor flushed with yellow is less attractive than it sounds; and Troost, Our King, and M. Aymard, of deepening old rose tints are not unlike Her Majesty in tone; Romeo is bright yellow with short vivid veins of purple below the beard, distinct but to me unattractive, and there are a whole group of madames, all plicatas but variously sanded and veined rather than bordered as in Mme Chereau or Ma Mie. Many of them are decorative but in the garden their color does not carry well. Mme Boullet is veined with dull violet, the cream ground flushed with lavender, Mme Bazes is not unlike, though clearer, with dull red reticulations and a tinge of mavue; in Mme Denis, the widely spaced violet veins and dots remind one of a daintily figured dimity while in Mme de Sévigné we find bright red-violet markings and flush after the fashion of the deeper Parisiana, (Vilmorin).

Belecoleur is old gold with dull lavender on the blade, an indeterminate tonation of no appeal. None of these are other than ordinary in size or height but the dear plicatas are nice. Leverrier has more size and I think its bronzed red-violet blooms will develop effectiveness; Madame Claude Monet is fine, almost the deep purple self of the early Kochii but large and of good height and Mile Schwartz and Arsace though more usual in color like pink-toned Caterinas are lovely too. These last three at least show Ricardi blood to advantage. Ricardi itself is apparently a form of mesopotamica and very close to cypriana and trojana in character; its variety Foncé has a delightfully crumpled texture and I should much like to see others of M. Denis’ Ricardi seedlings, as the few I know are of the best.

iris mady carriereMillet et Fils seems to consider habit, ease of growth and number of flowers, rather than height or size, and consequently, I expect the plants to show to better advantage in a mass. Col. Candelot has a brick red tone and we can only regret that its richness is not combined with good size; Armenien and Arlequin are similar in coloring to Leverrier while Delicatissima in pale pink-lavender and Corrida in blue are typically pallida though the latter with its upright standards and flaring falls has a marked crispness that should be wonderful in mass. Souvenir de la Grange is a mauve bi-color, Savignon, velvety and Mady Carriere interested me greatly as it is clearly of the same parentage as Afterglow (Sturtevant) though soft blue not yellow through the center – if your taste is educated to this delicate blend they will prove worthwhile. I have left to the last Souvenir de Mme Gaudichau as it is among the finest of the Bearded Irises. Unfortunately I have two forms under this name, both royal purple and of good size but one has a rich velvety fall that greatly enhances its value, this latter is probably true and only Archevêque in red-purple can equal the depth of its blue-purple.

The work, probably of S. Mottet, for Vilmorin, Andrieux et Cie remains to be considered. Their introductions are, many of them, well-known in this country and rated among the finest, although Eldorado, Tamerlan, Chérubin, and Parc de Neuilly, a plum purple self, are not so good in some respects. Of their newer things I have few. Further comparison is needed to judge between Opera, Ambigu, Dejazet, and Leverrier (Denis), though this year, the first was my choice, not tall but rich in color. Mme Guerville in lavender, Mercedes in rose with a tinge of cream, and Pancroft a creamy white just powdered with lilac, are not unlike the plicatas from M. Denis, but Madame Choban or Chobaut is the most lovely of all in its clean contrast of palest apricot with red bronze venation. I am hoping that quarantine 37 will allow me to import Magnifica and Ambassadeur, as Mr. J. C. Wister reports their worth, the former he describes as very large, lighter and with less of the blue than Alcazar and the latter as like a rich purple Dr. Bernice of great size and heavy substance.

Of all these as judged from one stalk of bloom, but few are firm in my memory. Gaudichau (as I shall abbreviate it), Madame Claude Monet, Mile Schwartz, Arsace, Opera and Leverrier, Corrida, Delicatissima, Mme de Savigne, and Mady Carriere, I well remember, but they are still on the waiting list. Shall they or shall they not join with my favorites among the older varieties Pallida Dalmatica, Iris King, Monsignor, and Alcazar? I wonder if the reports of the forthcoming Iris Society will second these reccomendations?

[ED Originally printed in The Flower Grower, 1920. Obtained from the Hutchinson Iris Society archives plus a little help from NAL in Beitsville, MD.]~ Reprinted from ROOTS, Vol 18, Issue 1, Spring 2005.