Langport iris

kelways nursery 91

It is probably an odd time to post about iris except, of course, that now is the time to divide your crowded clumps of bearded iris so they have time to make roots and get settled before winter. But because scanning has uncovered plant photos as well as myriad other oddities, and these photos came to light, I thought I would mention some. It was a trip to Kelway’s at Langport, Somerset when the company was, from memory, restructured and was giving itself a boost. In fact Kelway’s were a company I had used years before – I think it was my first ever big mail order purchase and it included peonies. The company was founded by James Kelway in 1851 and from the original 2 acres he finally had more than 200 planted with peonies and other plants and vegetables. His first love was gladioli but it was the peonies that were to make the company famous.

kelways catalogue 1897

Kelway’s were world famous for their peonies and their fields at Langport, in peony valley, where new and old varieties were planted, were open to the public at bloom time and the London-Penzance railway line that passed the end of the field, had a seasonal stop in June each year – Peony Valley Halt – so that people could get off and have a stroll to break their journey!

kelways catalogue inside

But back to the iris. The ‘Langport’ iris are relatively new as far as the company is concerned and were bred and introduced in the 1970s, mostly bred by John Lloyd. Oddly, the American Iris Society, which is the international iris register, gives the introducer of most as John Black – I mention this only to cover myself for errors! What is also strange is that most were not officially registered and none of those I illustrate are on their list. These were all taken at the nursery in about 1980.

'Langport Pansy'

‘Langport Pansy’

All the ‘Langport’ iris are Intermediate Bearded iris which means they flower between the Standard Dwarf Bearded and the Tall Bearded iris. Compared to more modern varieties their flowers are all rather small and strappy and look more like the flowers of SDBs. To be honest, I have never had the passion for IBs that I have had for other sections but they do have pretty flowers at a useful height, are usually easy to grow and they never need staking. To be ‘in category’ they should be between 41-70cm high when in bloom.

'Langport Robin'

‘Langport Robin’ is a pretty thing but not as well known as the dusky ‘Langport Wren’


'Langport Romance'

‘Langport Romance’


'Langport Tart'

‘Langport Tart’


'Langport Princess'

‘Langport Princess’


'Langport Tempest'

‘Langport Tempest’

There are about 20 varieties extant though I think more were introduced.

'Langport Pagan'

‘Langport Pagan’

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6 Comments on “Langport iris”

  1. sueturner31
    August 20, 2016 at 9:55 am #

    Another gem …the pictures are amazing, can’t believe how crystal sharp they are….

    • thebikinggardener
      August 21, 2016 at 9:17 am #

      thank you – though they are not as good as I would like – but then they are a bit old and have been scanned.

  2. derrickjknight
    August 20, 2016 at 10:15 am #

    Such variety

  3. Naomi Long
    April 28, 2020 at 2:29 pm #

    Hi there. I was very interested to read this because I collect Langport irises – I live near Langport, Somerset (my dad was born in a village nearby) so I’d often bike over to Kelways and have been trying to buy any of their Langport varieties, but they aren’t always available on their website, you usually have to go to the nursery. I’m mainly writing this because my Langport Storm flowered today and it reminded me. I have Langport Lady, Langport Pearl, Langport Wren, Langport Storm and Langport Hope. I’m not sure that they are even widely available at Kelways now, much like East Lambrook Nurseries don’t always have their Lambrook or Margery Fish cultivars so I try to keep some stock in my garden so they don’t get lost.

    • thebikinggardener
      April 29, 2020 at 2:52 pm #

      thank you for writing. It is good that you are bothering to collect and keep these lovely iris. It is a pity that Langport do not stock them since the company was so famous for iris and peonies.

    • Andrew King
      June 10, 2022 at 1:27 am #

      Hi Naomi – I have a friend who also lives near Langport. We are trying to collect them too. We have: Langports Claret, Flame, Jane, Star, Storm, Wren and possibly Warrior. Be good to get in touch if you are still collecting

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