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