Today is an especially random collection of iris I am afraid but it starts with what is, for no logical reason, one of my favourites. It is a ‘Variegata’, that is, with purple falls and yellow standards. By modern standards it is small-flowered and rather dull. But it has the habit of what is now regarded as a Miniature Tall Bearded (MTB), is as cute as a button and makes a good show with vigorous clumps. It was originally classified as a TB but is now thought of as a MTB. It is also very old which, for some reason, endears it to me. I first grew it at Myddelton House where it had pride of place at the far left of all the iris beds because it was the first in chronological order.
‘Gracchus’ was introduced by Thomas Ware of Tottenham, London, in 1884. The nursery was famous for rare plants and was not an iris nursery as such. They introduced a dozen or so iris and I am not sure if they actually raised the plats themselves. Early catalogue descriptions describe it as canary yellow and ‘vivid red’ which is a bit of a stretch. But I don’t care, it is a lovely plant and I would love to have it again. Of all the old iris I used to grow, this is the one I miss most.
Coming a bit more up to date, but not a lot, we have ‘Great Lakes’. You can see from the narrow and droopy falls that this is not modern. But there is a school of thought that drooping falls make a better show, from a distance, than horizontal falls, which are best seen from above or close by. ‘Great Lakes’ was bred by Lyman Cousins of Ontario, Canada. He was not prolific but that hardly matters when this one iris, introduced in 1938 gained the American Dykes Medal in 1942. It was the first of his thousands of seedlings he introduced. Wayside Gardens Catalogue 1949 wrote ‘this is about the finest light pure blue. Of splendid mein with a pronounced flare, stiff, crispy petal texture, it is strikingly fine. Fine stems of good height, well branched, Rugged and hardy, we highly recommend it.’ *
We are back to Brad Kasperek and his unusually named broken iris again after a break of a few days with ‘Giraffe Kneehiz’ introduced in 1996. The standards show some splashing or streaking but it is the falls that are the most distinctive.
This is possibly the most famous of the Kasperek splashed Iris. Introduced in 1993, in the same year as the slightly more fragrant ‘Gnu Blues’ it was followed in 1994 but the streaked purple ‘Gnu Again’ and ‘Gnus Flash’.
Introduced by Mid America Gardens in 2005 and bred by Thomas Johnson, this is one of those ‘Marmite’ iris that you either love or hate. I think that the blue suffusions in the standards bring something special to what would otherwise be a slightly dowdy iris, combined with the good shape and the mass of buds on the stems. I admit that some of these subtle colours don’t shout at you across the garden but they do add interest to a border and are useful for clever colour schemes – think haloragis ‘Wellington Bronze’, Rumex flexuosus and purple fennel.
*Catalogue description from Historic Iris Preservation Society