Iris A-Z: S

‘San Francisco’

I am going to break my first rule when I started these iris and split S over two days, partly because the end of the alphabet gets a bit thin so I may combine letters there. So here we go with ‘San Francisco’, raised by William Mohr of California and introduced in 1927. It is a typical old plicata and is a bit of a giant, blooming at 112cm. It must have made quite an impact because it got the Dykes Medal in the year of introduction in 1927. Cooley’s catalogue at the time said ‘No other plicata approaches it in size and grandeur.

‘Saxon Surprise’

My arbitrary selection of iris has been almost devoid of UK-raised iris which may give the, false, impression that they not were raised anywhere but America. This is far from true and 100 years ago Arthur Bliss was at the forefront of iris breeding and his work was continued by many others. I will address this irrational omission with an iris raised by Richard Bird of Oulton Broad, Suffolk.

This is ‘Saxon Surprise’ which I had many years ago but no longer I am afraid. I am not sure if it was ever sold but it was registered and I obtained it because I was interested in Remontant iris several decades ago. My interest started because I was putting together an exhibit at an autumn RHS show and had a clump of Iris tectorum that was blooming, way out of season. I still remember the comments saying that this was not possible and that I must have done something to the plants and it fuelled an interest in iris that bloom later than, and as well as not instead of, usual. I somehow made contact with Richard’s widow who lived a few miles away from my family home in Lowestoft and visited her while visiting my grandparents and she gave me a piece of ‘Saxon Surprise’. He had busied himself breeding remontant iris, with some success. Lots of American and Australian remontants did/do not always rebloom well in our cooler climate with a shorter growing season, often sending up flower spikes too late to develop before the frost. But ‘Saxon Surprise’ did rebloom well. In fairness, the flowers were not extraordinary for the 1986 introduction date but he did achieve his goal in producing an attractive iris that rebloomed.

‘Staten Island’

Kenneth Smith (1896-1965) was a prolific and important iris hybridiser and one of his most important seedlings he named after his home’s location on Staten Island. This iris was introduced in 1945 and it was quickly regarded as a huge step in the development of Variegata iris with bright colouring. The shape of the flower is still a bit thin but the brightness of the yellow standards was a vast improvement over its predecessors.

‘Six Pack’

I am indulging the odder iris today and will feature more ‘normal’ iris tomorrow so here we have a flat iris with no standards and six falls, resembling a Japanese iris. This is ‘Six Pack’, raised by Kentucky-based George Slade and introduced in 1984. Because of the lovely, soft colouring, this seems to work very well to me and it is sweetly scented too.

‘Special Feature’

This was raised by Californian Manley Osborne who specialised in Space Age iris and it was introduced in 1988. It is a rich, ruffled violet blue and reliably produces large flounces at the ends of the beards. It was bred from his influental ‘Skyhooks’ which was used by lots of breeders to add horns and flounces to their seedlings.

‘Starship Enterprise’

I am not sure what the link is here with Captain Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard but for me the name sticks. I am not sure exactly how important a name is to the success of a plant but I confess that it does influence me in my selection sometimes. I did buy hosta ‘Captain Kirk’ because of the name but I wouldn’t have bought it if I had hated the plant. On the other hand I would never plant corydalis ‘Tory MP’ even though it is lovely. Of course I would by a plant called ‘Boris’. NO. I lied or did I? – how appropriate!

‘Starship Enterprise’ was probably a good name because most people are aware of Star Trek and the colouring of this iris is quite distinctive, though possibly not ‘other worldly’. It is a Schreiners introduction from 1999 and certainly an eye-catcher.

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4 Comments on “Iris A-Z: S”

  1. tonytomeo
    February 17, 2022 at 1:32 am #

    Ah, San Francisco!

  2. Clare Pooley
    February 17, 2022 at 6:19 pm #

    Re. Starship Enterprise. My husband used to watch all the different Star Trek series and I think in one of them the uniforms had those colours – a yellow and a plummy-maroon. The Star Trek series and the date of the iris introduction might tally.
    I love the colours of Saxon Surprise.

    • thebikinggardener
      February 20, 2022 at 9:19 am #

      That would make sense and despite watching all the series multiple times I had not thought of that. Thank you for the suggestion

      • Clare Pooley
        February 20, 2022 at 2:09 pm #

        My pleasure. It was those details I was more interested in rather than the story, to my husband’s disappointment 😀

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