THEY say there is nothing new under the sun. That is a very sweeping statement, and like most sweeping statements, not true. It would be truer to say there is very little new under the sun. And this would be as true of plants as of most things. We often speak of a "new" plant. What we really mean is that the plant is new to us, or to our own horticultural world. But more often than not the plant is centuries—ages —old. In some part of the world it has been growing wild since before the time primitive man walked the earth. It may be new to the gardens of the world, or, what is more usual, to our country's gardens.
I well remember showing a woman gardener around my garden one day, and as she came to any plant she did not know, she asked: "Is that new?" Well, I stood it for awhile, and then, my patience evaporating. I asked her: "What do you mean by 'new'? Do you mean is it new to cultivation, or new to New Zealand, or do you really mean new?" For all the plants at which she was looking were wild plants, collected in other countries, and only cultivated in my garden,
A new plant is one that is new not only to horticulture, but to the world, and these plants may be obtained by an occasional "break" amongst wild plants, or a natural hybrid, by which is meant a plant that is the progeny of a cross occurring amongst wild plants, and resulting accidental cross-pollination between two related plants. Or again a new plant can be obtained by artificial cross pollination. These man-made plants are called garden hybrids, and are quite strictly "new" plants during an indefinite number of years, until, in fact, they have been distributed and grown in other gardens.
We are getting very used to new plants in these days of specialised gardeners, who are frequently offering us new gladioli, new roses, new irises, new pansies, etc., etc. It takes something very novel or very beautiful, to give us a real thrill, but during the last few years I have experienced a real thrill out of seeing two new Bearded Irises. I saw them in Mrs W. R. Stevens garden at Wanganui, and realise they are not yet available to the gardener in New Zealand, but I believe they will become available within the next few years, and since a peep into the future is always intriguing, I should like to tell you about them. In fact I can do even better than that, for this month's "New Zealand Gardener" is illustrating one of them on its cover.
This illustration is from a natural colour photograph. Having seen it I feel I should like to comment briefly on this colour plate. The plate is an extremely good one, but as in all colour plates I have seen the yellow appears to have gained a slightly orange cast. The name of the iris is Pinnacle, and it was raised by Mrs. Stevens. As I saw it the standards of the flower were dead white, and the falls light lemon yellow.
This variety Pinnacle was what is called a planned cross, that is the breeder started out to raise just such an iris. The original parent was a creamy white flower, with faint gold pencilling at the shaft of the fall, and a series of crosses was embarked on with the idea of breeding a white and yellow bicolour iris. Pinnacle is the result of generations of breeding. Its lovely flower has most of the iris virtues in full measure, heavy substance, clean colour, lovely attractive form, and large size. Mrs. Stevens assures me it also has a good constitution, and is a quick increaser.
The other new iris of which I promised to tell was, in fact, rather a new family of Bearded Irises, as there are quite a number now in this group of the ethereally lovely new pale pink irises. American breeders have made the greatest progress in this colour class, though the colour "break" has also occurred amongst the English raisers' seedlings. These new pale pinks bear no resemblance to what we have in the past called pink irises, that is, orchid pinks, or lilac pink with the warming influence of lemon or yellow undertone or blending.
The new pinks all have pink buds, and share another feature also, a bright brick-red, flame, or tangerine beard. Of these pinks, the best are perhaps Dr. Loomis's Sea Shell Pinks, and Mr. Dave Hall's Flamingo pinks.
They vary in the different named varieties, but all are definitely true pale pinks. Last year I saw one of Mr. Hall's unnamed Flamingo Pinks seedlings flowering at Mrs. Stevens. The colour of this was the colour of the flesh of a watermelon, with just that frosted iridescence. The lovely tangerine beard blends most sympathetically with the delicate toning. I understand that Dr. Loomis's, 'Spindthrift' is due to flower in this garden next November. In America it is rated the best of the Sea Shell Pinks.
I believe Mrs. Stevens has embarked on a new line of crossing, combining these two new irises, and hopes in time to obtain a flower with white standards and pale pink falls. Such a combination, particularly if she manages to retain the tangerine beard, will be exquisite.
The above Article is a complete unedited facsimile and is courtesy of New Zealand Gardener September 1947
"Irisarian" is one of the pen names used by Wally Stevens (Jeans husband) who also wrote under another pen name Silver Birch. The above photo on the cover was in all probability the first published image of "Pinnacle" and the first introduction of the variety to the gardening public published 2 years before its international coordinated sale in 1949 by Stevens Bros. for the New Zealand and Australian market, Schreiners for the North American market , and Orpington Nurseries and Co. for the English market, all of this some 2½ years before the inception of the New Zealand Iris Society.
Big Top hat tip to fellow blogger Gareth Winter for his considered thoughts and help.
As always clicking on the above image will take you to the larger, higher resolution version.