Historic Irises For Period Gardens

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HIPS, and the office of the Commercial Source Chairman, support historical accuracy in the restoration or creation of period gardens, and, whether you are an institution or a private individual, we will be happy to help you select and find beautiful and appropriate irises of all kinds for your project. While you are gathering your thoughts and making your plans, it may be helpful to bear a few basic things in mind.

First: Irises have been used in European gardens since earliest times, although named hybrid irises as we know them became available only in the mid-nineteenth century. By the turn of the century major advances were being made in hybridizing and iris culture and many new irises became available to gardeners and landscape designers here and abroad. There are quite a few surviving historic irises from all periods, and many of these are beautiful, hardy survivors, and excellent garden perennials.

Second: With the exception of gardens of iris enthusiasts known to have grown the most recent cultivars, or gardens very close to the originating nursery, HIPS generally assumes a period of about ten years between the introduction of an iris into commerce and its arrival into broad commerce and most gardens. Named iris clones are vegetatively propagated and it takes a while for enough rhizomes of newer varieties to move through the channels of distribution to regional nurseries and then into individual gardens. Thus, a named iris cultivar dated 1900 would not be suitable for many 1900 gardens, but is suitable for one dated 1910-15.

Third: There is a tendency to forget an obvious fact: in the last analysis one can only re-plant those cultivars which actually survive today, so original plant lists for restoration projects must often be adjusted and substitutions made based on informed speculation and contemporary documentation. Although the authority of original plant lists and other documents should be respected, one may eventually encounter and have to deal with this limiting factor.

Fourth: Not many historic irises are grown by specialist nurseries in exceptionally large quantities. Those requiring large numbers of some historic irises for extensive plantings should be prepared to obtain lesser numbers of plants and grow them on for increase when necessary.

We welcome your inquiries.
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