Les Iris Cultivés 1923 p. 96-98
Société National d'Horticulture de France Commision des Iris

HOW I OBTAINED VIGOUR AND BRANCHING HABIT IN IRIS RAISING
George YELD, M. A. Oxon.

A newly opened blossom of Pallida dalmatica, on a dewy morning, in June, forty years ago, awoke my interest in Irises. Soon after, I began to get together a collection of the best varieties at that time obtainable from MM. James Backhouse, of York, and the late M. Robert Parker, of Tooting. It was not very long before I began to think of raising new varieties, and it was a joyful day to me when I discovered, on my own initiative, how to do it. For years I used pallida and Queen of May (pallida) as my chief seed parents along with Gracchus (variegata) and other old varieties which I need not mention. Some of my seedlings of that period are still to be found in catalogues such as Sincerity, Memory (Award of Merit R.H.S.), Verbena, Oporto, Porsenna, Fay and others.

A visit to Professor (afterwards Sir Michael) Foster's garden, at Shelford, near Cambridge — the Mecca of Iris lovers, as it has been called — gave me a new inspiration. We spent the whole day in the garden, and the geniality of my host, his delightful humour, and his generosity in giving plants to an unknown gardener, make that day a red letter day in my life. «Ask for any plant you would like to have, and if I cannot spare it I will say so». Could generosity go further? I think I won his heart by kneeling down to find out whether Iris ruthenica was scented or not. «Why, it is as fragrant as violets», I said. «Yes», he answered, «but most people do not discover that it has any scent at all». Later on, a second visit — also spent all day in the garden — deepened my regard for him as a man, and my admiration for him as a gardener.

Among the plants which he sent me was one which I admired greatly and which I showed at the great Yorkshire Flower Show at York, on June 17 th., 1896. 1 placed it among my seedlings with a [97] note that I had no name for it, but that it had been given me by Professor Foster. I remember that the late M. Selfe Leonard said to me, «why don't you put that flower up for a certificate? It is really good». I did so, and as the plant had no name it was provisionally styled «Iris germanica G. Yeld» and was given an Award of Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society's Deputation. It was really Iris cypriana. I had at once perceived that it was likely to be a good plant for the hybridist and proceeded to use it.

Professor Foster also sent me a plant which he called Amasia (now well known as macrantha). I shall never forget the day when it flowered, for I recognised at once that it would be an excellent flower for my purpose. He also sent me asiatica, now known as trojana. When seeking to increase my stock of this plant I have on various occasions received what I know as Kharput, instead of it.

I used all these three varieties and my first seedling, cypriana crossed with Amasia (pollen parent), which I called Arac, after the giant brother of Princess Ida, in Tennyson's «Princess», was shown at the Drill Hall, Westminster, on June 19, 1900, though it failed to find favour with the R.H.S. Floral Committee. It has the large blossoms and branching habit which we now see in so many Irises.

I raised a good many similar flowers, but it was not till June 10 th., 1902, that asiatica crossed with macrantha (pollen parent), shown under the name of Sarpedon, obtained an Award of Merit from the R.H.S.

I had found that, in the York climate pallida and especially pallida dalmatica, had certain congenital weaknesses, and it seemed to me that by employing these three varieties, which Professor Foster had given me, and especially by using macrantha, as much as possible, I should gain a vigour in my seedlings — apart from the branching habit which I had failed to obtain in the progeny of pallida. Nor was I disappointed. I have received many testimonies to the vigour of my plants, including some from keen Iris growers in the U.S.A.

I raised a great many strong plants, the best of which is known as Lord of June. I am sorry that its exact parentage has been lost. Neptune followed, though it gained its Award of Merit before Lord of June, it was very difficult for me to send my flowers from York to the R.H.S., and I am much indebted to my friends C. E. Shea and G. P. Baker for growing them for me in their gardens (so far superior to mine) at Foots' Cray and Bexley.

I made many efforts to raise a satisfactory red Iris. Some seedlings were tolerable, but I have failed to produce a first class flower. However I console myself with Asia (Award of Merit, 1918) for, though [98] it is not red, it has something of old rose about it. I called it Asia because it seemed to recall the gorgeous East. It is a stately plant. The exact parentage of Asia I have unfortunately lost. I may mention in self defence that I had to move all my plants some years ago, when I not only lost many important labels but a good number of seedlings.

Iris Prospero, which gained an Award of Merit at the Chelsea show, in 1920, when exhibited by Mr. R. Wallace, has an interesting history. I had a plant, which I rather fancied as a seed parent, with yellow standards and crimson falls under the name of Leopoldine. I crossed it with one of my strong blue or purple seedlings with macrantha blood in it. The result pleased me, but the plant was weak, in fact, I gave up growing it. Yet, when M. H. Wallace took it in hand it flourished so much that he describes it as «welcome for its grand habit and strength». It has clearly outgrown the weakness of the mother, though the lighter shading at the margin of the falls is obviously inherited from her.

In conclusion I may say that I largely attribute the vigour of my plants to macrantha, and in this opinion I think I shall be supported by some of the most famous French raisers who have done such splendid work in improving the Iris.