Botanic Garden vol. 6 (1835-6)
The word Iris, which is the Greek name of the rainbow, and tho Egyptain name of the eye, appears to claim, in its respective applications, the honour of standing sponsor to our present favourite genus of plants. Where uncertainty reigns, difference of opinion must exist. Professor Horneman, the Danish botanist, first noticed the plant before us as a distinct species; and, we presume, called it neglecta, from its having been in cultivation without botanical notice. To this circumstance may be traced our deficiency of information regarding its native country.
It would be needless to say this is a handsome species; the assertion would in no degree characterize it from others of its genus; but when we mention it as a pleasantly scented one, it may claim a trifling pre-eminence. It does not increase rapidly, but although it may not require division, it will be advantageous to its luxuriance that it be transplanted every third year.
The Iris is of so distinct and attractive a character, whether met in the garden of the cottage or the mansion, that we cannot but recommend its more general cultivation. The genus offers one advantage, not duly appreciated, perhaps not generally known; which is, that a great number of its species, may be planted very closely together; in fact, crowded without injury to each other. Fifty may be kept within the compass of a few yards; only observing every autumn, to cut away a portion of those which happen to increase too rapidly; and at the same time, to spread amongst them a compost prepared with equal proportions of sand and stable manure. Where flower beds are sufficiently distant or separated by low shrubs, Irises may be planted together, in masses, with good effect. In some situations many of the species may be made subservient to aquatic scenery. Their many-coloured flowers will form an attractive feature under all circumstances, as also, by contrast, does their somewhat stiff and rigid foliage and habit of growth.
Milton did not forget their display of numerous colours. Describing the garden of Paradise, he says,
|"Thus talking, hand in hand alone they pass'd
On to their blissful bower: it was a place
Chosen by the sovereign Planter, when he framed
All things to man's delightful use; the roof
Of thickest covert was inwoven shade,
Laurel and myrtle, and what higher grew
Of firm and fragrant leaf; on either side
Acanthus, and each odorous bushy shrub,
Fenced up the verdant wall; each beauteous flower,
Iris all hues, roses, and jessamine,
Rear'd high their flourish'd heads between, and wrought
Mosaic; underfoot the violet,
Crocus, and hyacinth, with rich inlay
Broider'd the ground, more colour'd than with stone
Of costliest emblem."