Horticulture 5(9): 255 (March 2, 1907)
D. H. Adsett

The loss of a great horticulturist is mourned in the recent demise of Sir Michael Foster, who for many years had devoted attention to improving the iris. Sir Michael took up the cultivation of irises over thirty years ago. He commenced by growing all the ordinary known forms of the iris, and then he sought to get new types, or to bring back old ones, obtaining them from the various parts of the world where the plants grow. In this work he was very much helped by the late Dr. Regel of St. Petersburg, who was able to import a large number of plants from Central Asia, and by Max Leichtlin of Baden-Baden, and others. Subsequently he received a great deal of assistance from missionaries, especially the Americans in Asia Minor. Sir Michael got into correspondence with them, and they sent him a large number of plants, some of which proved to be new. He continued to rely upon the missionaries until the leading firms of nurserymen sent their travellers into these regions. Experiments were first made with the common bearded iris. An Iris variegata was crossed with I. pallida. From that cross Sir Michael Foster obtained 200 or more seedlings, which comprised among them many of the old garden forms, often spoken of as German irises, such as I. neglecta amoena and the like. Among the newer ones was a variety which afterwards became very popular under the name of Mrs. Horace Darwin.


Out of the light blue Iris cengialti, crossed with the pollen of I. Balkana (a bronze-purple) Sir Michael Foster obtained about 18 seedlings of varied colors, not only light blue and deep purple, but pure white and several shades of yellow, as well as mixed tints were included. From an early period this noted hybridizer paid attention to the oncocyclus irises. The true oncocyclus irises have been crossed with the regelia section, such as I. Korolkowi, and some striking tints have been secured. Interesting crosses were also made between the oncocyclus and the regelia irises with the rhizomatous irises. I. iberica, crossed with the pollen of I. pallida, and I. pallida crossed with the pollen of iberica produced some very attractive forms. Another success was the cross between I. Lorteii and I. pallida. The hybrids between oncocyclus and rhizomatous irises were found to be very sterile, so that in most cases it was not possible to go beyond the first generation. Sir Michael raised several interesting hybrids of I. reticulata, but these were lost through fungous disease, but he was more fortunate with I. xiphium. Some beautiful hybrids of this section were crossed with I. filifolia, and a xiphium was crossed with I. tingitana. Some useful work was also done in the Juno section. It will thus be seen that the deceased scientist had benefited horticulture considerably by his hybridizing work.