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Re: I. Unguicularis


Perhaps some of you on the iris list would be interested in what the great
British writer Beverley Nichols had to say about Iris unguicularis.  He
published a book in 1964 titled "Forty Favourite Flowers" (London, Studio
Vista Limited; reprinted in New York, St. Martin's Press, 1965).  He
included two irises in his favourite 40, I. ensata, and I. stylosa (which
he noted has been renamed I. unguicularis, but he preferred stylosa!--and
Bevereley Nichols was definitely a man of stated preferences!!

Here's a bit of what he had to say about I. unguicularis:  "I have given it
the subtitle of 'Jewels in the Snow' in order to dramatize its
extraordinary qualities of delicacy and hard[i]ness.  It is literally true
that we can pick the buds from the depths of a snow drift, bring them into
a warm room, and watch the blossoms unfold in the brief space of a couple
of hours....And what a magical unfolding it is!"

Here's what he says about cultural needs [in Britian, of course]:  "Apart
from demanding full sunshine, the Iris stylosa hates to be cosseted.  The
poorer the soil, the better.  My own are planted against a south wall in
earth that is so coarse that you would think it would grow nothing but
nasturtiums...dry and lumpty and full of old bits of rubble and limestone
and rusty nails.  But every winter they produce their glistening quota of
jewels."

Beverely Nichols, who died about 1983 at around 85 years of age, was among
the great garden writers of all times.  He is gradually being rediscovered
by American gardeners, and I understand Timber Press might be preparing to
reprint some of his better books.  I recommend "Down the Garden Path,"
which I personally view as one of the greatest gardening books of all
times.  Don't read it expecting "how to" information; it's not that kind of
book.  Rather, it is a delightful telling of one Englishman's pre-World War
II effort to make a garden in less than perfect circumstances.

If you try "Down the Garden Path," and like it--then give a try to some of
his other volumes, such as "A Thatched Roof," and "Garden Open Today."

He also published dozens of novels and other books, but they have not held
up over time nearly so well as his horticultural works.

Forgive my gushing over Beverley Nichols...but the next best thing to
gardening is reading about it...especially when it's well written!

Tom Dillard
Little Rock, Arkansas USA







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