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CULT: "Landscape" irises?-long and not entirely T

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: CULT: "Landscape" irises?-long and not entirely T
  • From: Henryanner <Henryanner@aol.com>
  • Date: Fri, 12 Dec 1997 09:55:56 -0700 (MST)

Virginia Lassiter, reading her Bulletins, emerged and asked:

<<"...Winterberry Gardens [owner Spoons] mentioned breeding for "LANDSCAPE"
irises. How are they different from other intros?">>

Virginia, I think the best persons to answer that are the authors, and should
you wish to ask them, their address is VSpoon@aol.com. I do not know if they
are still with us on the list, but surely there can be no objection to your
asking for clarification of this point. I, too, find the use of the term

At this slow time on the list I can offer you some random thoughts and
personal opinions occasioned by your question, if you are interested. I speak
from the perspective of an amateur gardener only, but one who knows a good bit
about garden history, and as one who dealt with the various theories of
"landscape" art  intensively in grad school some years ago.

First, I would say that I think there are several categories of flowers, among
them exhibition blooms, cutting blooms, garden flowers, and landscape plants.
I myself do not consider "landscape" and "garden" to be interchangeable terms
and I will say more about that in a minute. One plant may, of course, serve
several purposes, but a fabulous bloom that is well suited for exhibition may
not be, and may not be required to be, a good garden plant, or a good plant to
cut for arrangements. A good "garden" plant may not be a good "landscape"
plant, since it may require too much maintenance or tend to be too visually
assertive, or tend to need more shelter from the elements. Another plant maybe
less compelling on the show bench, although it would certainly be eligiable to
be shown, but might be better suited to being grown in an open space than one
with, for example, wide candelabra branching. 

Now, I understand "landscaping" to refer to plantings which are essentially
subordinate to, and designed to accentuate, the lay of  the land, significant
natural features, or architecture, or plantings which form a transition
between more highly cultivated "gardens" and the uncultivated areas of a
property. The usual concerns are that these plants be tough, fairly low
maintenance, and capable of integrating into a cohesive visual scheme.
Typically, beardless irises have been considered more appropriate in this
context, but there is no reason some bearded irises could not function in the
same way. I also understand "landscaping" to refer to plantings designed to
beautify municipal or non-residential areas, such as gas stations, office
parks, and the like which are shared spaces maintained largely by
professionals who fill them with "plant materials" designed to be largely
self-sufficent and able to withstand neglect while providing multi-season
interest.  Neither of these do I understand to be the same thing as a
"garden", although the distinctions may be blurred and people have been
wondrously creative in all these genres.

"Landscaping" tends to involve a physical and psychological sense of "openess"
and tends to visually merge an area or structure and its wider surroundings. A
"garden" is usually an integral and self-contained whole which is maintained
for the study or delight, generally at comparatively close range, of the
owner, who often has an intimate relationship with the plants. These
plants--not "plant materials"--- may be chosen for any number of reasons from
curiosity to romance to nostalgia to exhibitionism. Traditionally, some sense
of psychological or physical enclosure and boundaries have been considered
essential to a garden, however large, as well as has the development of an
ambiance, which may be cerebral, emotional, or spiritual, and may well be
apparent only to the gardener. But traditions are not static, as the history
of garden design reveals, and attitudes, theories, styles, and preferences
change with the changing times and with each individual. There is a lot of
interest these days in some horticultural circles in planting schemes which
integrate plants that have traditionally been considered "garden" plants into
the open, expansive, and generally informal, style of planting which is
associated with "landscaping". Rather than have perennial borders, and iris
borders, and natural-type areas or whatever dotted about your estate, the
property is conceived and planted as a whole. When this works, it works fine.
Some of them are just messes which ramble all around and offer no visual focal
point or cohesion.

So then, these stray thoughts in passing, to muse upon as you mince dates or
stomp heaved rhizomes, or whatever, or not to muse opon, as the case may be. 

Anner Whitehead, Richmond, VA
Henry Hall  henryanner@aol.com


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