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REF: Christopher Lloyd on Irises

Christopher Lloyd, whose death I mentioned yesterday, was a  splendid crank 
and a consummate plantsman. He wrote an  opinionated garden column in the UK 
for years and was one of those  folks with whom parties who enjoyed being 
incensed always had  some issue. Loved purple and magenta, dealt summarily with 
idiots, tore out  a formal rose garden at Great Dixter and planted cannas, the 
sort of  successful horticultural nose-thumbing which comes only from mastery  of 
the game. 
I don't mind provocateurs, provided they are not unkind, so  I've always been 
interested in Lloyd's pronouncements and utterances.  Learned a whole lot 
about propagation from him, too. Yesterday, after  I posted news of his death, it 
occurred to me I had article on Irises  tucked away in one of my files, so I 
pulled it out to read while I  thought about him. I decided perhaps you might 
care  to have an excerpt. 
Lloyd's ideas are generally more interesting than his prose, or  so I find. 
He was not, it must be said, as eloquent as, say, the  late Henry Mitchell, but 
then few are. The bit at the end sounds a  bit like the beginning of Mrs. 
Harding's *Peonies in the Little Garden*,  speaking of eloquence, and could 
reflect her influence; good garden  writers tend to be aware of the best of their 
This then, excerpted from the magazine *Horticulture*, December 1986,  p. 21.
"A Pride of Iris: A Longtime Admirer Praises his Favorites and has Words  for 
Some Others
    No flowers (cacti excepted maybe) captivate the  imagination more than 
irises. There is the pride and elegance of their shape, so  lovingly represented 
in the fleur-de-lis of heraldry. There is the delicacy of  texture, the 
light-scattering iridescence (the word itself derived from iris),  which sparkles 
in sunlight so that you wish to gloat at closest range yet  scarcely dare to 
breathe for fear of destroying the very fragility that you  most admire. And 
there is the scent: sweet and sharp, not ethereal, but earthy  and satisfying to 
some baser appetite. Many irises are odorless, but it is a  quality always 
worth looking out for, as in the apricot-scented yet  otherwise insignificant 
Iris graminea. I shall always have a corner for  that. 
    Most of us can recollect moments in our lives when  irises, en masse gave 
us a particular and unexpected thrill.[. . . .] My own  most exciting memory 
of irises dates from April of 1954, when I was being driven  in a taxi across 
the Syrian desert from Damascus to Palmyra. At that season  there were heavy 
rains. Indeed, the driver had an uncanny facility for choosing  the worst route 
and getting bogged down [. . . .] The desert was alive  with interesting 
flowers, but the one that showed up most forcefully,  because it presented very 
dark specks against a pale sandy background,  was the deep purple I. 
atropupurea, one of the Oncocyclus group that is  difficult to please in cultivation. I 
was quickly on my knees,  worshipping."
Among Lloyd's better known books are the collection *The Well-Tempered  
Garden" and "Garden Flowers from Seed" but he wrote a tall stack of them,  
generally well received.   
Anner Whitehead
Richmond VA USA 

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