TB: nomenclature about forms and colors in the CL's
Comments about names of colors and how to interpret them is a serious issue.
First of all, it has been my experience that the color of a particular variety
is not a constant. Different exposures, soils, cultivation and so on produce
quite a lot of variation in how a variety looks. Visiting a number of gardens
or evaluating specimens on the show bench has left me wondering if I were even
looking at the same cv at times. Among recent irises THORNBIRD is an extreme
example. The variation in form, color, shading and size of the blossom is
extraordinary comparing specimens from different gardens.
When I type complex descriptions into my database of "On Hand" items that
include fine and complex detail about hafts, style arms, variations in shading
and so on I sometimes run out of room in the substantial field size I created
for descriptions. Especially difficult are those based on one of the more
complex standardized color references that I don't happen to have at hand.
The descriptions are far from "plain English." I admit I get a bit weary at
However, I value the detail and precision of those descriptions in the CL or
R&I reference books. They attempt to be a stable, verbal "photograph" in a
sense that clearly identifies the cv, far more accurately for color (provided
one has a good copy of the color reference book the registrant used at hand)
than a photograph or digital image. What is lacking in the verbal description
is the character, form and proportions of the flower, the character of the
bloomstalk, or number of buds, branches and spurs. Nor do the verbal
descriptions have any information about vigor, health, disease resistance or
appearance of the foliage. Even a poor photograph gives a lot of information
about those issues.
All in all, there is no substitute for simply growing the variety, observing
it over a period of a few years, living with its ideosyncracies and despairing
over its flaws. Once you get to know a variety well you will never mistake it
for another, or fail to recognize it when encountered.
The human brain records--and remembers--a myriad of details no description or
photograph, no matter how good can ever record. Our present system of
registration takes a finite slice through all that information, and a useful
slice it is, but an extremely limited one at best. Adding color photographs
would provide additional information but also would price the books high in
the sky and far out of the reach of nearly all of us.
We're not doing too badly as it is, as long as one remembers the description
in the registration is a sample from one garden under one unique set of
conditions. The variety may not look like the description in mine.
Neil Mogensen z 7, western NC
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