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HIST: Argus Pheasant, PBF, and Mystery Irises

In a message dated 5/15/2007 10:00:50 AM Eastern Daylight Time,  
lmincy@yahoo.com writes:

<<I am beginning to think that there may not be anybody that  knows for sure 
if the really old ones are correct. 
I don't think the situation is quite as dire as this, at  least not yet. 
There are a number of members of AIS and HIPS who are very  familiar with the 
more famous of the older irises, including, or especially,  if you will, the 
Dykes Medal winners. Some of these, including Phil  Edinger, who is HIPS 
Cultivar ID Chairman for a reason, joined AIS when  they were very young. Phil has 
observed on more than one occasion that  when he joined, the 1939 Check List 
was the current  checklist. 
<<As far as Coralie it has the form of a turn of the 19th  century iris yet 
it won the Dykes in 1933. I am  basing this on the photo on HIPS and that has 
been verified by someone who is  certain they know. My Coralie has the form of 
a 1930's iris so it cannot be  right. It has the form of Cardinal and 
Form often tends often to lag behind on color developments.  'Coralie'  has 
'Cardinal',  "Dauntless', and 'Dominion' in  its immediate pedigree,  but its 
claim to fame is color. For my  money, 'Coralie' is not a patch on 'Cardinal,' 
which is absolutely  gorgeous in the same way that a velvet dinner jacket with 
dull satin  revers is gorgeous, but, as I have grown it, is also the utter 
pits on  bud count. A bed of Dykes Medal winners typically raises many  
interesting questions. 

<<Another thing that makes it really hard for me is that what is  described 
as red and even looks at least maroon on the HIPS photos is just not  that 
reddish in my climate and soil. 
Seeing through the eyes of the introducer's time is difficult. And irises  
are indeed different in different soils, and in different lights, and to  
different eyes. These variables are the givens! That said, photos are a  trap. HIPS 
has always had a love/hate relationship with photos. We use  them as tools, 
because we must, but we view each and every one with the most  jaded skepticism. 
HIPS appears to have been changing in the past few years, and not  for the 
better. I have observed a trend in some quarters to loosen  the austere approach 
to identification which has been one of the defining  characteristics of the 
group and, in my opinion, one of its greatest  strengths. Along with this 
there has been an apparent tendency on the  part of some to undervalue the degree 
to which expertise in the matter of  historic irises generally must be 
developed through long experience,  and patient study. A giddy enthusiasm is not the 
same thing as  knowledge.
Understand, please, Lee, I am not talking about you, I  am talking with you, 
thinking aloud about your problem.
Regarding identity: I, and those in HIPS who instilled in me  what I believe 
to be the best mindset in which to approach  these issues, have always been 
conservative about  attributing identity to irises, or accepting any attributed  
identity. We expect that confusions will have occurred. We  know there are 
people who are not aware of the complex issues  --complex if only because of the 
enormous number of irises which have been  introduced-- but are just winging 
it right and left, and we  cringe, because well-meaning folks winging it is 
precisely  one of the reasons The Unknowns Mess-- so called--became such a 
pervasive  problem in the first place. 
Add to all this a few unscrupulous types, commercial and otherwise,  and a 
century during which honest people's honest  mistakes can multiply 
geometrically, and you have  a nomenclatural climate in which the wise student of  historic 
irises will find it well to be circumspect, and pensive. This  does not mean 
no one can have fun any more! 
I salute your pensive approach to the matter of your historic  irises. I also 
think you should take it seriously that your 'Argus  Pheasant' shows PBF. 
There are irises with PBF that are not on Edinger's  list, but that the subject 
of our discussion is a Dykes  Medal winner argues that Phil Edinger would 
probably have known  it, grown it, and observed it closely in various gardens. 
One of the ways HIPS members resolve their more recalcitrant Unknowns is  to 
send a rhizome to Phil to be grown on and observed closely. I am confident  
that he would be very interested in any alleged 'Argus Pheasant' with  PBF.  As 
a first step, you may wish to drop him a letter and  ask him this: "If I am 
growing an 'Argus Pheasant' obtained from XYZ  commercial source, and that plant 
is manifesting faint PBF, have you any idea  what I am growing? I do not see 
'Argus Pheasant' on your published list.  Is 'Argus Pheasant' known to be 
mixed with something in the trade? What  do you think? 
You may have a Mystery Iris there, Lee. How exciting!  In 1999  I wrote a 
little essayette to this very list about Mystery  Irises. It has been reprinted 
at least once of which I am aware, and  you may find it diverting, too.
Anner Whitehead
Richmond VA USA  
Jamestown Expedition and Settlement Quadricentennial May, 1607- May,  2007
"At one time...it was all Virginia."


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