HIST: Argus Pheasant, PBF, and Mystery Irises
In a message dated 5/15/2007 10:00:50 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
<<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
<<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.
Richmond VA USA
Jamestown Expedition and Settlement Quadricentennial May, 1607- May, 2007
"At one time...it was all Virginia."
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