Friday, July 29, 2011

Iris Classics: 'Wabash'

Miss Mary Williamson was the daughter of famed iris hybridizer E.B. Williamson, so it is no surprise that she grew up to become a renowned hybridizer in her own right. Perhaps her greatest legacy is her 1936 introduction 'Wabash', a tall bearded variety that was the child of 'Dorothy Dietz' crossed with 'Cantabile'. 'Dorothy Dietz' had been a favorite of the amoena pattern for many years, and 'Wabash' was a very nice improvement. It was an an instant hit in the iris world and with gardeners everywhere, and remained on the top favorite's list for decades.

The flowers feature standards of clear white over falls of plush, velvety purple edged in white, with a bright golden beard accenting. The plant is hardy everywhere and an easy grower and bloomer, making it even more valuable to the gardener. It is one of the best of the amoena pattern and is especially beautiful in mass plantings

Above: Mr. W.J. McKee, President of AIS, presents the Dykes Memorial Medal to Miss Mary Williamson for her creation Wabash, which won top honors in 1940.

All the good qualities that won it so many awards are still present and 'Wabash' remains an oft sought favorite and keepsake of those who collect the old ones. If you seek it out be sure yours is correct, as the later introduction 'Bright Hour' was sometimes distributed under the name 'Wabash'. The true 'Wabash ' has purple based foliage - 'Bright Hour' does not. 'Wabash' is a true classic and a fit legacy for the life of a great hybridizer and irisarian.


  1. Does this iris grow fast? Can you tell me how tall it gets?

  2. Great post, Mike. Nice pictures too.

  3. Anonymous - It grows 36-40" tall and is a moderately good grower. Not so vigorous it is always having to be divided but good enough to bloom every year.

    Thanks, Andi! Glad you liked it.

  4. Well I just got 'Wabash' from a prominent commercial grower and it does not have PBF. :(

  5. I lost two gardens of around 200 iris each to iris borer several years ago, and the following year, both gardens, Wabash was the only one to come back. One, was the start Mary Williamson gave me. A beautiful iris.


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