Sunday, September 25, 2011

Iris Classics: 'Fairy'

The iris 'Fairy' holds a singular distinction - it is the very first iris to be hybridized and introduced in the United States of America. It was created by Amasa Kennicott who lived near Carbondale, Illinois, and was introduced in 1905. Very little is known about this iris, nor the man that brought it to us. We know he loved flowers and was an able plantsman, having learned from his father, Dr. John Kennicott, himself a renowned doctor who had moved to Illinois with his brothers in mid-1800's and prospered supplying plants to settlers from his home at The Grove.

'Fairy' is a lovely iris that has all the charming features one could want. The dainty blooms are held high on tall slender stalks. A clear glistening white in color, they are accented beautifully by the light purple style arms and crests at the heart, and the petals have a pale ghost of this color feathered along the margins. Just a hint of lemon yellow on the tips of the beard filaments adds yet another pleasing note. It is very floriferous, vigorous of growth and hardy everywhere.

While in life he dwelled in the shadow of his famous father, Amasa lives on in iris history as the hybridizer of the first American iris. You can read more about the illustrious Kennicott family and their story on the Illinois frontier in Clarance Mahan's book Classic Irises. 'Fairy' is much loved by collectors and is widely grown in historic iris collections around the US. Perhaps it is one you will add to your garden as a memento of the long and illustrious history of irises in the US.

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