Monday, October 24, 2011

Iris Classics: 'Madame Louis Aureau'

From its inception until the disruption of the World War II, the Cayeux firm lead the world in advancing the form, patterns and colors of bearded irises, leaving no doubt that Ferdinand Cayeux was one of the most influential iris hybridizers of the 20th century. Having trained under his father's apt tutelage, Ferdinand had taken on the work of iris hybridizing in his own right by the early 1920's, continuing a legacy of quality and artistry that the Cayeux et LeClerc firm was famous for.

One of his most renowned is the exceptional 'Madame Louis Aureau', a gorgeous plicata with a silvery white ground margined deep heliotrope. The intensity of the banding varies from year to year with the fertility of the soil and the season's fluctuations, but it never fails to bloom and is always beautiful. A vigorous grower, hardy everywhere and with perfect ruffled form, this one has been a favorite of gardeners since its introduction in 1934, and is still a favorite with historic iris collectors.

Hoffman's Iris Garden catalog for 1956 described it as
"Standards are lovely soft rosy heliotrope on translucent silvery white ground. The falls are banded and veined at margin with the same degree of color which gradually shades toward the center."

The heart of the flower is lit with the soft golden yellow of the styles, and there is nothing like it when the sun plays thru from behind. A very reliable and early bloomer, it often leads off the Tall Bearded season in my garden. It also has the excellent trait of a large bud count, ensuring our enjoyment for a long period. It is a child of 'Fakir' X 'Ferdinand Denis', and won an Award of Merit in 1939 and the French Dykes Memorial Medal in 1934.

'Madame Louis Aureau' has one more notable aspect that makes it a true iris classic in every sense - it's legacy. As one of the most widely used parents in advancing the plicata pattern in irises, almost every plicata today can trace its ancestry back to 'MLA' - it often appears multiple times in a single pedigree. It has indeed left its mark on iris history, and is still a worthy garden iris in its own right.

So the next time you are admiring a lovely modern plicata give a little thought of thanks to the remarkable creations of Mons. Ferdinand Cayeux and the unforgettable 'Madame Louis Aureau'.


  1. Those photos are beautiful. Thank you!

  2. This iris has lovely colors for the garden. It looks really tall- is that the case? Thanks.


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