Saturday, February 11, 2012

Iris Classics: 'Jean Cayeux'

Of all the many color tones the 'rainbow flower' displays none is so odd, to my mind at least, as the multitude of shades of brown. Brown is not a color normally associated with blooms, unless they are decaying, bringing to mind dull, drab and muddy colors, but when we head out to the iris garden we find just the opposite - a glittering array of metallic tones from light buff thru rust and oxblood to deepest molasses brown, verging on black. One of the first popular brown irises and one of the best is this week's iris classic: 'Jean Cayeux'.

[Right: Photo from Quality Gardens catalog for 1935.]

'Jean Cayeux' (pronounced Zjahn Ky-yuh) was first introduced by the French firm of Cayeux et LeClerc in 1931 it was immediately lauded as a fine new addition to the iris palette, thrilled the gardening world in Paris, and was awarded both a Certificate of Merit from the Société Nationale d'Horticulture de France as well as the the French Dykes Medal for 1931.

A tall bearded variety, it is around three feet in height and is a second generation seedling from A.J. Bliss' famous 'Dominion' race, having 'Bruno' in its ancestry - (Phrynré x (Bruno x Evolution)). 'Evolution' was another nice old brown, tho not of the quality and size of 'Jean Cayeaux'. Quality Gardens catalog for 1935 describes it thus:
"Without doubt one of the most outstanding introductions of recent years. It is an entirely new color. The flowers are well formed and slightly frilled, of pale Havana browns, hot with golden glint and a light touch of blue at the end of the beard brings out its delicate beauty. An enchanting new color."

'Jean Cayeux' went on to acclaim across the iris world, and was to become an important parent in the history of iris development. It was one of the main varieties that comprised the basis for the lines of brown irises developed by Dr. R.E. Kleinsorge, which themselves made history. Most especially with his first breakthru 'Far West' which went on to sire the famous 'Tobacco Road'. As you can well imagine 'Jean Cayeux' is a variety treasured by collectors of historic irises today.

Above: 'Jean Cayeux' paired with bright red Geum and the golden yellow of Calendula.

This variety is an easy doer in the garden. Hardy, reliable of bloom and with nice tall stalks and loads of flowers. It blends surprisingly well with strong colors. I love it with bright reds, gold and deep purples, and it looks equally as good with soft blues and creams. It has a diamond dusted finish giving it a metallic look, and the color tones adjust thru the day with the available light, sometimes a soft smoky buff, others a gleaming old gold infused with pinkish tones. It is especially beautiful with the golden light before sunset streaming thru it.

Those who admire the old fashioned form of classic 1930's irises will love 'Jean Cayeux'. It has proven itself over and again on the anvil of the decades to have a timeless beauty, an enduring appeal, and to be a true iris classic.

1 comment:

  1. It would be nice if people writing such articles would use proper spelling instead of "tho" for though and "thru" for through!


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