Saturday, February 25, 2012

Iris Classics: 'Monsignor'

Purple. Since ancient times it has been the color of royalty, due to the difficulty and labor involved in acquiring the materials for the dye. It is also the classic bearded iris color, and the one most often associated with the garden iris. Far from its traditional regal role, we are often bored with this color class because of it is so common in irises. Hence we tend to overlook some really great varieties just because they are often seen and of this typical color. Such a one is the classic French variety 'Monsignor', from Vilmorin, introduced in 1907.

A bit of a closer look and we can dispel this perception. There is nothing common or ordinary about 'Monsignor'. An excellent variety, with a special affinity for mass plantings, the soft violet with the deeper veining is really dramatic and makes a beautiful mass of color in the garden. This is listed as an Intermediate Bearded (IB) iris, and is usually around 25 to 30 inches in my garden, but, in my opinion, is more of a Border Bearded (BB) in its presence and use in the perennial border.

The Cornell Extension Bulletin 112, a definitive iris record, described it as:
"Color effect almost a deep violet self. S. hortense violet, shading darker. F. velvety raisin purple to mulberry purple, veined the same to cotinga purple on the outer haft.

The edge of the blade is blended lighter. The beard is dense and conspicuously orange tipped. The growth is vigorous, the foliage lax, slender, and yellow-green, and the flowering stalks freely produced. The heavy flowers are borne in compact heads on stiff stems, and make a good mass of color."

'Monsignor' is a fantastic garden plant in every sense. It grows beautifully, blooms reliably, is disease resistant and is hardy everywhere. Anyone who enjoys the charm of the old fashioned iris form will enjoy having this beautiful variety in their collection. It is clothed in the color of kings. Use it to bring a little classic French sophistication, and a long history of French charm, into your flower garden.


  1. Just Beautiful! I've got to find this one!

  2. That clump shot really shows the iris off to good effect. What a beauty.

  3. An old old woman gave me a clump of Monsignor and another of Lorelei, in the eastside of Waterloo, Iowa in 1966. They went togather beautifully. I have lost Monsignor during a move to another town and would love to grow it again.


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