Saturday, April 21, 2012

Iris Classics: 'Picador'

This week I'd like to introduce you to one of my favorite irises - 'Picador'. It is a beautiful variegata created by the amazing B.Y. Morrison and introduced in 1930 by Treholme Gardens. 'Picador' was raved about by growers of the day. It was one of the first tall variegatas, which was a major break for the pattern that had for so long been confined to varieties with a short stature. It was described in National Iris Gardens catalog for 1936 as
"The FINEST yellow variegata. This is the brightest contrast of colors, having honey yellow S. and mineral red F. It cannot be recommended too highly, and we assure you that you will like this variety when it blooms in your garden. Hardy everywhere. One of the five best irises grown."

A clump in full bloom is a sight to behold, and the fragrance has a delicious, heavy, sweet scent reminiscent of cream soda.

Benjamin Yoe Morrison was a founding member of the American Iris Society, along with his good friends Robert Sturtevant and the great hybridizer Grace Sturtevant. It was in response to a letter he wrote to a garden magazine that prompted John Wister and Frank Presby to launch the AIS. He was also a leader in the American Horticultural Society and later edited it's bulletin, The American Garden. He was an all around well accomplished man starting right off at a young age. He not only introduced some fine irises that greatly advanced the Tall Bearded class, he was a talented artist and musician, bred hundreds of azaleas, and he spent many years employed at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture wherer he did much to organize the national herbarium collections, among so many other things over a long career. Truly a man of many gifts.

Tho he did not have a long career in iris hybridizing and did not produce a large number of new varieties, the ones he has left us with are marvelous plants that bring much beauty to our gardens. 'Picador' is a fine iris with so many good features you wonder why it is not more widely seen today. Very hardy and easy to grow, it is floriferous and blooms for a long period. This fragrant wonder is truly a classic.

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