Monday, September 3, 2012

Knightly Pursuits

By J. Griffin Crump

For the last several weeks,  I’ve been engaged in one of the most challenging  --  if not the most challenging  --  aspects of hybridizing, which is finding names for the new introductions.

I hasten to acknowledge that this may be a more difficult task for some than for others.  I have a friend, for instance, who readily offers such suggestions as “Hubcap” or “Fence Post”.  I’ve stopped asking him for help.

The truth is, I’m picky.  If an iris is worthy of introduction, I want it to bear a name that expresses the quality that I see in it.  Admittedly, that’s very subjective.  A hybridizer friend of mine insists, quite prescriptively,  that the name should describe the iris, i.e., the way it looks.  I asked him why, then, did he name one of his irises “Blue Bunny”.  Who’s ever seen a blue bunny?  He said it looked just like a soft toy that he had as a child.  I would never have guessed.  (Don’t look up "Blue Bunny”.  I’ve disguised the name.)

The fact of the matter is that if I had to place a bet, every time, that the name I first choose for a new introduction won’t already have been taken, I’d not only be broke, but deeply in debt.

I have learned the hard way (i.e., by being gently informed by the Registrar that the chosen name appears in the 1939 or 1949 Checklist, which I had forgotten to consult) that if one thinks of a name from the classics of literature or music, it’s almost certain to have been taken already more than half a century ago.  Our predecessors were really enamoured of the classics.  Most recently, I encountered this fact when, stumbling across the name of one of the knights of King Arthur’s round table, I wondered how many of those knights may have graced our gardens over the years.  Setting out on my quest, I scoured the Checklists and found almost the entire court of Camelot!

Now, actually, there were, in the annals, so many knights of the round table that, had they all shown up for a big feed at the same time, they’d have had to eat in shifts  --  unless Merlin might have been called upon to do something about the size of the table.  But withal the abundance of knights, only about a dozen figured prominently in the Arthurian tales, and two-thirds of them are found in the Checklists.

First, of course, is Arthur himself, as ‘King Arthur’ (Kirk, N., R. 1931).  Then 'Gawain' (Burtner, N., R. 1934). 'Sir Galahad' (Shull, 1924) was one of the earliest to appear.  Percivale shows up both as 'Sir Perceval' (Wing, 1937) and in his Wagnerian form as 'Parsifal' (Mor. N., R. 1928).  Tristan, too, is there in his Germanic form of 'Tristram' (Bliss 1919), as well as his beloved Isolde, first as 'Isolde' (Cap. 1902), then as 'Isolda' (Van T. 1916).  The registrars apparently were more forgiving in those days.  And 'Sir Launfal' (Kirk 1939) is there, but not his fairy princess, Tryamour.  Too bad.

Arthur’s sword, 'Excalibur' (Mur. 1925) is there, as is the 'Lady of the Lake' (C.A. Wright, 1948), who gave it to him, under her name 'Viviane' (Cay. 1937) as well, but maybe also as 'Vivian' (Cap. 1902) and 'Vivian II' (Cap. 1901), but surely as 'Fée Viviane' (the fairy Viviane) (Bernard Laporte, R. 2004).  And, unlike all the others above, for her we have a photo!

'Fée Viviane' photo by Alain Franco

Other figures and places of the Arthurian legend are also to be found.  Pendragon (Bliss, 1920), the name borne by both Arthur and his father, Uther.  Merlin (Sturt. 1918), of course.  Morgan Le Fay (Gers. N. R. 1938), the enchantresse, half-sister of Arthur.  And Avalon (Sturt. 1918), the mystical isle to which Arthur is borne fatally wounded.

But, wouldn’t you know, soaking up the limelight comes Lancelot (Bliss, 1919), Sir Lancelot (Gard. And Flow. 232, July 1937), Sir Launcelot (Sass-J. 1935) and, finally Messire Lancelot (Bernard LaPorte, R. 2004) with a photo!

'Messire Lancelot"  Photo by Dejoux

And what would Lancelot be without Guinevere (Barr, 1919), and again Guinevere (Elm Jensen, R. 1986), whom Merlin is said to have brought from Ireland and who wreaked havoc in Camelot.

'Guinevere' Photo by Elm Jensen

Funny, she doesn’t look Irish.
But there you are.

Can you think of any interesting names for new irises?  

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