Although several clumps of bearded irises are incorporated into the enclosed area of the Tufton garden, or planted on the grounds, the preponderance of the CHP collection is grown in specially constructed terraced beds on a sunny hillside northeast of the greenhouse. These beds were most recently dug, and the plants divided and reset, in 2008, with selected repositioning to refine aesthetic effect in September 2009. An additional working bed was established in 2008 to provide a venue for our research and cultivar identification projects.
Many of the Tufton irises arrived as part of the inaugural donation from Mike Lowe and Cameron Hall, of Virginia, which was planted in October 1995. Others have since been added, including six new irises from Anner Whitehead in 2008, and several rare treasures received from the collection of Philip Edinger, of California, in 2009.
Some hybrid cultivars in the collection are of great age; most predate 1930. The oldest is datable to 1612, whereas the youngest entered commerce in 1938. We also grow selected bearded Iris species and species forms, especially where these have historically been notable garden plants.
Developing, refining, and documenting the bearded iris collection is an ongoing process integral to the CHP mission. We grow these flowers that we may preserve them, study them, enjoy their beauty, and make them available to like-minded gardeners and institutions. As is to be expected with any diverse selection of living plants, some cultivars have, over the years, thriven in Tufton Farm's red clay, while others have languished, or fallen by the way. Not every historic iris is amenable to preservation in every garden.
AMAS, Sir Michael Foster (England), Collected Asia Minor, 1885
Vibrant, stocky blue-violet bitone with large flowers and a golden beard. Has been considered tetraploid form of I. x germanica, but may be a form of a species as yet unnamed One of the great progenitors of modern bearded garden irises. Fragrant. 24"
AMBASSADEUR, Vilmorin-Andrieux et Cie (France), 1920
Regal late-blooming velvety claret/ecru bitone. Rich orange beard. To 40"
BALDWIN, H-P. Sass (Nebraska), 1927
Large satiny flowers, iridescent reddish violet with interesting blue tones and lemon beard. 28"
BEOTIE, Cayeux et LeClerc (France), 1932
Extraordinary satiny pewter grey with heavy blue iridescence on falls. Large, late blooming. 29"
CALIFORNIA BLUE Prof. E. O. Essig (California), 1929
Tall medium cornflower blue self. Golden beard. A seedling of 'Conquistador.' 40"
COL. CANDELOT, Millet et Fils (France), 1907
Small flowers, rich deep red falls, bronzy rose standards, conspicuous white haft markings. 24"
CONQUISTADOR, William Mohr (California), 1923
Very tall, fragrant, clear blue, lighter than 'California Blue.' Compact foliage, gold beard. 46"
CORONATION, Irving Moore (Illinois), 1927
Deep yellow self with occasional red flecks. Sturdy, dependable, honey locust fragrance. 22"
CYANEA, Goos & Koenemann (Germany), 1899
Very early, floriferous, dark purple hybrid dwarf iris with a yellow beard. Fertile. 6"
DOLLY MADISON, E. B. Williamson (Indiana), 1927
Large, luminous golden tan and lavender with golden beard. A larger 'Quaker Lady.' 35"
DR. BERNICE, Listed by Hooper of Covent Garden, London, in 1867
Standards ochre flushed rose, falls velvety wine, veined white, orange beard. Origins obscure. In Barr collection, UK, in 1874. Sold by Biltmore Nurseries of North Carolina, USA, in 1912.
ELSINORE, C. H. Hall (Pennsylvania), 1925
Unusual, and beautiful. Primrose yellow, with the tips of the standards infused warm rose. The name refers to the island setting of Shakespeare's play, Hamlet. 30"
EVOLUTION, Cayeux et LeClerc (France), 1929
Coppery bronze, iridescent lilac area on falls, Golden beard. Foliage deep purple at base. 32"
FARANDOLE, Cayeux et LeClerc (France), 1928
Elegant large rounded blooms, smoky parchment standards over muted antique rose falls. 30"
FLAVESCENS, Published by DeCandolle; painted by Redoute. Before 1813
Pale yellow, falls lighter, olive veining at haft. Fragrant. Listed in 1854 by nurseryman William Prince, of New York. A cemetery or roadside iris in many parts of the USA. Probably much older than 1813. 27"
HONORABILE, Jean-Nicolas Lémon (France), 1840
Small, perky, variable, flowers, yellow standards and falls streaked reddish brown. Sold by Watson in the USA in 1854. A classic, found in cemeteries and old gardens, particularly in the northeast. Pronounced "On-or-rah-beh-lay." 23"
INDIAN CHIEF, Dr. Wylie Ayers (Ohio), 1929
Tall, often encountered, classic red bitone, Dark wine falls, standards much lighter. 31"
IRIS ALBICANS, Johan M.C. Lange (Denmark), Collected Arabia, named in 1860
Early blooming pure white hybrid species endemic to the Mediterranean. Cemetery iris in areas of the Mideast, and some parts of the southern and western USA settled by Spain. In cultivation much earlier than 1860 as the original"Iris florentina." 20"
IRIS GERMANICA, Carl Linnaeus (Denmark), Mediterranean Europe, Ancient
A variable natural hybrid endemic to southern Europe, with distribution further east. Named as a species by Linnaeus. An ancient cultivated plant. CHP grows the variety W. R. Dykes called 'vulgaris,' an early purple bitone, and common garden and cemetery plant in the USA. Listed by William Prince in 1823.
IRIS GERMANICA var. florentina, Carl Linnaeus (Denmark), Mediterranean Europe
The pale blue white form of a short, wiry, purple variety of I. germanica L. One of several irises traditionally used for the manufacture of orris root. A traditional garden flower in the USA.
IRIS PALLIDA, Named by Lamarck, in 1789, but older.
Collected SE Europe A very old, very familiar garden plant with many names. Elegant, fragrant, hardy. Typically, small lilac flowers on tall stalks, but variable.. Superb blue green foliage. Cultivated before 1600. An orris iris. 32"
KOCHII, Collected in Italy by Anton Josef Kerner (Austria), 1867.
Smoothly textured rich purple self with orange beard. Possible a wildling native to southern Europe. 14"
LORD OF JUNE, George Yeld, V.M.H. (England), 1911
Large, early blooming, tall light blue bitone. Cinnamon .fragrance. Seedling of 'Amas.' 30"
MADISON COOPER, Willis E. Fryer (Minnesota), 1919
Mustard standards, deep red falls. Vibrant flowers on tall stalks. Named for the publisher of The Flower Grower, a progressive American gardening magazine published in Calcium, NY.
MA MIE, Cayeux et LeClerc (France), 1906, "My Darling."
White stitched medium blue violet. Excellent compact plant. Good fragrance. 27"
MME. CHéREAU, Jean-Nicolas Lémon (France), 1844
Elegant white, precisely stitched blue. Smaller flowers on tall straight stalks. A refined and beloved heirloom classic, sometimes called the "buttonhole iris." Listed by Hovey, USA, in 1860. 30"
MME. LOUESSE, Eugene Verdier (France), 1860 Listed by Verdier, but may be a Lémon origination.
Small, white, dotted and stitched warm wine red.
MIDWEST H-P. Sass (Nebraska), 1923
Colorful, floriferous, shorter iris. White ground merrily dotted fuchsia, with blue tints. 24"
MILDRED PRESBY, Bertrand Farr (Pennsylvania), 1923
Pale creamy white standards over rich, velvety, damson purple falls. Golden touches warm the heart of the flower. From American's first notable Iris hybridizer. 24"
MISS ARAVILLA, H-P. Sass (Nebraska), 1938
Vibrant red falls surmounted by rich coppery standards, infused red. Color carries well. 30"
MONSIGNOR, Vilmorin-Andrieux et Cie (France), 1907
Grape purple, with distinctive large velvety claret area on falls. Conspicuous orange beard. 27"
MOONLIGHT, William Rickatson Dykes (England), 1923
Luminous warm, but grayed, white with tan haze on falls and gold beard. From the author of the seminal botanical study, The Genus Iris, 1913. Classic favored by VA garden clubs. Fragrant. 27"
MOTHER OF PEARL, Miss Grace Sturtevant (Massachusetts), 1917
A tall near white self with palest hints of blue and rose. From the first important female hybridizer of garden irises, known for her scientific approach, and refined color effects. 34"
MRS. ANDRIST, Willis E. Fryer (Minnesota), 1919
Clear white standards, lemon beard, falls white overlaid grape purple, fading to white at edge.
MRS. MARION CRAN, Amos Perry, V.M.H. (England), 1923
Soft bright rose, standards lighter, tall and sturdy. Mrs. Cran was a UK garden writer. 35"
PERFECTION, Peter Barr (England), 1880
Rich blue-violet bitone, darker velvety falls, standards sometimes flecked. Yellow beard. 24"
PLUMERI, Origins unknown. Documented in the UK in 1888, but possibly older.
Brilliant coppery magenta with showy old gold beard. Small, rounded, fragrant, flowers.
RAMESES H-P. Sass (Nebraska), 1929
Large, stately. Old rose falls below buff standards, gold beard. American Dykes Medal, 1932.
SEMINOLE, Bertrand Farr (Pennsylvania), 1920
Shorter brilliant deep magenta self with unusually vibrant orange beards. 23"
SHAH JEHAN, W. W. Neel (BC, Canada), 1932
Named for the builder of the Taj Mahal. Highly distinctive and reliable. Champagne standards infused gold, rich rosy plum falls enlivened with rusty hafts and narrow lilac white rim. 30"
SOUV. DE MME.GAUDICHAU, Millet et Fils (France), 1914
Rich medium blue violet, near self. White half marks surround bright blue beard tipped bronze. A widely admired seedling of 'Amas.' Souv. means "souvenir," or remembrance.
SUSA H-P. Sass (Nebraska), 1934
A hybrid of a dwarf iris, and 'Amas'. Rich purple, short, large blooms, blue beards. 17"
SUSAN BLISS, Arthur John Bliss (England), 1922
Tall, bright, uniform lilac pink. Haft marks light purple. Brilliant light orange beard. 32"
SWERTI, Pictured in Emanuel Sweert's Florilegium, 1612
"Sweert's Iris." White stitched blue. Tall, smaller flowers with falls distinctively pinched. Listed in the catalog of William Prince of New York in 1823.
TAMERLAN, Vilmorin-Andrieux et Cie (France),1904
Dark blue violet bitone. The first tetraploid bearded iris known to have resulted from planned hybridization. 25"
TRUE DELIGHT, Miss Grace Sturtevant (Massachusetts), 1924
Pure white standards, and falls stitched rose pink. Vigorous, tall, pretty, and fragrant. 33"
VINGOLF, Goos & Koenemann (Germany), 1924
Rich sober color. Ecru standards, grey-purple falls, ringed ecru. Yellow beard. Floriferous. 21"
YVES LASSAILLY, Cayeux et LeClerc (France), 1928
Satin white with golden shoulders elegantly marked darker, iridescent sky blue overlay on falls. 27"
List compiled and annotated by Anner Whitehead, May 22, 2010; updated 2019