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.
Bearded Iris Planting List (updated 2019)