Treat: Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’

Iris unguicularis 'Walter Butt'
Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’

Today’s post is in response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Treat.”

I have been completely enthralled by the flowers of Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’, a real treat on a cool misty day.  This is the plant’s third year of flowering and last year the paltry two flowers didn’t start to appear until Boxing Day.  So I was completely stunned when something pale and paper like appeared towards the top of the steps at the weekend.  On investigating I discovered not one but three flowers and when I cleared away some of the fallen leaves there are clear signs that there are many flowers to follow – how thrilling.

As for Walter Butt who the plant is named after, he was the former owner of E Bertram Anderson’s house in Porlock.  Anderson (1885-1971), a distinguished plantsman,  worked as a chemist and bacteriologist before retiring to Porlock in Somerset. He was a founder member of the RHS Joint Rock Garden Plant Committee which first met in 1936. Other members included E A Bowles and Walter Ingerswen both with huge reputations in the alpine and bulb worlds and reading the article about Anderson in the RHS ‘The Plantsman’ (Dec 2010) it is clear that Anderson was one of those plantsmen who seemed to have been part of a cycle of eminent horticulturists all sharing information and plants. Anderson is well known for  his raising of the beautiful Iris ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ (Katherine Hodgkin was the wife of his friend Elliot Hodgkin). He was also responsible for raising Galanthus ‘John Gray’ and Galanthus ‘Mighty Atomas well as collaborating with Helen Ballard in the raising of new hellebores and numerous other plants.

Going back to my iris, Anderson considered it as ‘noteworthy because of its size, very pale lavender flowers, almost white in the sun, and its strong perfume’ a description I completely agree with – indeed it is a real treat.



17 Comments Add yours

  1. Yvonne Ryan says:

    Golly gosh what a tongue rwister! Water Butt easier to remember!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Yvonne
      Very true

  2. Julieanne says:

    You make it sound (and smell) very tempting Helen. And now I know who ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ was named for, I always wondered.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Julieanne
      I am always fascinated about who plants are named after.

  3. Linda says:

    Beautiful flowers and I agree about ‘Katharine Hodgkin.’

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Linda
      Katherine Hodgkin is lovely, I wish I could establish it in the garden

  4. Brian Skeys says:

    A very informative post Helen, you have added some detail to names I had heard of but new very little about.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Brian
      I have a think about plants named after people and love tracking down who they are.

  5. AnnetteM says:

    That looks lovely. Iris unguicularis has been on my wish list for some time, Helen, but I could never decide what variety to buy. Do you have others? If so how do they compare?

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Annette
      Sorry no I dont have any others. I think there is a dark purple one which is quite common, we have one at work which flowers very well but it has been there for years and no one will know what variety it is

    2. AnnetteM says:

      Well yours is lovely anyway – I will look out for it.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Rachel
      I’m glad you agree

  6. Frances D says:

    Beauty and a botany lesson. Cool.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Frances
      Thanks for dropping by, I really enjoyed writing that post. I think I might do something similar again.

  7. Neyon says:

    It looks wonderfully fresh and egg-like…how would you describe the scent?

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Nayon
      To be honest I haven’t noticed the scent, so I will have to see if there are any flowers at the moment and have a good sniff and report back

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