Forward: This is probably one of the better prewar write ups on the gardens and iris of Japan, with major focus on Iris ensata, Hanashōbu.
Reprinted from: THE AMERICAN IRIS SOCIETY, No. 40; 3-48. July 1931
THE IRIS OF JAPAN
by GEORGE M. REED
The term Japanese Iris is commonly applied to a special group of these plants which had its tremendous horticultural development in Japan. Varieties have been produced in great number, varying in size and shape of the flower parts as well as range of color. Many of the varieties are described as single, in which there are three large sepals or falls, and three small more or less erect petals or standards. There are other varieties which are spoken of as double, in which the standards have enlarged and assumed the same position and color as the falls.
These iris are commonly regarded as belonging to the botanical species Iris kaempferi. There has, however, been a great deal of confusion with reference to the scientific name, and the varieties have been referred to indiscriminately as belonging to I. kaempferi and I. laevigata. As a matter of fact, they are two very distinct. species of iris, both of which have given rise to horticultural forms in Japan.
Since several different kinds of iris, including Iris japonica, I. gracilipes, and I. tectorum, have been derived from Japan, it might be well for the gardeners of other countries to use the descriptive Japanese name Hanashōbu for the most important group. It is thus known by all the Japanese people, and if this name were employed, all possible confusion with the other iris of Japan would be avoided.
The most noted place in Japan for Hanashōbu is Horikiri, a village located about six miles east from the center of Tokyo, just beyond the Sumida River and the large canal which carries the water for irrigating the surrounding country. Horikiri, the name signifying canal cut, is easily reached in about ten minutes by electric train from Asakasa Station, Tokyo. Arriving at the Horikiri Station, one crosses a long bridge over the canal, which leads directly to the village. One may also proceed to the village by automobile from Tokyo.
In former days, it was a common custom to proceed by boat on the Sumida River, getting off a few rods from the present location of the Horikiri Electric Station. Boating on the Sumida River at one time was a favorite outing of the Japanese, and excursions were taken for the viewing of the flowers of the cherries along the banks of the river. At one time in the village of Horikiri there were abundant cherry and peach trees which rivalled those of Sumida River, Ueno Park, and other famous places.
Since early in the 17th century when the government of the Tokugawa Shogunate was established in Yedo, or modern Tokyo, the people of Horikiri have been engaged in growing flowers for the Four Seasons. The region proved very suitable for the cultivation of all kinds of flowering plants, and there was a great demand for material for use in the Ikebana and Moribana, since flower arrangement was universally studied by the families of the daimyos as well as those·of the common people. Yedo, in a short period of time, became a very large city in which people of great wealth and political power were located, and they had a stimulating influence on the development of the floral industry.
The cultivation of the iris, or Hanashōbu, at Horikiri began early in the 18th century. The wild plant was introduced and grown along with the other kinds of flowers for use in the Capital. More than a century later, horticultural varieties were developed and introduced into cultivation. Most of these apparently were obtained from Matsudaira Showo, who is given most of the credit for the development of the highly specialized garden varieties. With the introduction of the new types, several gardens of Horikiri soon devoted themselves almost entirely to the cultivation of this plant. At the present time, three of these gardens remain Kotaka-yen, Horikiri-yen, and Musashi-yen, although the latter is now, being abandoned. All of these gardens date back nearly three centuries to the time when Tokyo, or Yedo, became the Shogun’s capital. In addition to these special gardens, large areas beyond the village limits are given over to growing Hanashōbu for the general trade, particularly for use as cut flowers.
Soon after the beginning of the 19th century, all these gardens became famous for Hanashōbu, and each year were regularly visited by large numbers of people from Yedo and other places, including wealthy daimyos and their retainers, poets, artists, and actors. During the period following Admiral Perry’s visit to Japan in 1853, general conditions in the country became very much unsettled. After the Restoration, which occurred in 1868, the Horikiri gardens again became popular for visitors, and yearly thousands of people went there to see the Hanashōbu. About 1870 rhizomes of the different varieties were shipped from the gardens to various places in America and Europe, thus introducing the plant to the outside world.
Kotaka-yen.-This garden was founded early in the 17th century. The original owners were farmers, and furnished rice and other food supplies to the daimyos. The garden also engaged in the general business of growing flowers for the Flower Arrangement. The cultivation of Hanashōbu was early introduced and, later, the plant became extremely popular. Much of its popularity was due to the fact that the Daimyo Matsudaira visited the garden when it ·was in flower. He greatly admired the blossom and later many daimyos, samurai and other prominent people of the Capital visited the garden. The proprietor received from the Daimyo of Owari a tablet which is now fastened on the entrance post. This records the fact that the owner is “Nippon Ichi,” or Number One in Japan. The tablet also records the fact that the Capital has appointed the original Hanashōbu garden, Kotaka-yen, Horikiri, as a famous place for scenery in Japan.
The garden was opened to visitors early in the 19th century, but it was during the Bunsei Era (1818-1830) that it became widely known and, in the following years, it was visited by thousands of people, including the artists, who painted the various scenes of Horikiri. By 1840 approximately fifty different varieties of Hanashōbu were grown and, in the following years, the number was greatly increased by the successive owners.
As one enters the garden, there is a characteristic shrine on the left and, slightly beyond, an artificial hill, on the top of which there is a fine wistaria arbor. From this elevation, one gets a good view of the iris just below, as well as the broad level country beyond (Fig. 1). To the right of the path near the entrance is the home of the family. Within the garden there are several exceptionally well developed trained pine trees. Various kinds of other plants are also found on the premises, such as azalea and herbaceous peonies. Most of the area, however, is devoted to Hanashōbu.
The plants are grown in level depressed areas, irregular in size and shape, surrounded with banks which serve as retainers of the water and also as walks for the people to view the iris (Fig. 2). The characteristic bridge is also present leading across the canals and serving as a vantage point for viewing the flowers. Probably the areas are simply the former rice paddies converted into iris beds and, during the growing season, the plants are flooded, the water being taken from the adjacent canals.
The varieties are grown in rows of variable length, 5 to 25 feet long, and usually only one kind to a row. The same variety, however, may be repeated at several different places in the garden. The rows are approximately 2 feet apart and, later in the season, rice may be planted between the iris. In 1930 there were approximately sixty named varieties growing in this garden. The owner claims to have more than two hundred varieties, but most of these were in cultivation some little distance from the village.
The garden is primarily a place for growing Hanashōbu for the benefit of visitors. It is made as attractive as possible and special efforts are put forth to have the iris in fine shape during the flowering season. There are several tea houses and viewing pavilions in various parts of the grounds. Some of these are permanent structures, but most of them are temporary, being erected specially for the Hanashōbu season when the garden is open to the public. The visitors are admitted on the payment of a small fee and they may sit in one of the viewing pavilions and enjoy the flowers while sipping their tea and eating the cakes. Cut flowers may also be purchased and taken away.
The wild Hanashōbu probably has been cultivated in this garden for more than two centuries, but the great impetus in the iris was due to the introduction of the highly developed varieties of Matsudaira Showo. Dr. Miyoshi has based his book, “Iris laevigata,” illustrated with colored plates of 100 varieties, on the specimens found in this garden, since he believed that the authentically named varieties derived from Matsudaira were to be found there.
Horikiri-yen.-This garden has been in the Isokai family for at least ten generations. One of the earliest owners, who lived in the early part of the 17th century, was a floral decorator for the first Tokugawa Shogun. The garden doubtless supplied flowers of the Four Seasons for the wealthy daimyos and other people of Yedo.
The area of the garden is about two acres, of which approximately two-thirds is planted with Hanashōbu (Fig. 3). For the most part, it is restricted to Hanashōbu but, in addition, there are a good many cherry and peach trees, azalea, herbaceous peonies, calla lilies, and other plants. The great display, however, occurs in June when the iris comes into flower.
On one part of the grounds, near the entrance, is the private home of the owner, and nearby are other houses occupied by various members of his families. Temporary buildings are erected for the flowering season, when the garden is visited by a large number of people.
The Hanashōbu is grown in depressed beds of irregular shape and size. Usually the areas are flooded with water from the nearby canal, and elevated walks, together with bridges, run through the garden, enabling the people to view the flowers. Doubtless the growing of Hanashōbu began in the early part of the 17th Century when the wild type was introduced. About one hundred years ago the garden began to specialize on this plant, introducing several varieties of Matsudaira Showo. Since that time, new varieties have been created by the various owners and, at the present time, there are growing within the garden between fifty and sixty different kinds. Some distance away the owner has about two additional acres where other varieties and the surplus stock are grown.
Musashi-yen.-This garden has a history somewhat similar to that of the previous ones. It also began to specialize on Hanashōbu following the introduction of varieties from Matsudaira. For several decades previously, however, the wild Hanashōbu was grown along with other flowers for the Tokyo trade. About a century ago the garden became a very popular one on account of the iris, and was visited annually by a great many people of all classes. An artificial mound was built in one part of the garden, and tea houses and other accessories were erected in order to make it an attractive one for visitors.
Kanzo Zama was the first owner to specialize on Hanashōbu. He was succeeded by his son and later by his grandson, who continued and greatly extended the cultivation of this plant. Many new varieties were developed, among them Zama-no-mori about 1863. In the year 1868 Takizo Yoshiki became the owner of the garden, and his son and grandson have continued its development, many new varieties being introduced from time to time. Plants are grown in the usual method; the beds, irregular in shape and size, are depressed, and flooded with water. Unfortunately, at the present time this garden is being abandoned.
Yoshino-yen.-This garden is located at Yotsugi, a village lying alongside of the canal about one mile south of Horikiri. It was originally established as a restaurant in the early 17th century by a samurai named Masui and his son, when the Tokugawa Shogun Iyeyasu established his castle in Yedo. The garden was on the road between Mito and the Shogun’s capital, and consequently was a very popular place for the daimyos in their processions from their home districts to the capital.
The place was purchased by the present owner’s great-grandfather, who was a skillful man at growing flowers. His talent was inherited by his son, who specialized on the Botan, or tree peony. At one time he had an especially fine specimen which was eight to nine feet tall and frequently bore as many as two hundred flowers, most of them well above the heads of the observers. A fire in Meiji 19th (1886) destroyed this plant. He also grew many fine specimens of the chrysanthemum.
This man also obtained about seventy varieties of Hanashōbu from Matsudaira Showo. It was not, however, until about 1885 that the garden began to specialize on this flower. At that time, nearly one hundred varieties were obtained from Horikiri-yen and Kotaka-yen. In the years following, many seedlings have been grown by the owners, and at the present time the garden contains about three hundred and fifty named varieties, a larger number being listed in the early part of the 20th century. One of the favorite varieties is Gosho-asobi; it is a large single flower type with pinkish colored falls (Fig. 4).
The garden has an area of about ten acres, of which nearly one-half is given over to the growing of iris. At the entrance is the large home of the owner and nearby are other houses, as well as several tea pavilions. On one side there is an elevation or artificial hill, on top of which there is a shrine. From the top of this hill one can get a general view of the flowers. There are several very large wistaria arbors in which both the long flower cluster type as well as the more ordinary one is grown. There are several specially trained pine trees, a number of fine cherries, azaleas, and other shrubs. The present owner also grows a considerable number of herbaceous peonies and various bulbs such as tulips and hyacinths.
The great display in the garden, however, is the Hanashōbu which, in former years, attracted large numbers of people during the month of June. The iris is planted in the usual fashion, but the sunken beds are rather large and more rectangular in shape than those found in the gardens of Horikiri. The plants are not flooded with water, although at the time of excessive rain, standing water may be present. Evidently the soil is rather porous and the water table is not very far below the surface. The common yellow flag of Europe (Iris pseudacorus) is rather generally mixed in with the Hanashōbu. The present owner also has a good many plants of Siberian iris and different varieties of Kakitsubata (I. laevigata) .
Ichikawa.-This village is located a short distance east of Yotsugi, across the Yedogawa, in the province of Shimosa. Within the village there is a garden, which is primarily a tea house and restaurant place, known as Tambo, or Rice Fields. It has an area of about one acre, of which approximately one-third is planted to iris. There are in addition some wistaria arbors, many azaleas, peonies, waterlilies, calla lilies, and other. plants.
The Hanashōbu is planted in sunken beds, but not flooded with water. There are no named varieties and, for the most part, the plants are the single flower type. Various colored kinds are intermingled indiscriminately, since their primary purpose is to make the place attractive for visitors to the restaurant. There is also a large quantity of Kakitsubata found in this garden, growing especially along the banks of the beds and lining the walks; possibly one-quarter of the total area of iris consists of the blue and white varieties of this species.
Meiji-Jingu.-The Meiji Shrine in Tokyo was erected in honor of the Emperor of Japan who ruled from the Restoration in 1867 until 1912. The shrine was under construction for several years, being completed in 1920, and is located in the midst of a large park of about seventy-five acres. The fine shrine buildings, as well as the many trees planted there, were provided for by private contributions.
The park originally belonged to Kato Kiyomasa, a relative of Hideyoshi, and one of his foremost retainers. Under the Tokugawa Shogun in the early 17th century, it came into the possession of the Daimyo Hikone. The park was not well taken care of until about 1830, when it was restored and beautified by the Daimyo Ii-kamon-no-kami, a descendant of Hikone, and a powerful Prime Minister of the Shogun. He took a leading part in the events preceding the Restoration, having signed the treaty with Admiral Perry. At the time of the Restoration in 1867, the park was transferred to the Emperor Meiji who, in later years, often visited it.
In one part of the park there is a narrow winding valley with a brook, starting from a spring at the upper end. This valley was formerly, the rice fields of the Daimyo Ii-kamon. About 1884 the brook was dammed in the lower portion and a lotus pond constructed, and the upper part of the valley was converted into a Hanashōbu garden. The valley is about twenty-five to thirty feet wide and three hundred feet long, narrowing at the upper end near the spring. Its total area is about one-half acre. The ground has been leveled into a series of plots with running water on each side, which is kept in place by bamboo fences. These beds are readily flooded by damming the streams with a straw bag, which causes the water to overflow on the individual level areas (Fig. 5). ,The original iris plants were more or less seedlings and inferior varieties, but in recent years a number of good kinds have been obtained from Horikiri. In 1930 there were approximately sixteen thousand plants, belonging to eighty-five named varieties. Practically all of the iris are Hanashōbu, but at the lower end of the valley there are a few clumps of the yellow flag of Europe (Iris pseudacorus).
Near the center of the valley the Little Intervening Cloud Pavilion, Kaku-un-te, is erected, being located in a fine position for views, both up and down the valley (Fig. 6). Just below the pavilion there is a characteristic Yatsu-hashi leading across from one side of the valley to the other through the iris. The valley is surrounded by trees and shrubs, and through the margin of the woods on each side there is a walk. The iris are somewhat shaded in this valley and the water from the spring is comparatively cold, and thus the plants bloom rather late and do not produce particularly large flowers.
The Hanashōbu valley is part of the Secluded Garden of the late Empress. Together with part of the surrounding woods, it is separated off from the main grounds of the shrine. Near the lower end of the valley by the lotus pond a cottage was built for the Empress, where she spent much of her time. The ground slopes down from the cottage to the water and is planted with many azalea bushes. This Secluded Garden is ordinarily open to the public only twice a year. The first occasion is April eleventh, in commemoration of the date of the death of the Empress. It is again opened at iris time about June twentieth. On the first opening day there is a private view accorded to various people who are especially invited, tea and refreshments being served. The· garden is then opened to the general public for a few days in order that they may view the iris.
Heian-Jingu.-This magnificent shrine, located in the heart of Kyoto, is a comparatively modern one, having been erected about 1895. The enormous red Torii which indicates its location is a prominent landmark in the city. To the rear of the shrine buildings there is a large garden with many fine cherry trees, azaleas, pines, and other types of woody plants. The garden is more or less divided into two distinct parts, in one of which there is a comparatively small pond, on the margin of which have been planted a great many varieties of Hanashōbu. No varietal names have been kept, but the large masses give a fine effect across the pond (Fig. 7). In the other part of the garden there is a much larger pond and at several places on its margin there are extensive plantings of Kakitsubata. For the most part, the usual blue-purple variety is growing there, but mixed with it are some plants of the white flower variety. There are also a very few plants of this iris which have red-purple flowers. In both of the ponds there are many waterlilies and pond weeds.
Ayameike.-Ayameike has been developed in recent years as a playground by one of the electric railroad companies of Osaka. It is open all the year and attractions have been provided for visitors throughout all the seasons. In different parts of the park are tea houses, restaurants, and various places and types of amusement. The total area of the playground is about one hundred acres, and a large part of this is made up of ponds or lakes. The main lake is very irregular, with numerous bays. On various parts of the grounds there are large plantings of cherry trees, roses, peonies, and other kinds of plants. The most extensive planting, however, is that of Hanashōbu. Near the entrance there is a large area, perhaps two acres in extent, given over entirely to a planting of mixed varieties of this iris. On the margins of the bays of the main lake, many hundreds of plants have been set out (Fig. 8). Undoubtedly there are thousands of plants of Hanashōbu to be found on this playground; to some extent, they are more or less mixed with the common yellow flag of Europe. Near the main entrance of the playground there is a small collection of species of iris, as well as named varieties of Hanashōbu. These are carefully labeled for the benefit of the visitors.
Sumi-noe Park.-This park is being developed in one section of the suburbs of Osaka (Fig. 9). It is a very large area and various features are being provided for. In one portion there is a large planting of Hanashōbu consisting of mixed unnamed varieties. The total area given over to Hanashōbu is perhaps forty feet wide and nearly one-quarter mile long; consequently, thousands of plants have been set out. One side of the iris area is perfectly straight and the other nearly so, bounded by a canal. Extending along one side of the iris planting is a very extensive arbor of wistaria. Between this arbor and·the iris there are a great many tennis courts. The Hanashōbu makes a wonderful display in June.
Takaradzuka.-This small garden is located near Yamamoto. It is primarily designed for flower viewing and many visitors are attracted during the Hanashōbu season (Fig. 10). There are quite a number of named varieties of the iris and during the season there is a very fine display of flowers.
Tokyo Botanic Garden.-Some years ago Dr. Manabu Miyoshi had a large collection of authentically named varieties of Hanashōbu which he established while he was making a special study of this plant. His varieties, however, were destroyed at the time of the earthquake and fire in 1923, due to the fact that many people who were rendered homeless found refuge for several weeks within the confines of the botanic garden.
In one portion of the botanic garden there are several ponds which contain various aquatic plants, a few of which are planted with Hanashōbu. For the most part, they are unnamed varieties, probably mostly seedlings. The flowers are relatively small and most of them the single flower type. Mixed in the same ponds with the Hanashōbu are a few clumps of some of the varieties of Kakitsubata.
Botanic Garden of Nikko.-The Tokyo Imperial University has established a botanic garden at Nikko, primarily for Alpine plants. They have growing a large number of varieties of Hanashōbu, as well as other iris, and several plants of the wild type have been established (Fig. 11). In a rather large, swampy area there have been set out a good many plants of Hanashōbu and Iris setosa. Nearby, under dry land conditions, there is a larger planting of the former. The collection, however, does not include any authentically named varieties. Cultivated types were originally obtained from a place nearby and seed from these was collected and sown, and in this way various new seedlings produced.
Kyoto Botanic Garden.-The City of Kyoto has a very extensive botanic garden located between the two branches of the Kamo River. In one portion is a winding stream lined with varieties of Hanashōbu. Altogether, about sixty named varieties are growing there and, during the flowering season, labels are placed opposite the clumps. The display is a very good one, and may readily be observed from the Yatsu-hashi or from the small pavilion on a slight elevation nearby. A short distance from the Hanashōbu there are several clumps of the yellow flag of Europe and also of several different varieties of Kakitsubata (Fig. 12).
Extensive plantings of Hanashobu may be found in a great many other places in Japan. The Botanic Garden of the University of Hokkaido, in Sapporo, has a large number of named varieties. There is also a good collection of varieties in the Botanic Garden of the Morioka Agricultural College, although no attempt has been made to have correctly named plants. Several of the larger public parks in different cities as well as some of the large private estates may have a good collection of plants.
Kanagawa Agricultural Station.-This Experiment Station is located at Ofuna, a short distance south of Yokohama and, for several years, Dr. Bungo Miyazawa, when he was Director of the Station, conducted investigations on herbaceous peonies and on Hanashōbu. His original collection consisted of a great many named varieties obtained from various sources. The wild species was also collected from several localities. Dr. Miyazawa made many crosses between different varieties and grew a large number of seedlings. He has selected about six hundred plants which he regarded as superior. It is several years since he left the Station and, since then, the Hanashōbu plantings have been more or less neglected, so that it is difficult to estimate the value of the new selections.
Yokohama Nursery Company.-For many years this nursery has specialized in Hanashōbu, having exported thousands of plants to Europe and America. In the course of its history it has changed its location several times and recently has established new grounds near Totsuka, a short distance from Yokohama. At this place, in a rather wide valley, the nursery has established its collection of named varieties. These are growing under the typical rice paddy conditions. Nearby, the nursery also has a great many new seedlings which have been developed. At another point near their main office at Yokohama, on the top of the bluff, they have a planting of their new list of twenty varieties which were obtained from Toko-en. It is interesting to note that these plants were in excellent condition and seemed to be thriving about as well as the varieties grown in the wet irrigated land.
Toko-en.-This nursery is located in the city of Sapporo, Hokkaido, and was founded by Todashi Kamijima before 1880. At about this time he obtained several varieties of Hanashōbu from Horikiri. Later, he began growing seedlings of his own and developed many new named varieties, the best ones being produced between 1900 and 1910. He died at the age of eighty-two in 1919, and the garden is now owned by his son, Ryo Kamijima, who is carrying on the work.
Immediately around the home there is a large planting of mixed varieties of Hanashōbu. They are planted in areas depressed below the general level, more or less irregular in shape and size, and surrounded by many trees and shrubs. The iris, however, are not flooded with water.
Beyond the city limits is the nursery proper. This is established on level ground, where a large number of different kinds of plants such as lilies, peonies, chrysanthemums, and gladioli, are grown, primarily in order to supply the cut flower trade. There is also a large· planting of a few varieties of English iris, which seemed to be in a very thriving condition. There were a few varieties of the Siberian iris and Kakitsubata, but most attention was given to Hanashōbu. According to the list of the garden, it has about ninety-five varieties, although the number was considerably larger in former years. This garden developed and named the twenty newest varieties listed by the Yokohama Nursery Company in their catalogue since 1926. These were selected and named by the founder of the garden in the early part of the 19th Century.
Shuho-en.-This is a new nursery established in the suburbs of Yokohama by Mr. N. Nishida, who came from Kumamoto in 1923, bringing with him a great many varieties of Hanashōbu which had been developed there. Mr. Nishida claims to have about three hundred and fifty varieties in his nursery, and he is growing additional seedlings with the view to producing new and better kinds. All of his plants have been derived from the Kumamoto type.
The Chugai Nursery Company located at Yamamoto has advertised extensively the Kumamoto iris, having obtained, for the most part, its plants from the stock of Mr. Nishida. It now has a small planting of its own.
Kumamoto Hanashōbu.-The Kumamoto iris possess a fame in Japan which is exceeded only by that of the Horikiri varieties. This is due in part to the special methods of cultivation and in part to the many excellent varieties which are grown.
Kumamoto is located in the southeastern part of Japan on the island of Kyushu and, during the Tokugawa Era, it was the domain of the· famous Daimyo Hosokawa. During the period 1841-1852 Hanashōbu was brought to Kumamoto from Yedo by Junnosuke Yoshida, a member of the clan of the Daimyo, who was greatly interested in flowers. He learned the art of Hanashōbu cultivation from Matsudaira Showo, obtaining from him several varieties and cultivating them in his villa, Meigetsutei, in Kumamoto.
The unique method of cultivation in Kumamoto is that of growing the iris in pots instead of in the open field (Fig. 13). The planting is usually done as soon as the flower season is over in late June or early July. The rhizomes are separated into single pieces, the old parts being removed, and the tips of the rootlets being cut off; the leaves are also cut off about the middle. The rhizomes are then planted, being placed just below the surface of the soil. Usually a single rhizome is planted in a pot and, during the following year, it will produce a single flower stalk with perhaps a cluster of leaves from lateral buds on each side. The pots used are eight to ten inches in diameter and about the same depth. Sometimes two or three rhizomes are planted together in a larger pot in order to get a corresponding number of flower stalks.
In pot planting, care must be taken for drainage by placing over the holes in the bottom of the pot porous material and, on top of this, coarse dirt mixed with pebbles. Immediately after planting, the pots must be kept away from the sun, wind and rain, the plants being gently sprayed with water. In a short time they will push out new roots and become established in the soil; then the sun shade and wind protectors may be removed. Ordinary common field or garden soil may be used in the pots, mixed with some fine sand, or using the soil alone.
In the early days, only a few people were interested in Hanashōbu, but, as time went on, more and more began to cultivate this plant. Finally, in about 1890, there was organized the Mangetsu-kai, or Full Moon Society, which has a membership at present of about sixty. Each member grows his own plants on his premises, endeavoring to produce rare and beautiful specimens. The annual meeting of the society is held at the time of the full moon of June, which is about the fifteenth of the lunar calendar. At that time the specimens are brought by the various growers and placed on exhibition (Fig. 14).
The original varieties were brought from the collection of Matsudaira in Tokyo. Since that time, however, a large number of new kinds have been created. Special characteristics are sought for in the production of a variety and great attention is paid to details of form and arrangement of flower parts. Both single and double kinds are grown, with perhaps a preference for the latter. The double flower white varieties seem to be most desired.
New varieties are produced from seed which is collected and sown immediately at the time of ripening, and special care is taken during the young seedling stages to produce rapid growth. Seedlings are frequently transplanted and if given proper care they will bloom the following year.
The growing of Hanashōbu in pots is another illustration of a very common Japanese floricultural method. The cultivation of all sorts of plants in pots is well nigh universal in Japan. Potted plants of tree peonies, morning glories, chrysanthemums, as well as dwarf trees and shrubs, are to be found everywhere.
The cultivation of Hanashōbu in pots has been transplanted from Kumamoto to other parts of Japan. Marquis Hosokawa, a descendant of the famous daimyo, has a fine residence and garden in Tokyo where he grows the iris according to the Kumamoto method. Mr. T. Takemura, who came to Tokyo about fifteen years ago from Kumamoto, is one of the principal men of his household concerned with the cultivation of Hanashōbu. On June 17, 1930, at the residence of the Marquis, there were a number of very fine specimens grown in pots. These pots were about eight inches in diameter, and the plants were three to four feet tall, mostly about three and one-half feet. In practically every case there was a single flower stalk with a fine terminal flower ten to eleven inches in diameter. All of the varieties displayed in the main room were double, although single flowered types were observed in other parts of the residence. Altogether, nineteen plants were arranged along the two sides of the ten mat room, four of the best being placed in the Tokonoma (Fig. 15). There were additional plants on the edge of the veranda, as well as specimens in the yard or sort of nursery, ready to be moved indoors at·the proper time. Several different varieties were being grown, one or more specimens of each being on display. Most of them, however, were the double white flower type.
Ise-shōbu.-About twenty-five years ago the cultivation of Hanashōbu was rather general in the Ise Provinces, especially in the vicinity of Matsuzaka. At that time there were several people who were interested in its cultivation, fully three hundred different varieties being grown. In recent years, however, the culture of.the iris in this vicinity has greatly decreased and now there are only about one hundred varieties cultivated by a very few enthusiastic men, the two most prominent growers being Mr. Eijiro Hattori and Mr. Kensaburo Nagabayashi. The Ise-shōbu were originally developed by Mr. Saikichi Noguchi, who succeeded in raising several excellent varieties. He exchanged his plants with others, so that a great many people became interested and were stimulated to the production of new kinds. Practically all of the plants are grown in pots, especially the superior varieties.
The Ise-shōbu have certain characteristic features; all of the varieties are single. The height of the flower stalks and the leaves should be about the same. The sepals or falls are rather broad and overlap each other, not leaving any space between; they droop downward, not remaining spread out horizontally, and are more or less crinkled like crepe cloth. The crests of the stigmas are zig-zag in shape and the petals or standards are erect and halberd like.
Hanashōbu of Shogyo-ji Temple.-Some very fine varieties of iris have been developed by Mr. Enshin Osugi, the Superior Priest of the Shogyo-ji Temple, Kyoto. He is now a man about sixty-five years old and for many years was especially interested in growing Hanashōbu. While he had no special knowledge of botanical science, he had a genius for successfully growing and breeding plants, and he still has in his possession many very fine Bonsai of different kinds of trees and shrubs.
Mr. Osugi began to cultivate Hanashōbu about 1885, having obtained a few varieties from Musashi-yen, Horikiri. Some time later he observed the Goshu-shōbu in the Shiga Prefecture and, greatly admiring this plant, he developed a plan of breeding varieties superior to those which he already had. He obtained a small quantity of seed of the Goshu-shōbu type and began to hybridize with the Horikiri varieties about 1890. In his first attempts he obtained fifteen distinct plants and picked out three of these as superior. He continued the work for several years and at one time had as many as three hundred varieties. Among these, Enoshima, Beni-iro and Zama-no-mori were the best. In general, his best varieties had the principal characteristics of the Goshu-shōbu, but with much larger flowers. One of his special aims was to produce a red variety and, after ten years of crossing and careful selection, he obtained a good red-purple which he called Beni-iro.
The Goshu-shōbu are somewhat similar to the Ise-shōbu; the plants have short, erect leaves; the flower stalk is also short, barely exceeding the height of the leaves; the flowers are rather small, but the sepals or falls are round, overlapping, crinkled or crepe-like.
Mr. Osuki kept his Hanashōbu until about 1923, when he had to give up his garden. For the most part, he cultivated his plants in pots, and his specimens became very well known in Kyoto, the place being frequently visited by many native Japanese as well as foreigners. At one time, roots were exported to America, England and other countries.
Temporary Displays of Hanashōbu.-The Japanese are very adept in preparing splendid exhibits of all sorts of plants. Hibya Park, in the center of Tokyo, is frequently converted into a flower garden almost over night. Early in June many large clumps of several different varieties of Hanashōbu were brought in from Horikiri and planted in pots (Fig. 16). The work was so carefully done that the plants showed no evidence of being moved. They continued to bloom, producing large flowers for several days, and thousands of people were able to see them. In a covered booth nearby, the flower stalks of many named varieties were also placed on exhibition, a new supply being brought in every two or three days.
The Kanaya Hotel at Nikko has also developed a unique display (Fig. 17). Just above the hotel there is an artificial pond-“Lake Placid.” It is rather small, nearly rectangular in shape, with the water about a foot deep. In the winter time it is used for skating and other sports, but in the summer Hanashōbu, waterlilies, and other plants are placed in this pond or lake, grown in pots. The iris is brought from a garden nearby shortly before the blooming time and a temporary Yatsu-hashi leading across the pond among the iris is made out of the benches.
Wild Hanashōbu.-Hanashōbu is distributed over most of Japan as a native wild plant. It occurs in the mountainous regions from Kyushu, thence through the main island and Hokkaido, as well as further north in Saghalien. It is usually found just at the edge of the tillable land, and it is particularly common on the bogs, which are more or less numerous in the mountainous region.
Senjo-ga-hara is a plain just above Lake Chujenji, on the way to Yumoto. It is nearly circular, about a mile in diameter, and surrounded by high mountains. It is a typical bog, and on it will be found a characteristic vegetation. One of the prominent plants of this area is the wild Hanashōbu (Fig. 18). In Hokkaido, a few miles north of Sapporo, there is a bog-like area which extends for a distance of several miles, and widely scattered over this are large quantities of this iris.
The wild plant usually has rather short, narrow leaves, and, a small flower produced on a medium size flower stalk. In more fertile soil, the plant may be as much as three feet in height. The flower is five to six inches in diameter, and the usual color is reddish purple. Color variations, however, may readily be collected. Sometimes the color between the veins has faded out so that the more deeply colored veins are prominent. Pale color forms, some almost white, may also be collected and, in the vicinity of Morioka, very good blue-purple flower types may be observed. Undoubtedly there is a great deal of variation in the wild plant in different sections of Japan, and it is quite possible that those who collected the plants a century or more ago from such points as Kyushu, Tosa, Asaka Lake, and other places, obtained quite different natural types, which served as a starting-point for the production of the highly specialized cultivated varieties.
The botanical name generally accepted for Hanashōbu at the present time is Iris kaempferi, which Siebold used in 1856, although the first detailed description was made by Lemaire in 1858 and published in L’Illustration Horticole, Vol. 5, and illustrated by colored Plate 157. The name I. laevigata has also been applied to this iris and Dr. Manabu Miyoshi, whose book deals entirely with Hanashōbu, has entitled it “Iris laevigata Fisch.” This name, however, properly belongs to an entirely different iris, known to the Japanese as Kakitsubata.
Recent investigations indicate that Thunberg collected Hanashōbu in Japan on his visit in 1776-1777, and listed this plant under the name of Iris graminea in his “Flora Japonica, ” published in 1784. In 1794 he published “Botanical Observations on the Flora Japonica ” in Vol. 2 of the Transactions of the Linnean Society. In this work he lists Hanashōbu under the name of I. ensata, evidently recognizing the fact that the plant differs in essential points from the I. graminea of Europe.
Dr. G. Koidzumi, in the Tokyo Botanic Magazine, Vol. 39, p. 300, 1925, uses the specific name ensata for Hanashōbu and, more recently, Dr. Bungo Miyazawa, in his paper published in the Bulletin of the Miyazaki College of Agriculture and Forestry in 1929, has agreed with Dr. Koidzumi’s identification. Both these botanists are thoroughly familiar with the wild Hanashōbu in Japan and have examined the original specimen of Thunberg found in the herbarium at Upsala, Sweden.
Kakitsubata.-Kakitsubata (Iris laevigata Fisch.) is a very common cultivated plant in Japan and doubtless has been in cultivation there for many centuries. It also doubtless occurs as a wild plant in several localities. It is thus recorded as occurring in some sections of the island of Kyushu, a few places not far from Kyoto, and near the northern end of the main island at Hachinoe. On the island of Hokkaido it grows wild on the plain of Horomui, and seems to be more common as a wild plant in points further north.
There are several varieties of this iris, some of which have single flowers, while others have the standards. enlarged and colored in the same way as the falls. The wild species has very typical blue-purple flowers, but in cultivation there are white flower varieties and a variety with the white falls more or less spotted with blue. The latter is known as Iris albo-purpurea. In the famous paintings of two or three centuries ago, this is the iris that is commonly represented. It is interesting, too, that this plant is very common in the temple gardens, especially in the vicinity of Kyoto (Fig. 19). Most of the landscape gardens in that vicinity have at least a small clump of Kakitsubata somewhere on the grounds (Fig. 20). Occasionally rather large plantings may be observed as, for example at Ume-no-miya and Heian Jingu, Kyoto. In both these places most of the plants are the single blue-purple flower type, but at both places there area few white flower plants mixed in, and also a variety with good red-purple flowers.
Flower Arrangement.-At the present time, Kakitsubata is a favorite plant for use in Flower Arrangement, an art which occupies a very prominent place in the activities of the Japanese woman. Various types of flowers and plants of the four seasons are used and, in April and May, iris occupies a very prominent place. Kakitsubata is much more desirable for this purpose than Hanashōbu, since it lends itself to much more varied treatments, lacking the stiffness and rigidity of the latter. It is extensively grown in the region about Tokyo in order to supply the students of Flower Arrangement with material. As a matter of fact, several acres, in more or less scattered small plots, are devoted to this purpose, and every day the budded stems, together with the leaves, are brought into the general market for distribution.
One of the features of Flower Arrangement is the desirability of using plants somewhat out of season. An attempt is made, in part at least, to provide a particular kind of plant a few days or a few weeks before it normally flowers, and this necessitates the forcing of such material for use. Consequently, Kakitsubata and Hanashōbu are brought into flower several days and even weeks earlier than the normal blooming time in order to provide the necessary material for the classes in Flower Arrangement. (Fig. 21).
Part of the forcing is done by merely providing protection for the plants against the wind and cold by means of straw mats or bamboo fences. The water covering the roots cools down on exposure to the air and is then drawn off, being replenished by fresh warmer water from the ground beneath, and in this way the temperature of the soil and water in which the plants are growing is raised. In some places the water may be artificially heated and applied to the beds; very rarely are the plants grown under glass.
The forcing of Hanashōbu is carried out in practically the same way, comparatively large areas being given over to this in some sections (Fig. 22). It is also possible to select earlier blooming varieties such as Hatsushimo,which comes into flower several days ahead of the other types. This single white flower variety is highly prized for use in the Flower Arrangement.
Iris orientalis.-Thunberg originally described this plant from specimens collected in Japan. It is one of the native species, and is particularly abundant on the plain of Senjo-ga-hara, a short distance above Nikko. The flowers are much smaller and lighter blue in color as compared with the garden form commonly known as Blue King. In front of the homes along the shore of Lake Chuzenji this iris is quite common and, in addition to the blue flower type, there are many plants which have a white flower, more or less resembling the variety known as Snow Queen. Various cultivated forms may also be found in some of the gardens. Yoshino-yen at Yotsugi has quite a large number of plants more or less resembling Emperor.
The species Iris sibirica has also been introduced into Japan and doubtless hybrids between it and I. orientalis are to be found in fact, some of the Japanese botanists make I. orientalis merely a variety of I. sibirica.
Iris setosa.-This species occurs as a wild plant in different parts of Japan. It is rarely observed as a cultivated form, but may be seen at the botanic gardens at Tokyo, Nikko, Sapporo, and other places. As a wild plant it is rather common on the plain of Horomui in Hokkaido.
This species is interesting as being distributed in northeastern Asia and the northwestern coast of North America. In Japan it is the rather large form of plant which is found.
Iris rossii.-This is a small iris, with delicate, slender leaves and light blue-purple, flowers borne on slender flower stalks. It is widely distributed in Korea and other parts of eastern Asia, and occurs as a native plant in several places in southwestern Japan. It is not a particularly valuable iris as a cultivated plant. It is of special interest, however, from the fact that the Japanese Government has preserved some of its habitats as natural monuments. A law has been enacted for preserving historic, scenic and natural monuments and, among the latter, are included districts for the preservation of the original flora and fauna of Japan. According to the law, any natural object, for example, a primeval forest, alpine vegetation, the habitat of an animal, a valley, a cave, or even a single tree or rock, may be preserved. In conformity with the law, some of the most famous individual trees of Japan are protected. The boundaries of natural distribution of several remarkable Japanese plants are thus preserved. One of the most familiar ones is Rosa rugosa, a beautiful wild rose with fragrant flowers, common to the seashores of northern Japan. It becomes rare toward the south, and one of its natural habitats in the southern region has been preserved.
Iris minuta.-This small iris is known only from Japan, but it is related to another species, Iris henryi, found in China. I. minuta is not at all common and is known almost entirely as a cultivated plant. It is a small species with narrow, grass-like leaves and a yellow flower borne on a slender stalk.
Iris gracilipes.-This slender little species grows wild in the moist woodlands in different parts of Japan. As a wild plant it appears to be confined to that country. It also maybe seen as a cultivated plant, and is commonly utilized in Bonsai, since it makes a beautiful tray decoration when in leaf, as well as when in flower. This iris has proved to be very valuable to western gardens, especially for growing in a shady place in the rock garden.
Iris japonica.-This native species is commonly seen in the parks of Tokyo, rather large areas in the shade of the trees being covered with it. The leaves are rather broad and evergreen, and it spreads by its creeping rootstock. The flower stalk branches repeatedly, producing a large number of flowers in succession. The flowers at a short distance appear to be white; they are, however, very slightly tinged with lavender, with deeper spots of bluish purple surrounding the central crest, the latter being dotted with yellow. Although each flower is rather short-lived, lasting only part of a day, the succession of flowers on a plant makes a fine display over a period of three to four weeks (Fig. 23).
Iris tectorum.-The Roof Iris derives its name from the fact that it is commonly found on the ridges of thatched roofs of Japanese homes and other buildings (Fig. 24). It is recorded as native to certain parts of China, but it must have been introduced into Japan many centuries ago.
This iris is not widely distributed in Japan. In the vicinity of Hodogaya, near Yokohama, there are a great many buildings with thatched roofs and this iris growing on the ridges. In most of the villages in that general region the thatched roofs are likely to bear this iris. Northwest of Tokyo, near Kiriu, many of the houses and buildings in the small villages have thatched roofs, with the iris. The custom, however, is passing out in this region, due to the substitution of tin or galvanized iron as a protection against the entrance of water.
It is nearly always the blue-purple variety which is found. Some of the people of the villages speak of the white flower type, but it is practically unknown on the thatched roofs.
Introduced Iris.-During the past few decades, a number of iris from other parts of the world have been brought into Japan. Several varieties of the tall bearded iris may be found in a number of private gardens. This group is also represented by one or more varieties in most of the botanic gardens. For the most part, the varieties are the older and inferior ones, and they do not do credit to this particular group. Apparently, none of the varieties recently developed in Europe and America have found their way as yet into Japan.
Large quantities of Spanish, Dutch, and English iris are grown, and all are used quite extensively in the cut flower trade. They seem to do very well.
One of the most obvious things was the occurrence of the Yellow Flag of Europe (Iris pseudacorus) . Evidently this plant has been in Japan for a good many years and has perfectly adapted itself. The conditions under which cultivated Hanashōbu are grown seem quite suited to this iris and, due to its abundant seed production, it has really become a weed. Consequently, it is more or less mixed in all of the large plantings of Hanashōbu, particularly in the newer ones. The plant resembles, in its vegetative condition, a rather vigorous growing Hanashōbu plant, and in this condition is not readily distinguished from it. Consequently, it may be dug up and distributed far and wide.
Japan has supplied to the Western gardens several very fine iris. There are three members of the crested iris group, Iris gracilipes, I. tectorum, and I. japonica, which are very useful plants; the two former are excellent for our rock gardens. I. japonica is not sufficiently hardy for the Eastern United States, but seems to thrive very well in California.
The value of the Siberian group of iris depends in large part on Iris orientalis, which has been hybridized with the European species, I. sibirica. There are many varieties belonging to this general group, and most of them are excellent garden plants.
For some reason, Kakitsubata (I. laevigata) has not been widely grown in Europe or America. This is quite surprising, because of the many excellent qualities of this iris. The common blue-purple flower type is a splendid plant and makes a fine showing when growing by the water’s edge.
Hanashōbu, of course, is the greatest iris contribution of Japan. Hundreds of varieties have been developed in the course of many decades, and most of them are well adapted to the Western garden. They seem to thrive very readily in the ordinary garden soil, but do better with a more liberal supply of water in the weeks preceding the flower period. This iris has an additional value from the fact that it blooms after most of the other types, and thus prolongs the iris season for a month to six weeks.
BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN.