Vintage landscape: the iris garden

A little Sunday morning prettiness.

Japanese iris garden in East Hampton, NY/Library of Congress

The Japanese iris garden at “Grey-Croft” in East Hampton, NY, in 1913, on hand-colored glass lantern slides.

Grey-Croft, Library of Congress

The images are part of the Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Grey-Croft, Library of Congress

They were taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston and Mattie Edwards Hewitt, when the two photographers worked together. The slides were used by Johnston as part of her garden and historic house lecture series.

Grey-Croft, Library of Congress

The garden — owned at the time of these pictures by Stephen and Emma Cummins — is now part of the Nature Trail and Bird Sanctuary, according to the Library of Congress online catalogue.

Grey-Croft, Library of Congress

Having [divided, planted, fed, and weeded your irises] more or less faithfully, you will be rewarded by spectacular blooms in May. The iris is one of those plants that may as well be spectacularly well grown as not. Properly done — and it is at least as easy as growing tomatoes or corn or roses or things of that sort — the bloom will be so thick you cannot believe it at all, and the colors will be so sparkling and fresh you will jump (as it were) up and down.

They will be, as a rule, in total perfection by May 22, or whenever the year’s major hail and thunderstorm is scheduled.

— Henry Mitchell, from The Essential Earthman

5 thoughts on “Vintage landscape: the iris garden

  1. Those irises are really standing strong and tall. I’m guessing they have not been weakened by all the hybridizing that seems to produce big flower heads and wimpy stems on so many iris these days. And that dirt! That is not soil; it’s dirt and looks hard and dry. A clear clue as to what irises really want.

    1. It looks dry, but the garden seems to be on almost a wetland, which I think Japanese irises would like, and each plant has a lot of space (although that may mean the garden is not as well established as it looks).

      The garden is very naturalistic (for Japan). I was reading that many of the early women landscape designers worked in this style (and many of them worked in the Hamptons). I wonder if it was designed by one?

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