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« Creating irises is a family affair »

Richard dans les champs de semis
Richard dans les champs de semis

Having graduated from the renowned School of Horticulture of Versailles in 1884, Ferdinand Cayeux quickly began working on the creation of all sorts of new plant species: sweet peas, beans, dahlias, cannas... and of course, iris. The first Cayeux iris appeared in the “Cayeux et Le Clerc” catalogue in 1906, soon to be followed by numerous other varieties. Between 1928 and 1938, Ferdinand Cayeux was awarded 10 Dykes medals for his very great talent as a hybridizer.

René, his son, did not create new irises. The Second World War meant that he was destined to concentrate on the creation of vegetable seeds, which was Cayeux et Le Clerc ’s main speciality. Be that as it may, René had the wisdom to keep and multiply his father’s iris collection.

In 1960, Jean, René’s son, decided to set up iris cultures in Poilly-lez-Gien and to intensify the new varieties creation programme, in order to help France regain its status and reputation in excellence in this particular domain. Within 20 years, the iris nurseries grew in size, from 1500 square metres to 15 hectares (37 acres), thus becoming a hundred times larger and bringing the Cayeux irises back into the limelight.

The years went by, the passion remained. The fourth generation of Cayeux is still creating irises, and so, over 160 ‘home-made’ varieties have seen the light and now make-up the 2014 collection. The iris patches now cover over 20 hectares (49 acres) and our know-how is recognised worldwide, well beyond the borders of France.

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