Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Capital Idea

This has been an enjoyably mild winter for the northern tier of states so far, but, as winter oh so slowly releases its grip, the days are still short, and here in Michigan there is still plenty of time for snow, ice and freezing weather with only basketball and plant catalogs to keep us sane. So let’s close our eyes and imagine the scene four months from now. The days of June 7-9th, we know will be warm, sunny ones, and of course the irises will be in boisterous bloom. As many of you may know, those are the dates of the Siberian and Species Convention – arriving on schedule every third year. This year it returns to southern Michigan, the location of the first of these events in 1993. Since the Convention is being hosted in Lansing, the capital city of Michigan, we have called it A Capital Idea.  The greater Lansing area is the home to the state government, a couple of very modern (and thankfully, quite busy) General Motors plants, and Michigan State University. None of these are on our tour.

What will be on tour are four gardens (five if you count our own two locations separately). Two are in the Lansing area and two are near Kalamazoo, about 90 minutes away. In Lansing you will visit our garden(s) (Bob and Judy Hollingworth) – we have the guests in one place and seedlings and Siberian display beds in another nearby - and John and Jean Kaufmanns’ garden. The Kaufmanns are fairly new to the national iris scene but it is not beginner’s luck that they have grown the guests better than any other place I can remember. John is by profession an agronomist and herbicide specialist and he took growing the iris guests as a challenge to his professional abilities.  He also has been running trials of newer herbicides with the intention of finding ones that are safe to use on irises. This work was funded by the AIS Foundation and John will be giving a tour of the plots and reviewing the results as part of the tour. 

The two gardens near Kalamazoo are probably familiar to many readers, particularly from past Japanese iris conventions. Bob Bauer and John Coble at Ensata Gardens indeed need no introduction. Lots of iris interest there of course, and a large Victorian house that they have restored to museum quality standards. Jim and Jill Copeland with hybridizing projects in Species, Siberians and Japanese are the final hosts. For many people, the excellent gardens aside, the lasting memory of a visit here is Jim’s Famous Fish Fry. This is Jim’s excuse to indulge his first passion, fishing, and once again you can be sure he will have caught his limit of walleye and we shall all benefit at lunch.

So much for the stages for this performance, but who will be the stars? That’s not so easy to say. We have well over 150 different guests – mostly Siberians but also some interesting species crosses – laevigatas, and x typhifolia,  pseudacorus, versicolor and virginica crosses. Here are a few photos to tempt you to come, but they aren’t meant to predict the front runners. More to come in the next blog. On view, there are many newer colors, forms and patterns from virtually all the US hybridizers and a scattering from overseas, as well as advances in more traditional form and colors.

So, here’s a formal invitation to join us for the weekend. To find a registration form you can go to the website of the Society for Siberian Irises, or look inside the coming Spring issue of The Siberian Iris, or contact Deb Diget, the convention registrar.

We hope you will indeed think this would be a capital idea.

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