Monday, January 14, 2013

SIGNA SEED EXCHANGE by Jim Murrain


    Along with James Waddick, I am co-chair of the Species Iris Group of North America (SIGNA) Seed Exchange. Every year we accept, ask, and beg for donations of Iris seeds. While we prefer to get species and species crosses, being a fund raiser, we welcome any Iris seed. Every year we are amazed by the number of rare and unusual Iris seeds that are donated. There are usually a few that are impossible to acquire any way other than by growing from SIGNA seed donations.



    As the seed arrives we make note of the species, cultivar, location, and donor. Once we think all or most have arrived we assign a number to each package of seed. Most packages have far fewer than a hundred seeds, but quite a few have several hundred, while some even have thousands of seeds. We have thought about offering a few kinds by the pound!

    We have seed of all kinds of irises, from bearded and beardless iris, to crested and bulbous, desert and water species, even miniature and giant irises. There is something for every garden.


    Once all packages of seed have numbers we can begin to create a list. I believe several donors must be doctors as their hand writing can be a challenge to decipher. Once the list is complete we send it to SIGNA's editors for publication and to SIGNA's web master to prepare for internet offerings. 

    The next task may sound easy but it is the one I most dread. Printing thousands of labels for the seed packets. Most years we print around six thousand labels! Then we must separate them and pair with the correct package of seeds.


    The entire house is given over to seed counting and re-packaging. A 'spare' bedroom becomes the heart of the operation. Thankfully, members of The Greater Kansas City Iris Society and The Pony Express Iris Society volunteer to help every year. Counting is done in the dining room. Here Ken and Rita Kieff are working diligently away, along with others.


    And in the living room, L to R; Debbie and Scott Hughes, Chuck Robinson, GKCIS President Brian Chadwick-Robinson, and James Waddick. I miss my living room this time of year!


    Finally, boxes of Iris seed ready to send to anxious members of SIGNA. You must be a member of SIGNA to order seeds, but we allow anyone to join at the time of placing an order. Donors will get preference in fulfilling orders as both a thank you and to encourage them to donate again.


    Packets have a minimum of four healthy looking seeds but most have many more. Quite a few have as many seeds as will fit in the glassine envelopes we use. In addition to Iris, there are many seeds of other members of the Iris family such as Geissorhiza, Herbertia, and Moraea. The list will be posted at signa.org later this week if you are interested in seeing the variety available.

    Have you grown irises from seed?  I encourage you to join SIGNA and try growing a wide variety of Iris.  

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