Sunday, July 28, 2013


By: Susanne Holland Spicker

Forefront:  "On Edge"
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
It's loveliness increases; It never fades.

Nestled at the foot of the majestic Twin Peak Mountains in Willard, Utah, Neal and Dawn Mumford have their own little heaven. Their beautiful, spacious "do-it-yourself" home is situated on a 5 1/2-acre lot.  Their orchard has about 300 apple trees of 8 varieties. They also have peach, plum, and sweet cherry trees. It is the perfect setting for their (at last count) 361 tall bearded irises. The irises are on 1/2 an acre in rows 75 feet long. Neal plants 2 fans back to back so they don't grow into each other, and then plants 2 more of the same variety 36" apart in the same fashion. This gives them a nice-sized clump in 2-3 years. 
"Conjuration," (also below) "Silverado," "Edith Wolford," "Dusky Challenger" 

I met the Mumford's through our common love of irises several years ago, and have enjoyed a special friendship since. (You meet the nicest people through irises)!

Forefront:  "Elisa Renee"
Neal and Dawn's love affair started with their first date to Jr. Prom in High school. They will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary this November. Their love affair with irises started 43 years ago, with rhizome starts from Neal's mother in 1970. They have been actively collecting and trading since 1984. They have ordered exclusively from Schreiners and Cooley's, as well as traded with iris friends. Helen Larsen, a local woman known for her irises, was an influence and contributor to the Mumford iris garden. 
From top left:  "Piping Hot," "Autumn Leaves," 
from front "Crowd Pleaser," "Gigolo," "Barcelona," 
"Golden Panther," "Orangutan Orange," "Kilt Lilt"
Neal, a retired PhD in organic chemistry, and Dawn, an art major and master quilter, work as a team. Neal takes charge of the planting, fertilizing and dividing of the iris. Dawn takes care of the organization, ordering, mapping, and iris scrapbooks, which have a picture and detailed information on each iris. Her expertise in color is evident in the garden. Their bloom time is typically mid-to late May, and through the first week of June. She says they have only had three iris rebloom:

Rebloomers:  "Champagne Elegance," "Best Bet," "Clarence"
Forefront:  First year blooms of "Yaquina Blue," "Crowned Heads"
Dawn orders around 7-10 rhizomes a year. Because of the number of iris they have, they rotate the dividing and transplanting, dividing 7-9 rows a year. That way, every 3-4 years all the rows end up being transplanted. In the garden, there are rows that may be 1 year old, others are 2, 3, or sometimes 4 years old. They have found that division every 3-4 years is best for optimum iris blooms.They also have what they call their "share bed," which are rows of irises they can share with others as they come to view the iris, which ensures that those people can get the rhizomes of the irises they want.
Front left to right:  "Feature Attraction," "Aegean Wind." 
Picture shows 2nd, 1st and 3rd year iris plantings.
They share some of the things they've learned over the years of successful growing: When they divide their iris, they transplant the rhizomes with 1/4 cup of superphosphate.They flood irrigate every 8 days. Dawn says that they use a well-balanced fertilizer, used at 1/2 strength, 3 weeks before bloom, and then again 3 weeks before winter, in late fall. In their location it is best to divide and plant irises in August. Dawn says the reason for their large, healthy blooms is great location; the rocky soil provides superior drainage. The iris benefit from the nutrient-rich orchard soil as well. Neal uses a liquid pre emergent, Trifluralian 4EC, after September 13 in the fall, for grass and weed control. A spring application is also recommended. Additionally, they don't trim the foliage in summer or fall unless they are transplanting; they feel the irises do better.
Forefront:  "Sweet Musette"
"Shaft Of Gold"  
Stunning Clump of "Stairway to Heaven"
Dawn tells the story about the irises "Purple by the North Fence" and "Yellow with the Orange Beard." She said a friend who was getting older couldn't remember the names of the irises, and had named them that. After more than 25 years, they are still known by those names in the Mumford garden. Another story was the time Dawn was dividing the iris. She was trimming the fans and writing the names on them. The little girl next door ran home and told her mother that Dawn was "giving all her flowers a name."

"Yellow with the Orange Beard," and 
"Purple By The North Fence"  noids

When they moved from their home in Brigham City 8 1/2 years ago to their present home, moving the irises was no easy task. They lost some, and many others' names were lost. It has been a real job researching, and correctly naming the iris. They have made real progress, and are close to identifying them all. The hardest winter Dawn remembers is the one of 1985, where the temperatures plunged to 65 degrees below zero.  They lost 23-25 irises that year because there wasn't a blanket of snow to insulate the plants, causing the demise of the iris. Dawn is interested in finding those irises that she's lost over the years and is hoping that someone reading this article can help her in acquiring them. (See her list at the bottom of this article). 
"Dawn Glory"  (Dawn likes the name of this one!)
(From front to back) "Angelique" "Pledge Allegiance,"
 "Gold Trimmings," "Lovely Kay"
They've done nearly all the work in their lovely "do-it-yourself"  home. It features arched alcoves for iris floral arrangements, special vases collected for the arrangements, a sandblasted etched glass in the china closet with images of irises, Noritake iris china, and a watercolor print from Cooley's-- all reminders of their love affair with irises. For years Dawn hosted a luncheon for as many as 58 women during iris season, with floral arrangements throughout their home, and, of course, a tour of their colorful garden.
Dawn with "Many Thanks," a Cooley's bonus plant. 
(It ranges anywhere from 48-60",) and favorites
"Magic Man, "Beverly Sills," "Geniality," and 
"Gold Trimmings"
More Favorites: "Schortman's Garnet Ruffles,"
"Designer Gown" (Dawn loves the gilt edge),
"Pledge Allegiance," Dawn with 60-inch 
"Many Thanks" in 2009, and "Silverado"
Among Dawn's favorites: "Night Ruler," "Electrabrite," 
"Into The Night," "Honky Tonk Blues" (which Dawn 
thinks should be named "Faded Denim"), and "Gitano"
A favorite blue of Dawns:  "Sea Power"
More favorites: "Salzburg Echo," "Company Red," "Aegean Wind," "Feature Attraction," and "Kitty Kay"

Neal's favorites:  "Change Of Pace," "Well Endowed," 
"My Ginny," "Dusky Challenger," "Rose Tattoo"
From l to r: "Victoria Falls," "Jessie's Song," "Sunday Chimes"
"Art Center," "Gigolo," "Barcelona," "Machismo,"   "Piping Hot,"  "Crimson Snow," "Mulled Wine"

I have many favorites in the garden. Here are a few 
of them:
"Pink Angel," and "Launching Pad"
My favorite red that day: "Dynamite"
"Rare Quality," an excellent blue and white plicata
The garden has stunning whites, "Skier's Delight" is one of many
I love the delicate colors of "Heather Cloud"
"Play With Fire," an outstanding red
"Tarlatin," a favorite pink with wonderful lace and ruffles! 
"Prom Night," a standout in the garden for me
Among Dawn's favorite purples: "Paul Black," 
"About Town," "Night Ruler," "Aristocracy," "Hollywood Nights"
"Elisa Renee," my all-time favorite pink in the Mumford iris garden
"Private Label" photographs so well.  I had some lovely 
cards printed up from this picture.
Front to back:  "Lovely Kay," "Gold Trimmings," "Pledge Allegiance"
Forefront:  "Queen In Calico"
"Theater" always lights up the garden

I've been traveling up to the Mumford's for 
several years now around Memorial Day to 
view the spectacular show the iris put on!  
It's been interesting to see the difference in 
the blooms from year to year because of 
inconsistencies in the weather. One thing 
that is always a constant, however, is the 
warm welcome and gracious treatment I 
receive from Neal and Dawn. Seeing their 
dedication to each other and to their irises 
has been an inspiration to me--it is a love
affair that has increased over the years.  
And, of course, the iris never disappoint! 

Dawn would love to replace the iris they have 
lost over the years.  If you know where the 
Mumford's can acquire any of their lost irises, 
please leave a comment.

  • Acclamation
  • Chanteuse
  • Cracklin Burgundy
  • Dixie Darling
  • Edna's Wish
  • First Blush
  • Fort Apache
  • Joyce Terry
  • Kentucky Derby
  • Laser Light
  • Latin Rock
  • Leda's Lover
  • Lynn Hall
  • Melissa Sue
  • Pink Sleigh
  • Play Girl
  • Roselene
  • Royal Regency
  • Snow Spoon
  • Storybook
  • Windsor Rose
  • Wine and Roses
  • World News


  1. Outstanding photos and great information. Glad you posted this. Thank you.

  2. What a beautiful garden!! I did a search on Google and found a few of these, hope this helps.

    'Joyce Terry'
    'Cracklin' Burgundy'
    'Kentucky Derby'
    'Snow Spoon'
    'Snow Spoon' and 'Storybook'

  3. Thank You for taking the time to look for me. I will check out these links. I really don't need or probably deserve more iris but I feel bad about the ones I lost. Most were lost that one severe winter that had terrible wind chill factors. The rest were lost when we moved in JANUARY of 2005 to our new home. We tried to get starts of all we had but apparently missed some.Thank You for reading the article that Susanne wrote and for helping me. Sincerely, Dawn Mumford

    1. Hi Dawn, you can never have too many irises!! I am new to growing iris but very excited about my garden this year. I have gotten over 100 varieties already, that'a quite a few for a small suburban lot, but they are just irresistible! Thank you for sharing your story and inspiring me. I liked reading about your system of planting and caring for your irises, lots of good information there. Thanks again!!

  4. you can find some or all here.
    and check out BlueJ for others.

  5. wow. these pictures are amazing!!! I live in the North Ogden area and love irises. Do the Mumfords open their garden to anyone ?

    1. Sure. If you call first it would be better. We are in th e Brigham City phone book.

  6. wow. these pictures are amazing!!! I live in the North Ogden area and love irises. Do the Mumfords open their garden to anyone ?


  7. SPECTACULAR! My favorite is the pale peach ones. Thank you for sharing this lovely garden for us to view on this blog!