Monday, March 3, 2014

Aruba's Eye-Popping Clump Shots

'Amber Essence' in Brad's Garden c. Brad Collins

By Renee Fraser

We are a lucky generation of gardeners:  there are quite a number of talented photographers across the internet sharing their shots of our favorite flower.  In the days before internet sites such as Dave's Garden, All Things Plants, Gardenweb, and of course, the American Iris Society's Iris Encyclopedia, we had to anxiously await the year's catalogs from our favorite iris growing companies to drool over lovely images of irises.  So much has changed in the last few years!  So today I would like to share a few of the fine photographs of one of my internet heroes, Brad Collins (Aruba), who has designed and planted an extraordinary iris garden in Iowa and who liberally and generously shares his beautiful photographs of irises with the world on AllThings Plants and the Irises Cubit.  

'Purple Serenade' c. Brad Collins

I really love Brad's pictures because he often photographs the whole plant or a clump of irises, which gives me a better idea of what the variety will look like in the garden.  For instance, 'Petticoat Shuffle' never would have caught my eye (just another purple plicata) but Brad's clump shot sent me straight to the catalog to place the order.

'Petticoat Shuffle' c. Brad Collins

Brad became interested in photography through scuba diving, and when I complimented him on his talent, he dryly noted that taking pictures of irises is easy compared to trying to capture a three-foot-long fish moving like lightning 90 feet below water.  But I don't think it's easy to get a shot like this:

'There's No Place Like Home' c. Brad Collins

Brad comes from a long line of iris lovers.  It has become a cliché' in this blog, but once again, it was grandma who started it all.  Brad's father, Michael, also an iris lover and accomplished gardener, says that when he was a child the whole family would walk over to grandma's iris garden to eat a hearty breakfast cooked by grandpa over an open fire outside.  The scent of the first iris each spring brings those memories flooding back, and Michael is proud and happy that his son Brad caught the iris virus and is continuing the family tradition.  The first iris Brad planted in his garden was 'Stepping Out', a gift from his dad, who was given that very iris by his grandmother in 1975. 

'Drinks at Sunset' c. Brad Collins

Brad has designed several acres of gardens in Iowa.  He was inspired to plant his huge curving beds of irises after a tour of the Pacific northwest iris growers in 2009, including visits to Mid America, where he fell in love with the way the irises were set off by the conifers, roses, and small trees.  With advice and help from Paul Black, he set about creating his own Eden.  Many of his spectacular clump shots are taken in his own back yard.  He grows over 500 varieties of irises, mostly newer introductions from Paul Black, Thomas Johnson, Joe Ghio, Barry Blyth, and Keith Keppel, but many from other hybridizers as well.

Brad's garden featuring rare conifers

Year-round interest

Over 500 varieties of irises

Brad says "one of the things I enjoyed from visiting the commercial gardens on the west coast was the seedling beds, and finding something brand new in those gardens every day that I had never seen before. It was a lot of fun- I think I walked all of Schreiner's 200 acres in those few days and made numerous stops at Mid America and Keppel’s,  and I really enjoyed seeing all the new colors and patterns.  So I decided to try and make some crosses at home just to see if I could get some pods. The result was better than I had hoped and I came up with almost 40 crosses."  Over 800 plants are growing, and this year he planted 3,000 seeds.  Thank goodness his kind neighbors own a commercial garden, and they have given over part of a greenhouse for his use.  He'll need his own greenhouse soon!

Brad's Seedlings lined out

Brad has scheduled a trip to California this spring:  he will be visiting  Napa Country Iris, Joe Ghio's gardens in Monterey, and Superstition Iris Gardens this April.  I look forward to sharing his experience through his generosity with his time and talent and the wonders of the internet.  To hold you over until then, here are a few more of his wonderful clump shots.

'Catwalk Queen' c. Brad Collins

'Sweetly Sung' c. Brad Collins

'Romantic Gentleman' c. Brad Collins

Which photo will send you straight to the order forms?  Let us know below.


  1. Sweetly Sung! Have just ordered it.

  2. Does Brad sell his new iris anywhere? If so, where?

    1. These irises were hybridized by various irisarians and are available through a number of commercial gardens, including Mid America and Schreiner's. We anxiously await the results of Brad's hybridizing efforts- I am sure he will post photos this Spring of his first attempts, and if he decides to register and introduce any irises for sale we will write up an article and tell you where they are available. For the irises pictured, see some of the nurseries listed in the AIS commercial directory at

  3. I'm speechless at the sheer beauty of Brad's gardens and irises!! What an inspiration he is! Thank you, Renee, for putting this wonderful post together--it is definitely one of my all-time favorites!

    1. I'm sure Brad will be flattered at your compliment, Susanne. He is indeed an inspiration!

  4. OMG Renee! Brad's photos and plants are Gorgeous! Now I want Petticoat Shuffle, There's No place Like Home, Drinks At Sunset, Catwalk Queen AND Romantic Gentleman!

    1. I know, I know. Writing this sent me shopping!

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  6. Absolutely gorgeous. We at Cubits and All Things Plants enjoy Brads posts and picture immensely..

  7. I love all of them. I love 'Irises', period. my favorite flower that I plant. Even have my son hooked on them.

  8. Beautiful photos ! I have to order some new Iris , next Spring.


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