Sunday, June 22, 2014

Louisiana irises grown in New Zealand

Bernard and I are both members of the New Zealand Iris Society and we try to attend the annual NZIS conventions every year. These are very interesting events, as they are typically held on the North Island one year and then on the South Island the next year. This is all very democratic - and means that, for example, North Island irisarians have one year with fairly easy travel costs and effort to attend the convention and the next year (when the convention is held on the other island) they have higher travel costs. Of course, there are die-hard irisarians who attend every year, irrespective of where the convention is held. As we live in Australia it costs us about the same each year to attend. We really look forward to attending these great events for several reasons. Firstly, the conventions are rarely held in major cities, but are more than usually located in a reasonable-sized provincial city or small town. Accommodation options are plentiful in New Zealand, so you can live it up in 5 star luxury or not during your stay. The experience at the conventions are still the same though - friendly and relaxed. Secondly, we get to see a different part of New Zealand every time we attend. You can enjoy an in-depth immersion into a small part of this scenically beautifully country - complete with a bus load of friends! Thirdly, many of the private gardens visited are not normally open to the general public (or even to private gardening groups). Most are completely stunning. Most gardens visited feature some type of iris. What you get to see can depend on the general geographical area (coastal, alpine, high desert etc.) and the personal iris preferences of the garden host. Fourthly, New Zealand is a country that everybody should visit at least once in their life. Similar in many ways to Australia, the New Zealanders share a strong spirit of colonial history intertwined with cultural diversity, a real 'can-do' spirit and a love of rugby, cricket and hot, sunny Christmas times. A few years ago the NZIS convention was held in the North Island in the Bay of Plenty area. The BOP Group are one of the largest groups in the Society and they put on a great convention. A highlight for us was visiting Rivendell Iris Gardens of Kati Kati in the Bay of Plenty area. Stephanie and Alistair Book specialise in Louisiana irises. The temperate winters and warm, balmy and slightly humid summers are a perfect fit for our favourite iris species! I am attaching some photos taken at Rivendell Iris Gardens to show how happy Louisiana irises are in our part of the world (south western Pacific Ocean). Many New Zealand irisarians traditionally grow various forms of bearded irises, Siberian cultivars and iris species. Louisiana irises have been actively hybridised for many decades in New Zealand, but the cultivars rarely receive much attention - which is a great pity! This blog will (hopefully) go some way to evening up the playing field, eh? So, those irisarians who live in the northern hemisphere need to consider just how far 'south' do Louisiana irises grow? Answer: at least 40 degrees south of the equator! Heather Pryor Sydney, Australia

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