Sunday, August 30, 2015


Growing and hybridizing tall bearded irises for beauty, performance, and your pleasure." (Bob Van Liere, Iris4U)

By Susanne Holland Spicker

One of Bob's newest introductions: 'FOREVER MY LOVE'  (Van Liere 2015) 
"There is an excitement, a rush, and thrill when you walk out in your garden, and you see a new iris." (Bob Van Liere)

Bob Van Liere has been growing and selling irises since 1994. His nearly 3-acre family operated iris garden, Iris4U, is located in Denver, Colorado, as well as Hamburg, Germany, Iris4u Greenhouse, where his daughter, Jennifer, has expanded the family business. Bob started hybridizing tall bearded irises in 1998, with his first cross 'CASTING CROWNS' in 2005. He says, "When that first cross reached bloom, I just stood there and said, 'Ahh.'"
'CASTING CROWNS' (Van Liere 2005)

Thousands of crosses and more than 60 introductions later, "Iris Bob," as he is affectionately nicknamed, is still looking for good, vibrant color combinations that exhibit the form, bud count, durability, and unique qualities he desires. His motto is "Growing and hybridizing tall bearded irises for beauty, performance and your pleasure."

This year, Van Liere has been working through a field of 4,000 seedlings bred during the 2012 season. This is their third year in the garden, and he has selected the best 250-300 performers to be dug up and set out again. He'll continue the culling process next year, ending up with maybe 10-20 varieties he thinks are worthy of introduction. The rest will be composted.

Bob reports this seedling, coming from his award-winning  2010 introduction 'Stars and Stripes Forever' looks "very promising," saying "it has a beautiful, consistent flounce." If it passes his rigorous standards, this seedling may be introduced soon.

2015 introduction 'MY EMBRACE' is a sister to 'Long Embrace,' 'Embrace Me,' and 'Sisterhood.' Van Liere says, "This may be my favorite of the sisters, as she is bigger and bolder and has a strong salmon coloration." He says "it is probably the slowest grower of the sisters, but it has the largest flower." On a personal note, I am anxious for this luscious-colored 'sister' to bloom next year in my garden, completing the fabulous foursome. 

'MY EMBRACE' (Van Liere 2015)

Bob says he would say his most popular introduction to date has been 'CROOKED LITTLE SMILE.' He goes on to say "the standards are twisted (hence the name Crooked), but the falls are so intensely colored the average iris lover doesn't care." He says "it makes a great garden plant" with its intensely colored deep lavender falls, rimmed in gold.

Bob's 2012 introduction 'GLOBAL CROSSING'  is a favorite in my garden, and a 2015 award-winning iris. The crisp light blue-violet standards, with its heavily ruffled, deep purple falls, edged with a light blue-violet line is elegant and stunning. An iris with a long bloom time, it was the first TB to bloom in my 2015 garden, and among the last still blooming at the end of the season. The flower is not only outstanding, but the foliage has lush green, wide, thick fans and  is always a subject of conversation with the visitors in my garden.

2015 award-winner 'GLOBAL CROSSING' (Van Liere 2012)

 A 2015 award-winning iris,'SWEETER THAN HONEY' (Van Liere 2012) has exceptional color and beautiful form. 
Another popular 2015 award-winner, 'MAYAN MYSTERIES' (Van Liere 2011) has a unique purple waterfall and bright color. 

Bob's tall bearded iris 'SISTERHOOD' refers to survivors of breast cancer. He says he introduced it in 2011 with all proceeds going to several breast cancer research organizations. I love the delicate color and wonderful substance of the petals of this large ruffled, laced, light 
pink self, which ensures a long bloom time. As a survivor of breast cancer, this addition to my garden has special meaning. Thank you, Bob, for honoring survivors in this 
meaningful way!
'SISTERHOOD' (Van Liere 2011)

'BY DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT' (Van Liere 2013)

Van Liere says this about his 2013 introduction 'BY DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT':  "A hybridizer is supposed to like their own introductions, but I really like this one. It has grown on me year after year. It calls me from across the garden. There is a confidence in its make up; it has a garden presence which says, 'Look at me.' "

Seedling 11AR5 (Tying Yellow Ribbons x That's All Folks) is a Mid-to Late bloomer with a "possibility for a 2016 introduction." Bob says "it had 28 increases after its maiden bloom in 2013."  He says to stay tuned for her name.
Van Liere says, "Good looks don't matter if the blossoms aren't prolific and lasting." His culling of seedlings is based on bud count and flower forms. He says he "wants the standards and falls to be substantial enough to last three or four days in the heat," and "a stem should last two weeks."  Van Liere's irises have always been exceptionally prolific and hardy in my zone 6 garden. Some of my favorites include:
Large blooms of 'TICKLE ME PINK' (Van Liere 2011), with it's bright, bushy beards, are long-lasting and a stand out in the garden. An honorable mention in the 2015 iris awards.
Striking and prolific 'LONG EMBRACE' (Van Liere 2010). A clump of this is absolutely stunning!

Regal 'QUEEN'S RANSOM' (Van Liere 2012). There are always lots of Oooh's and Ahh's over this unique iris.

Pictured below is Seedling 24FJ28. Bob may be introducing it in 2016. Hopefully this beauty will pass his rigid standards. I love the rainbow effect on the falls and the yellow glow and rosy edge on the standards. I have the perfect spot for it in my garden!  

Rhizomes ready to ship for planting. Bob suggests amending the soil with triple super phosphate fertilizer when planting. He fertilizes again in early March, when the flower stalks begin to develop. About 6 weeks after blooming, he fertilizes with a low nitrogen fertilizer. 

Iris4U Iris Garden, Denver, Colorado
"It can take a decade before a cross is proved to be worthy of commercial introduction. It's a lot of hard work," Bob admits. But I bet if you asked him, he would say it is all well worth it!

Do you grow any of Bob's irises? Which one(s) are your favorite(s)? I'd love to hear from you! 

Bob was featured in the Denver Post this past year. To read the article, go to

   To read more about Bob's seedlings and the future of their progress, other introductions, or what is happening right now, go to


  1. Great post Susanne! Bob has some really nice introductions and look at those beautiful rhizomes! Wouldn't you love to be able to look out over that field every spring?

    1. I'll say! I love his new introductions! I can't wait to get the red, white and blue one with the huge flounce, and, of course, I love his seedling

  2. Fantastic images, as usual, Susanne. Great post. Thank you for sharing.


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