Monday, April 23, 2018

Aril Trek 2018!

by Tom Waters

'Point Well Taken' (McAllister, 1998)
at the Pountney garden
On April 6 and 7, aril and arilbred enthusiasts from parts far and wide converged on Las Cruces, New Mexico, to enjoy each other's company and an astonishing array of arilbreds in bloom.

The Aril Trek was a joint undertaking of the Aril Society International and the Mesilla Valley Iris Society, and the arrangements were all excellent and smoothly executed.

A labyrinth patterned after the one at Chartres Cathedral,
in Howard Dash's garden
Friday evening registration was followed an educational session of "aril bingo" and a panel discussion with Dell Perry, Pete McGrath, Rick Tasco, Perry Dyer, and (much to my surprise) yours truly.

'New Vision' (Tasco, 2012)
at the Dash garden
At the Wilson Garden
The heart of the weekend was four garden tours on Saturday: the small but beautifully designed Pountney garden in the residential Tortugas area south of Las Cruces, the expansive Dash garden high in the West Mesa desert, the glorious Wilson Garden north of the city, with row upon abundant row of perfectly grown irises of many types, and the delightfully ornamented Ayres garden, northeast of the city.

The timing seemed perfect for arilbreds, with both halfbreds and quarterbreds apparently near peak bloom, amidst late medians and early TBs. I got to see many old and new cultivars in bloom that I have not grown myself. It was also rewarding to see such fine arilbred performance in gardens with such different growing conditions: desert sand to river-valley clay, cool verdant niches to sites exposed to the full sun, wind, and temperature extremes of southern New Mexico.

'Dubai' (Johnson, 2013)
at the Wilson Garden
Saturday afternoon featured informative judges training led by Dell Perry (who took us through the intricacies of aril and arilbred classification and characteristics with verve and expertise) and Perry Dyer (who applied his experience and keen eye to show how to look at these varied plants in the garden). Yes, I did pass the test at the end!

'Gideon's Lamp' (McGrath, 2004)
at the Wilson Garden
At the Saturday night dinner, keynote speaker Pete McGrath amazed us all with slides of startlingly beautiful pure aril hybrids and tantalizing arilbred seedlings from his continuing effort to bring bolder veining into this group. Pete's talk was also a story of his experience with aril and arilbred irises, full of deep disappointments and unexpected rewards, and always coming back to the personal dimension: the people and relationships that affected him and his work, often in profound ways.

'Mean Mr. Mustard' (McGrath, 2010)
at the Ayres garden
It was a great weekend. I particularly enjoyed renewing old acquaintances in the iris world, and meeting other new friends I had only known on line. If you are an iris lover, but not sure if you can manage the time and expense of attending a national convention, regional and special-interest gatherings such as the Aril Trek are a comfortable and rewarding way to see some beautiful iris gardens and meet many wonderful people!


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