Monday, July 9, 2018

California Dreaming 2--Bay View Gardens

By Bryce Williamson

Joe Ghio has been hybridizing irises for more than 50 years and is the proprietor of Bay View Gardens in Santa Cruz. While he has dabbled in other types of irises including Spurias and Louisianas, he is best known for his work with tall bearded and Pacific Coast Native irises. This spring I was able to not only visit the home garden—spread over a vacant lot and the backyards of the two house next to his house—but also the “farm” at Freedom, California. While part of the farm is rented out to a blackberry grower, Joe does have long rows of irises and seedling there.

Joe was already an established hybridizer of tall bearded irises when he decided to breed Pacific Coast Natives. His foundation irises included seed and species collected in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In the early days when Joe first started working with PCN’s, the flower had thin petals. If I had scheduled a visit to see them and it rained or Santa Cruz had high winds, I would have to reschedule since the flowers would be tattered. Not any longer the case—although still diploids, Joe has made major strides forward in flower durability and his recent hybrids hold up in wind and rain.

And the other amazing thing is the array of colors today. He has plicatas, bicolors, various lined flowers, and flowers with a contrasting eye at the heart of the flowers. The soft yellow and blue combinations are especially interesting. With this work, Joe has revitalized the interest in this group of irises. Sadly for many who will read this blog, the growing area for these lovely creations is limited.

Two Northern California hybridizers in the last 50 years have had a major impact on flower form. I have written in the past about Joe Gatty’s lovely creations and Joe’s huge, flower form changing work has been with “bubble ruffling.” Gone are the plain, tailored flowers of yester year and in are flowers with deeply ruffling and fluting. Joe’s bubble ruffled flowers forced all other tall bearded hybridizers to work ruffling into their creations.

Joe did win the Dykes Memorial Medal with ‘Mystique’, but I think judges missed another one of his early creations—‘Lady Friend’. I put it on the short list of irises that should have won the Dykes. It is an enduring creation that continues to be very popular today and one of those unique colors that has not been duplicated.

The following images are of some of Joe’s more recent creations.

Any one interesting in buying from Bay View Gardens can send $3.00 for a color catalogue to 1201 Bay Street, Santa Cruz, California 95060. Joe ships bearded irises in July and August and PCN’s in late October or November.

Editor’s note: This is the second part of my ‘On the Road Again’ blogs. The pervious one was about Nola’s iris garden and next in line will be Fleur de Lis at Modesto, California.



  1. Love the picture of Joe! Loved 5he article. Thanks

  2. I lived as a UCSC student in one of Joe’s rentals on Bay St by the elementary school from 1970-73! What a kind and gentle soul!