Monday, May 6, 2019

2019 AIS National Convention

By Bryce Williamson

On April 23-27, 2019, in the 99th year of The American Iris Society, Region 14, Northern California, Nevada, and Hawaii, hosted the National Convention at San Ramon, California. In addition to meetings and trainings, the event featured three days of garden tours. This post is a sample what we saw in the gardens.

The four tour buses were split two and two and I ended up at the Horton Iris Garden Thursday morning. The weather had not cooperated with plans since it had been in the 90s, but there was still much to see. I really tried to find a weed in Mary Ann’s garden, but I did not succeed and that is no small accomplishment in a garden spread over acres of rolling landscape. It was here also that we had an early lunch after the bus start time of 7 AM. Special praise is need for the Sierra Foothills Iris Society who had provided a lavish spread of snacks for the attendees, many of us pretending to be dying of thirst and starving after the two-hour trip to the garden.

'Sweet Child of Mine'--Larry Lauer
'Dressed in Black'--Leslie Painter
'Luminager'--Stout 2016
After lunch, we drove through the state capital, Sacramento, to Elk Grove and Fran and Russ Shields’s Frannie’s Iris Garden. There seemed to have been a spirited competition between local iris societies because the Sacramento Iris Society had matched the lavish spread of snacks and cold drinks were especially welcome in the 90-degree heat. Of special interest was the Dykes Medal winner bed, gaving me the chance to renew acquaintance with famous irises some that I had not seen in 50 years.

Black Cherry Sorbet' (MTB)--Harris
'Queen's Circle'--Fred Kerr

'Blue Rhythm'--Whiting, Dykes Medal 1950
Friday attendees experienced the capricious, mercurial nature of Northern California weather when we drove to Sonoma to Rudy Ciuca and Joe Lawrence’s C&L Vineyard and arrived on a cold, foggy morning. With only 22 acres of farmland, Joe and Rudy have lots of irises and lots of grapevines. That morning several us, including yours truly, provided an hour of judges’ training in the guest iris beds. Here we also had lunch and we able to enjoy the quiet of the countryside as the fog burned off and the day warmed.

'Better Than Butter'--Black
Meininger 1-F (easy to miss the flounces)
In the afternoon, we had free time in the historic town of Sonoma. Famous as the last California Missions, Sonoma was also the site of the declaration of the short-lived California Republic. A small town, Sonoma is famed for its fine wineries, boutique shops, and excellent restaurants.

On the final day of tours, we had yet another 7 AM start, this time to Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park, Union City. This is part of East Bay Regional Park system and they gave the gardener and park ranger Jeff Bennett permission plant a few irises on a ridge. I am not certain that they understood what they were getting; however, the park district has been amazingly supportive, providing the deer proof fencing for the plot, running a water line to the location, picking up the cost of materials, and, even, providing great signage for the convention. This planting of 800 guest irises and another 1000 named varieties is clearly a labor of love for Jeff Bennett. Local societies Clara B. Rees of San Jose, Sydney B. Mitchell of Oakland, and Mt. Diablo Iris Society all have pitched in to help. As one might expect, growing irises in virgin soil has wonderful results for the plants, though there was a little matter of an accumulation of years of weed seeds.

'Black Lipstick'--Keppel 2016
'What A Beauty' --Joe Ghio
Kelly TAFCS 12-13
The day after the tour by the iris society, the planting was opened to the public and the plan is to continue to add and improve this garden in the next years.

By lunch time, the famed fog had burnt off leaving us with a good view of San Francisco Bay to the west and we were told the famous Hayward earthquake fault was just a couple of hundred feet to the east.

After lunch we braved the weekend traffic and went over the Santa Cruz Mountains to Irene and Jim Cummins’s garden in Scotts Valley. Joe Ghio of Santa Cruz got them interested in irises and their garden is noteworthy for the integration of irises with other plant materials.

'Heat Is On'--Thomas Johnson
'Joy Returns'--Shadlow (rebloomer)
'Graffiti Art'--J. Painter 2016
Arriving back at the hotel, we had time to stop and rest before the evening awards banquet. The American honorary awards and garden awards voted by the judges were already known, so the highlight on the evening was the naming of the winners of the 5 cups from the garden visits.

The President’s Cup for best named variety from a Region 14 hybridizer was won by Rick Tasco of Superstition Iris Garden in Catheys Valley for his iris ‘Autumn Explosion’:
Image by Rick Tasco
The Franklin Cook Cup for best named variety from outside of Region 14 was won by Paul Black’s ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’:

The Ben R.  Hager Cup for best median was also won by Paul Black for IB ‘Black Comedy’. Paul Black’s irises are introduced by MidAmerica Iris Garden, Salem, Oregon:

The Lloyd Zurbrigg-Clarence Maham Seedling Cup went to Hooker Nichols’ 1978; Hooker Nichols' irises can be found at their garden website:
Image by Mikey Lango
Awarded for the first time in honor of Gerald Richardson, that award went to Irene and Jim Cummins for their use of irises in the whole garden:
Image by Mikey Lango

1 comment:

  1. Glad that their were no major problems & that you enjoyed the iris gardens as well as the people involved.


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