Monday, December 9, 2019

The top 15 Iris at ‘Smokin Heights’ season 2019/20 in Australia!

By Mel Schiller and Bailey Schiller

We are smack bang in the middle of digging customer orders right now before Christmas. Here is our top 15 Iris for this current season.

15. 'Mallee Sunrise' (Stribley '07) BB: An excellent garden Iris that grows well and blooms reliably. It puts on a wonderful show and calls viewers over from across the field.
14. 'Ruby Slippers' (Keppel '02) IB: On the older side now but it is an absolute showstopper!
13. 'Dedicated' (Black '11) SDB: Very unusual almost green colouring makes you do a double take. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you, it has that wow factor!
12. 'Coralina' (Johnson '14)TB: Super bubble ruffled in peach tones makes this variety standout!
11. 'Line Drive' (M Sutton '07) IB: Nothing else like it! What more can we say?
10. 'Lancer' (Shockey '95) AB: An older Arilbred but it keeps up with the newer varieties. Its dark signal against the pastel lavender tone makes it very appealing.
9. 'Brilliant Disguise' (Johnson '08) TB: Flowers are born in abundance on this variegata. You won’t miss this Iris as you walk past!
8. 'Terse Verse' (Blyth '00) SDB: Very easy growing dwarf that covers itself in bloom season after season. Very strange colouring that is hard to describe.
7. 'Merchant Marine' (Keppel '07) TB: An all-time favourite in this colour class. Everything about it is perfection, we expect nothing less of Keith Keppel!
6. 'Voulez-vous' (Johnson '15) TB: A fabulous flat Iris that is among the best in this class. We use it a lot in hybridizing!
5. 'Splatter Matter's' (Painter '10) TB: We thought this would be popular, it proved us right!
4. 'Molokini' (M Sutton '16) TB: One of those “love it or hate it” Iris. For lovers of the unusual this is the Iris for you!
3. 'Waves On The Coast' (B. Schiller '19) TB: The illusion of a blue and green iris from the distance….interesting!
2. 'Kissed By Fire' (M. Schiller '19) TB: Garden visitors revelled in the magnet of colour this iris provided.
1. 'Edge Of Happiness' (Barry Blyth '19) TB: Barry Blyth has created this beautiful iris. Our most favourite from the season just gone by. WOW!

We find that iris seasons differ from year to year. Customers decide on the colour scheme iris for each year. Last year 'orange' appeared to be popular. This season, well it has yet to be decided! 

Well, we will leave you to it we have digging to do!

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Why Irises?

By Maggie Asplet

It’s here, the eagerly awaited and definitive book on irises; many iris lovers have waited a long time for Gwenda Harris to put pen to paper and give the world the benefit of her huge experience growing these amazing plants.

Gwenda is widely respected for her intimate knowledge of irises and has travelled worldwide following her passion. Her talks and demonstrations have entranced audiences throughout the country and encouraged many to look further into the breeding, growing and showing this wonderful plant.

The combination of Stephanie Boot as editor with assistance from Tony Hall, with beautiful photographs by Gwenda, Stephanie, Judith Neilson, Graham Menary and Alistair Boot makes this a book to cherish. Why Irises? is not limited to just tall bearded varieties, but encompasses all the other members of the genus too. Gwenda, Stephanie and Tony are all well known in the iris world and have all traveled to lecture or to judge irises in worldwide competition.

This is a book for every iris lover's shelf, the stories of travels, talks given and general helpful hints contained within, make it a must have.

It’s available from the publisher Alspix Studios email  at a cost of NZD$35 a copy plus postage as follows:

New Zealand wide       $6.50
Australia                      $12.00
USA                            $22.00
Europe                         $22.00

Other countries by arrangement.          
To order please make full payment to the South Canterbury Iris Groups bank account - Westpac
# 03 0887 0290597 00   using your name as the reference. You can also use PayPal -
Please also email the publisher with your postal address and confirmation that you have made payment.

Books will be dispatched in the order payments are received and as this is a limited edition be early to avoid missing out.

About Gwenda Harris M.A., B.Sc (Botany & Geology)

In between several false career starts, university study and some travels, Gwenda trained as an Editor with the DSIR (Department of Scientific and Industrial Research), was Field Officer for the Nature Conservation Council, then Executive Officer for the Environmental Council.  This was followed by working for the Nature Heritage Fund and the New Zealand Conservation Authority.

She edited the New Zealand Iris Society Bulletin for seven years from September 1993, and Spectrum (newsletter of the Species Section for NZIS) from March 2001 to March 2002.  Gwenda was awarded the Festival Crown Plate in 2001 for meritorious service to the New Zealand Iris Society for the producing the Bulletin and dealing with ERMA (Environmental Risk Management Authority) regarding the importation of iris seed - resulting in a further one hundred and six species being added to the list of species permitted for importation.  In 2016, Gwenda was awarded the President's Trophy.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Adventures in Raised Board Beds

By Virginia Spoon

We found that raised board beds are easier to weed and keep people from walking over the irises. However, they have their problems. When we first started making the board beds the lumber was treated with chemicals that kept them from rotting, at least for 20 years or more. We weren't going to use the area for vegetable beds because of the danger of chemicals leaching into the soil.
 Some of our first raised beds--photo by Ginny Spoon

Our first board beds were started around 1996 with some lumber that was already used, given to us by a iris club member who was moving to a smaller home. We are still using those beds and the lumber has not rotted. Another friend  who was moving gave us some lumber that was never treated that he used for his vegetable garden.  He said it was a special wood that was very expensive and that was over 20 years ago. It has not rotted yet.

40 year old non-treated lumber--photo by Ginny Spoon

We made plenty of mistakes along the way. Don made many of the beds too wide, some were six feet wide and that made it hard to weed without walking into the beds. Some were too long, 30 feet (five, six foot joined boards). Many of the beds were too close together so that the mower would not go between the beds. I tried to tell Don that as the years went by we would be older and it would be hard to weed eat in between the rows. Unfortunately, that time has come to us.

Raised board beds, too long and too close together--photo by Ginny Spoon

Oh, what I would give to be able to mow with my riding mower in between the rows now. We have found that the ideal measurements for a board bed is four feet wide, eight feet long and either six or eight inches high. However, now the lumber is not treated with the same deadly chemicals and they barely last five years without rotting. The treated lumber even has a warning on it that says "Do not put in contact with soil." 

Rotted treated lumber that needs replacing--photo by Ginny Spoon

I recently purchased a cedar board kit that is four feet wide, eight feet long with two boards making it eight inches high. I used screws to put it together and used our two picnic tables to place it on to save my back. I then turned it over and put 1/4 inch mesh hardware cloth on the bottom to keep out the voles and moles that plagued that particular area of the garden. They must love the sandy soil there. I filled it with topsoil to the top. It is important to fill the beds to the top because if you do not it doesn't drain well and then you have a rot problem.

New cedar raised bed--photo by Ginny Spoon

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