Monday, November 30, 2020

Hawkes Bay Iris Group Safari 26 October 2020

By Maggie Asplet

Around the 25th of October each year we celebrate Labour Day here in New Zealand.  This year the invite to join the celebration on this day and to view irises was so well received.  Why? Because COVID19 had caused so many cancellations that I was beginning to think "Iris things" were something of the past.

Wendy and I prepared a day before for our 3 hour drive to stay in Havelock North with Bev & Jim Haliburton. We had a reasonably early start the next morning crisscrossing the Hawkes Bay region (east coast, North Island of New Zealand) for the Hawkes Bay Iris Group Safari.

Our first garden visit was to the home of John and Lynn Lees, Taradale, where not only we enjoyed looking at the garden, but as everyone arrives, the catching up with each other begins.

In the shed was John's pride and joy

Lucy's Blue Silk and White Elephant

This is a town garden full of treasures

We then set of for a visit to a nursery and garden owned by Bruce and Karen Carswell, Twyford Irises, named after the road they live on.  This is a beautifully nursery with a picking garden in a lovely rural setting.

Nursery photos - as you enter the nursery a lovely picking garden is available

This was our first chance to stop and really have a catch up; it was morning tea, time for refreshments.  For any of you that have travelled to New Zealand, you will know that we love our cuppa time.

One wee dog helped himself to something to eat

With my cup in hand, I then wondered around the rest of the garden.  Just lovely and a real credit to Bruce and Karen.

We then had a 20 minute drive through countryside to the home of John and Heather Trim where they hold the Hawkes Bay Project Irises.  These are all irises that have been hybridized by people who have lived in the area.  It is a continuing project for this iris group.

In the middle we have Heather discussing with Huib Selderbeek some of the growing conditions of these irises

John and Heather both do a bit of hybridising themselves 

Back in our vehicles again, we head to Huib and Helen Selderbeek's home for more garden sharing and also lunch. The images will not show just how challenging this garden is with some areas steep, others dry, and with a delightful boggy patch at the bottom of the road.  It was a wonderful spot for our shared lunch.

Pond pictures

I have circled the pond area - just right of top centre.  This image also shows the many rocks and stones on the ground, and perhaps how steep in places.

Lunch time, and while we were sitting talking, one of our native birds, the Tui decided to join us.

A small selection of beautiful beardless irises - perhaps a story for another day

Lunch was over and it was time to head back towards civilization.  Our next stop was to the home of Brenton and Fiona Le Prou.  Located on a town section and with a little thinking outside the square, in this case inside the pot, was an amazing selection of miniature and small bearded irises.  Unfortunately, bloom season for these irises had passed, but there were still other irises to be seen.

Here is how Brendon manages to grow so many of the small irises and also two of his beautiful birds that live on the other side of the netting

Not a TB person, Brendon still managed to find a couple of them in flower during our visit.  As you can see, it was such a beautiful day to be out and about.

Our next stop was to the home of Brian Townsend.  It is another small garden, but still with some wonderful treasurers.  

Brian won the Begg Shield at our Convention last year.

Brian, with his best shoes on is pointing at an iris that we spend considerable time trying to remember the name of.  Not sure that we agreed in the end.
A beautifully keep lawn and garden bed at Brian's

It was then time to get back in our cars and head to our next garden.  This is at the home of Joy Kennerley and again a small town garden. From the moment you stop outside the drive, you just get the feeling there will be loads to see.

The image in the middle is Nobody's Child

As you can see, so many gorgeous plants and a very peaceful place to wander around

It was finally time to get into our cars just one more time; we had already seen 7 beautiful gardens, heard a lot of laughter and just enjoyed some wonderful time together.

One final garden to see was at the home of Jim and Bev Haliburton. It is were we did our final wander around and questioned just when we would all catch up again.

Unnamed - Iris pallida and I swertti 

Beautiful blossom trees with tall bearded irises growing underneath

You can't have an iris safari day without afternoon tea.  This was a rather special occasion - this year was to be the Society's 70th birthday celebration, but not knowing what was happening around lockdown, a decision was made to cancel 2020 convention.

So, not to be forgotten the Hawkes Bay Group decided afternoon tea would honour this milestone.
A cake and a beautifully handcrafted card were presented to everyone.

John Trim had the honour of blowing out the candle

It was a fabulous day out, very busy with 8 gardens in total, and a fair few miles travelled.  It was so good to have been able to catch up with other iris people and to share the passion in such difficult times.

Thank you so much Hawkes Bay Iris Group and all your members for such a wonderful day out.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Winter Pastimes for Iris Enthusiasts

by Tom Waters

Thanksgiving week is upon us. Here in northern New Mexico, that means the garden is already put to bed for the winter. The first killing frost came late this year, near the end of October. But now everything is on hold, waiting for spring to bring it all back to life in March.

So what is a fanatical iris lover to do with all this time indoors? This is actually a welcome opportunity to catch up on various chores that get shunted aside during the growing season.

The first of my winter tasks is to update my garden maps. Garden maps are essential if you have more than just a handful of irises to keep track of. Many people use garden labels to identify their irises, but even if you do, a map is still essential. Labels can get pulled up, become illegible, or become damaged in all sorts of ways. Personally, I do not use labels with most of my irises; I find them unsightly and I strive for a more naturalistic look in my garden. So for me, a map is not just a backup, it is essential.

It is a good idea to make a map as accurate as possible. I have irregular shaped flower beds, and just sketching the shapes of the beds by eye can lead to bad distortions. So I actually measure to create the base map. It's a chore, but once done it does not need to be repeated often. As plants are removed, moved around, or added, it's simple enough to change the maps. I do this in the summer as I dig, replant, and add my new acquisitions. The result is a handful of papers - last year's maps with lots of pencil marks noting what has changed. Winter is the time to convert these scribbles into something more permanent.

I use Photoshop for my maps, but really any kind of drawing or graphics software would work fine. Why go to that trouble? Why not just use the original paper maps? The short answer is that computer files can be easily duplicated and backed up. If you've ever left a notebook outside and forgotten about it, you know the tragedy of irreplaceable records lost to weather damage. It's also all to easy for papers to get accidentally tossed or ruined, even when kept safe indoors.

Even if you don't want to use graphics software, it is a good practice to scan your hand-drawn maps and store them as computer files.

Winter is also the time to update whatever other records you keep on your irises. I keep track of the name and class of each iris I grow, where it is planted, when I obtained it and from whom, as well as hybridizer and year of introduction. There are specialized software applications specially designed to maintain records of garden plants, but I just use a regular spreadsheet. Almost everyone has Excel or a similar product on their computer, and keeping your records using a familiar standard product like this ensures that you will be able to maintain them even as the world of computers continues to change from year to year.

As a hybridizer, I also do some pedigree research over the winter. It's fun to trace the ancestry of the irises in your garden, and sometimes there are unexpected surprises in the family tree. The AIS Iris Encyclopedia is a good reference for doing this kind of ancestry research.

I also sometimes use the winter months to plan what I intend to discard or acquire in the coming year. Before the catalogs start coming in the spring, it is possible to impose a little discipline on oneself and make sensible decisions about how many new plants to bring into the garden. Of course, I never manage to adhere strictly to my plans, but setting some ground rules in the winter does help.

These winter chores actually provide some enjoyment for me. Maybe they are a kind of surrogate for being in the garden, as they draw my imagination into thoughts of next year's bloom.

Monday, November 16, 2020

LICI Starts Planting Irises In The Marsh For The 2020 Season

By Gary Salathe

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI), of which I am part of, recently began our first iris plantings out in the swamps and marshes of Southeast Louisiana for the 2020 fall and winter planting season. 

In a previous World of Irises posting I explained how our group locates native Louisiana irises that are threaten with destruction and, after getting the landowner’s permission, relocates the irises into public refuges and nature preserves.  The idea being that it is hard to get the public on board with helping to preserve and protect native Louisiana irises if they can’t experience them blooming because they can only be found in the deepest corners of the swamps and marshes hidden from view.   If we can’t bring the public to the irises then we will bring the irises to the public, is the idea.

Photo:  Volunteers on a Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative project working in July digging irises from a site west of New Orleans on property that is slated for development.

Starting in late May of this year, and especially in June and July, volunteers on multiple events organized by the LICI dug up around 6,000 I. giganticaerulea Louisiana species irises from properties that have plans for development, as donations from homeowners that removed irises from swamps and planted them on their property or from sites where irises from past rescued events were planted over the last two years. 

Photo:  Masks and social distancing was the order of the day in the summer LICI rescue events. 

The irises were planted into containers at an iris holding area we set up in New Orleans since they were dug up as the iris dormant season was about to begin.  The plan was for the irises to strengthen for a few months so that we could plant them in the swamps after they began their fall growth period.

Photo: Rescued irises being planted into containers in July at the LICI iris holding area in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans. 

We were finally ready to start planting irises in late October after a few close calls by hurricanes delayed us.   The first project on October 21st., which was held at the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans East, had just a small number of volunteers to show how these events would work for the refuge staff’s approval in the COVID 19 era.  Everything went well and I. giganticaerulea Louisiana species irises were planted.  A decision was made that we would be OK to expand the number of volunteers for future projects.

Photo:  The first irises of the 2020 planting season are dug up from our iris holding area on the morning of October 21st  to be planted at the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.

 The second volunteer event was also a small one.  It was held at St. Bernard State Park, which is located southeast of New Orleans.  In the first of what we hope will be many,  I. giganticaerulea Louisiana species irises were planted, some threatened irises were dug up and an area of a pond bank was cleared of brush to help the public see the irises.

Photo:  Irises being planted at St. Bernard State Park on October 28th, the day before Hurricane Zeta hit New Orleans.

 The next day our iris holding area was hit by Hurricane Zeta on the evening of October 29th with the eye of the hurricane passing directly overhead!

 Photo:  The iris holding area after branches and other debris were picked up after the Hurricane Zeta.  A power pole leaned over at the entrance, but otherwise we escaped with no damage to the irises or the site.

 On November 4th we held our first large-scale iris planting volunteer event at the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.  We went back to the refuge because the water level was down since winter rains had not begun yet.   This allowed us to get into areas that we have not been able to plant irises in over the last two years during events held in late December or early January due to the water being high.  During the event, which was organized by LICI, seventeen volunteers from various non-profits, including LICI volunteers, planted I. giganticaerulea Louisiana species irises.  The other groups included;  The Friends of the Refuge, Limitless Vistas, Common Ground Relief and the Native Plant Initiative of Greater New Orleans.

Photo:  Volunteers from various community non-profits involved in marsh restoration planting Louisiana irises on November 3rd in the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.

We’re off to such a great start that we have a volunteer event planned with an area Boy Scout troop for Saturday, November 14th to go back to the site west of New Orleans and dig up more irises to replace the ones we have taken out of our iris holding area!  (The list of sites that have sent us a request to plant irises continues to grow.)

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative website can be found here:

Our Facebook page can be found here:

Monday, November 9, 2020

IRISES: The Bulletin of the AIS - Fall 2020 Edition

By Andi Rivarola

A warm welcome to those who are seeing IRISES, the Bulletin of The American Iris Society for the first time. If you are a member of The American Iris Society I hope you enjoy this new issue.

The Fall 2020 issue of the AIS Bulletin is already available online, accessible via the Emembers section of the AIS website. The print copy has been mailed via the U.S. Post Office. On the cover, SDB iris 'Teagan' (Don Spoon 2009). Part 4 of the Centennial Supplement is a bit delayed. As soon as it's ready and printed we will let you know. 

Note: to access this area of the website you must have a current AIS Emembership. (AIS Emembership is separate from the normal AIS membership.) Please see the Electronic Membership Information area of the AIS website for more details.

A great issue with lots interesting articles and beautiful iris pictures. Here are some details.

On pages 2 —3, and then 47, a sampling of American Dykes Medal Winners. Beautiful images of now famous beauties. 

AIS President, Jody Nolin's message is on page 8.

Section Happenings is on pages 10 and 11, with notes from the Dwarf Iris Society, SIGNA, The Reblooming Iris Society, the Spuria Iris Society, the Novelty Iris Society, HIPS, and the Tall Bearded Iris Society. 

International Iris News on page 14, by Bruce Filardi.

Youth Views on page 15, by Cheryl Deaton.

A fun article on the Conspicuous by Their Absence — The Years No Dykes Memorial medals Were Awarded, on pages 16 — 19.

A Novel Iris Show on pages 20 — 21, with lots of beautiful images. 

The Dramatic Beginning of 'Goodwin Fire' by Francine Cheswick on page 22

The Story of Winterberry Gardens by Don Spoon, on pages 23 through 30. 

A reprint from this very blog, on Black is Dramatic, by our own Mel Schiller on pages 32 — 35.

And last but no least, Images Now Due with Introductions on page 35, by Neil Houghton.

There's a lot more to see and read in this edition of IRISES, either in digital or print formats.

Not a member of The American Iris Society? Please see our website for information about becoming one:

Happy Gardening!

Monday, November 2, 2020

Smokin Heights Hot Sellers so far for Season 20/21

 By Mel Schiller

Wow what a year so far and it isn't over yet! 

In my lifetime I think this year would have to be the windiest by far and as a tall bearded iris grower it spells disaster, especially living on a hilltop. Oh the challenges....I must say, as I type this blog, that we had a forecast of 8mm of rain yesterday and overnight we received much more....27mm.....the weather patterns are all over the place.

Anyway as we are in full swing with our iris season, time spent hybridizing has been down as it has been too wet--I never thought I would say that! Surprisingly the iris are coping well with the extra heavenly water we are receiving. The bloom stems are above and beyond normal this year. We are noticing also that the registered varieties are blooming not according to their registrations. Things that bloom early are blooming mid to late. Late bloomers are blooming mid season; all of this has never happened, until this year!

As the orders are coming in, we are noticing a pattern among purchases. Arils are among the top selling varieties this year and, of course, the broken coloured varieties too. 

As it stands here are our top 10 bearded iris for this season.

10. 'Diamonds and Rubies' (Blyth 14) TB What a statement this iris creates!

9. 'Eyes On You' (Black 12) OGB (1/2 Bred) An easing growing Aril variety.

8. 'Spiced Tiger' (Kasperek 96) TB A glowing broken coloured iris. We love it!

7. 'Line Drive' (M Sutton 07) IB A fabulous lined Intermediate iris: it is so pleasing to the eye!

6. 'Rim Of Fire' (Sutton 11) TB An extremely popular iris with that fiery red band on the falls.

5. 'Wicked Good' (Black 12) TB A beautiful blue and black bi-colour iris. 

4. 'Lancer' (Shockey 95) OGB A nice contrast in colour. 

3. 'Nigerian Raspberry' (Kasperek 95) TB Oh so pretty!

2. 'Serengeti Spaghetti' (Kasperek 99) TB An easy growing variety. 

1. 'Sand Dancer '(Tasco 10) OGB A favourite of ours and it is oh so different.

It is great to see so many people enjoying their gardens and wanting to make an impact with the bearded iris being a highlight to there garden. We personally love to plant iris with roses, lavender, alstroemeria, snap dragons, and aquilegias.

We are mid season at the moment and have met so many new people to iris. We hope you all continue with your love of gardening and creating a pleasant space for wind down time from this ever hectic, anxious world we now live in. Until next time....Happy Gardening 💜