Monday, September 6, 2021

Part Three - My Continuing Journey in the Iris World

By Maggie Asplet

I have arrived at the end of describing my journey—well the 2019 journey anyway.  When I left America in 2019, no one knew we would not be able to travel again until who knows when.

In March of 2020, going into lockdown was a double-edged sword. In addition to facing the pandemic, I received sad news from the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI). MPI is a government department that regulates seed coming into New Zealand. They informed me that that seeds (sorted and shipped by Thomas Johnson) from crosses I made at Mid-America Gardens in Salem, Oregon were destroyed just two days before lockdown. A MPI staff member made an error: they accidentally kept 13 packets of seed they were not letting me have, but destroyed remaining 86 packets of good seed. So, we did a lot of hybridizing work but nothing came out of it other than some wonderful memories.

This being said, it leads beautifully to another part of why I enjoy my trips to Salem and the surrounding area: opportunities to attend their American Iris Society Regional Meetings.  A great time to catch up with friends and learn new things.

Judging at a Regional Meeting

Judging cut irises at Chad's Harris' place, Mt. Pleasant Iris Farm. Some aspects of the judging was different from what I am used to at home in New Zealand.

As part of this regional meeting, we attended judging of cut flowers in what was a round-robin type situation.  Very interesting to judge the same flowers as they travel from one venue to another.  Also interesting to have some challenges amongst them.  Not were all what they seemed and we were expected to be able to find the different or odd one out.

Judging and judging schools were also done in the nurseries we visited.  These first pictures are taken at Mt. Pleasant Iris Farm.

On the left is Patrick & Margaret Spence and the right are some other attendees of the Regional Meeting.  Judging School is about to take place.

The irises that we saw at Mt. Pleasant Iris Farm were very different from the bearded irises at Mid-America.  Chad grows some wonderful "other" irises, and the grounds and garden are always in immaculate condition (see below). 

View of the iris field at Mt. Pleasant Iris Farm

The following pictures are some of the stunning Miniature Tall Bearded (MTB) irises that I absolutely adore.  They are just so perfect, a finer flower on finer stems.

Lynda Miller's MTBs - 'Cascade Trails' & 'Bingo Marker'

Chad Harris' MTBs - 'Candy Basket' and 'Black Cherry Sorbet'

There were a number of other types of irises on display at this time.  The name of each is listed with them.

'Who's On First' by R. Hollingworth 2008 - Spec-X

'Aaron's Blue' by Gabrielle Lecomte 2018 - Iris setosa


From Chad's farm we travelled to Atiken's Salmon Creek Garden, the home and nursery of Terry & Barbara Aitken. We saw more than just irises there, as most gardeners do love other plants.  



First, I'll share a lovely selection of MTB's, some of which are just so stunning and I would love to grow them here in the southern hemisphere.

Name is written on the images

Although they look great here, trust me, they look even better in the garden.

All the iris nurseries we visited grew other plants besides irises. Terry also has some beautiful orchids, perhaps another "passion" of Terry's.

Sorry, I don't have the names of these but they were just stunning.

If you have an opportunity to attend a regional meeting, I thoroughly recommend that you do so. It is a great time to make friends, learn more about irises, laugh heaps, have AIS members give you (me) a hard time.  I didn't mind, usually because I gave it straight back.

For us in New Zealand, we hold an event each year and it is now up to the region concerned to call it a convention, a safari, or whatever they choose.  Last year, the event was cancelled. Let's hope it can happen this year. One of the other things that happens in New Zealand are special events, like when I blogged about the Hawkes Bay groups' "Day Out".  Again a great time for sharing.

I will leave you with some beautiful images the AIS Regional "Day Out". These arrangements were on our tables during dinner that night.



Hopefully 2022 will be kind and I will be able to return the Portland. I am so missing my trips over to Oregon.  Stay safe everyone.

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