Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The Sun Sets on Rainbows: Part III...the Show is On!

by Jeff Bennett
Jeff in the garden at Dry Creek

In previous blog posts (Dec 2020Jan 2021May 2021Oct 2021, I've been sharing information about the Dry Creek Garden ) and events leading up to the 2019 American Iris Society national convention (Part IPart II). In this post, I will continue sharing memories of "The Sun Sets on Rainbows." 

It’s now two weeks out to displaying the iris planting at the Dry Creek Garden for the first time. All the years of preparation and planning have been leading up to one important day, April 27, 2019. Only our volunteers knew what was growing on the hill in Union City, California. As final touches were made at Dry Creek, few were present to see what was happening. The convention began on Monday and most people were busy completing convention tasks at the hotel in San Ramon and in other host gardens. We got rain up to the week before the convention, and then a heatwave arrived on Tuesday. We wondered what 91-degree temperatures would do. Were miserably hot temperatures in store for us? It was at this time that I realized that a fantastic showing was on the way!

Bearded irises in full bloom in the Dry Creek Garden 

On Wednesday, I entered some flowers from Dry Creek in the convention iris show. While there, the convention chair, Shirley Trio, asked me how the bloom was. Not wanting to give anything away, I just said it was “ok.” There were lots of happy iris people walking around at the show. I was like the fly on the wall, observing the acquaintances chatting and happy to be together at an iris convention. I really didn’t know anybody except the locals, but a few famous people were pointed out to me. National conventions often attract the "Who’s Who?" of irisdom. 

For the next few days, I was back at the garden while convention attendees went on their tours of the other guest gardens. With 737 guest irises there were a lot of stickers to put on iris labels to indicate which convention awards each iris was eligible for. Stars... lots of stars: red, green, gold, silver, etc. But finally, it was done! The day before the garden tour at Dry Creek, out came the tables, chairs, tents, restrooms, and banners. You’d think someone was getting married. As I left Friday evening, just hours before visitors arrived, I just stood and looked at what we did. All for one day: April 272019.

Convention attendees observing irises and comparing notes

When morning came, questions popped into my head. Will the buses be able to get into the parking lot? All four of them? I realized there was no need to worry about that now. Before I knew it, two busloads of people disembarked and were headed our way. Each traveled up the dirt road to the irises on the hill. They were met by volunteers from Mt. Diablo, Sydney B. Mitchell, and Clara B. Rees Iris
Societies, along with hot coffee, morning snacks, and the like.

John Pesek of the Clara B. Rees Iris Society (on right) greets members of the Toth family of Pickrell, Nebraska (left)

Enthusiastic garden visitors meandering in all directions to admire plants in bloom

Pathways made it easy to get close and appreciate each of the hundreds of irises in bloom

Convention attendees poured in and spread out like warm syrup, stopping along the way to snap photos, stare and smile. Everything was in bloom! The tall bearded, border bearded, species crosses, intermediate bearded, miniature tall bearded, arilbred, spuria, Louisiana, and Siberian irises, and (of course) the poppies. California poppies were front and center. Irisarians from all over the United States and Canada were joined by six people from China and two from Mexico City, and all got to see California poppies in all their glory among the iris beds and beyond. And ... the weather was perfect!

Native California poppies and flags waving gently under perfect blue skies

A musical ensemble consisting of a harpist, viola and bass played for visitors to enjoy, including the general public. They too had been waiting for us to open. Just after noon, the other two buses arrived to have their lunch before seeing the garden as they had just come from the beautiful Cummins garden in Scotts Valley near the coast. After they arrived and mingled with the first two buses, the first buses loaded up and went to the Cummins garden.

Convention attendees enjoyed delights for their eyes, ears AND stomachs!

It was a wonderful day that I will never forget! So many heartfelt compliments. Our pathways were very wide, so those with mobility issues could actually get close to any clump they wanted and take their own picture. They asked what kind of fertilizer we were using to get such big plants and flowers. "None" was my answer. No sprays for leaf spot either. Just great California Sun that Sets On Rainbows!

John Jones conducting an in-garden judges training session

Jeff discussing irises in the garden with volunteers, hybridizers, and guests.

As the last visitors left to get on the buses, I drew a breath of relief. My job was done: have lots of flowers blooming on the day they visit!

Please come visit Dry Creek Garden some spring in Union City, California. A beautiful iris display awaits you just up that hill. 

A sign with painted irises is ready to welcome you to the Meyers Cottage and Dry Creek Garden

All photos courtesy of local photographer Cali Godley


  1. Well done! And how lucky to have everything in bloom at the same time.

  2. Beautiful Jeff, you did such an amazing job!