Monday, June 27, 2022

Photo Essay: Rainbows and Rainy Days

by Mike Unser

It was a long, cold, wet spring in the Pacific Northwest. Thankfully, I love photographing irises when they are sparkling in the wet. 

Here are some of my favorite photos taken this year of the historic irises in my collection.

 Would you you like to see more historic irises? Check out Historic Iris Preservation Society photo gallery, or the Virtual Historic Display Garden I prepared for the 2022 AIS National Convention

Monday, June 20, 2022

100 Years Bold: Our Centennial of Irises & People

by Heather Haley

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Iris Society (AIS), members received five fantastic supplements to copies of the quarterly bulletin IRISES. Their publication was a labor of love for the managing editor James (Jim) W. Morris and assistant editor Janis Shackleford. Three years of research, writing, and editing produced over 470 pages to delight novice and veteran iris enthusiasts alike.

These supplements are available for purchase through the AIS Storefront, and have recently been published in a single bound volume titled 100 Years Bold! This work contains many wonderful stories and remembrances of the irises and people that will delight any iris enthusiast. The following outlines the contents of each supplement and the addendum that comprise the bound volume.

Supplement One: The Early Years

  • Forward: Looking Forward by Jody Nolin, AIS President
  • Managing Editor's Introduction by Jim Morris
  • Founder's Wall (partial list only)
  • Prologue to 1920 by Bob Pries
  • A New York Story by Anner Whitehead
  • Dr. John Caspar Wister by Andy Gwiazda, La Salle University
  • The American Iris Society Seal by Anner Whitehead
  • The Tall Bearded Iris: A Manufactured Marvel by Phil Edinger
  • The Schreiner Iris Garden Story by Liz (Schreiner) Schmidt, Steve & Ben Schreiner
  • Isabella Preston---The Grand Lady of Canadian Horticulture by Edwinna von Baeyer
  • The Sass Family by Gary White
  • American Iris Society Humor compiled by Jim Morris
  • Long's Gardens, Boulder, Colorado by Everett Long, Catherine Long Gates & Dennis Gates
  • Connecticut Iris Society & Elizabeth Park Conservancy by Ruth Bennett


Supplement Two: The Early Years Continued Through Golden Jubilee 1970

  • Historic Iris Images
  • Founder's Wall (partial list only)
  • Managing Editor's Preface by Jim Morris
  • Errata
  • Starting a Backyard Business by Miriam (Cooley) Ernst, Judy Nunn, and Georgie Johnson
  • Eden at the End of the Oregon Trail Introduction from the Cooley's 1993 Catalog
  • The Origins of the American Iris Society Checklists by Anner Whitehead
  • St. Louis and Iris History by Jim Morris
  • The Nashville, Tennessee Story: Remembering "Iris City" by Robert Strohman
  • Miss Grace Sturtevant of Wellesley Farms by Corinne Danforth
  • William Mohr and Sydney Mitchell by Anne Lowe
  • Fun Fact: USPS Hybridizers by Jim Morris
  • The Sex Doctor Alfred C. Kinsey, Indiana University compiled by Jim Morris
  • Rudolph E. Kleinsorge: A New Color Class---Brown by Anne Lowe
  • Phillip A. Loomis: "Irises don't come in that color..." by Anne Lowe
  • Evaluating A Little Iris History by John T. Black
  • The Japanese Iris by Currier McEwen, Eleanor Westmeyer, W. E. Ouweneel, and Clarence Mahan
  • Japanese Iris Come to America by Kathleeen Sonntag
  • The Median Iris Movement by Geddes Douglas
  • Greig Lapham: Nearly All Reds Traced to His Irises by Anne Lowe
  • Melba Bills Hamblen by Perry Dyer
  • Bee Warburton---Her Life in the World of Irises by Lynn Markham
  • AIS Humor compiled by Jim Morris
  • Spotlights 
    • Mrs. Anson Stiles Blake by Jody Nolin, Ohio
    • Mrs. Lewis Jones (Louise) Blake by William J. McKee
    • U.S. Grant by Jody Nolan, Ohio
    • Dr. Samuel Stillman Berry by Mary Ann Campbell, Missouri
    • Mrs. Horatio Gates Lloyd by Jody Nolin, Ohio
    • Benjamin Yoe Morrison by Jim Morris, Missouri
    • Jesse Ely Wills by Jim Morris, Missouri
    • Professor Manton Copeland
    • William Jon Krasting art compiled by Jim Morris, Missouri
    • George C. Bush as told by Dennis Hager

Supplement Three: The Middle Years Through To The Millennium 2000

  • Managing Editor's Preface by Jim Morris
  • Errata & Unique Gardening Practice
  • AIS Regions Through the Decades by Jody Nolin
  • Reflections of Region 19 and Garden State Iris Society by Stephen Szmuriga
  • David F. Hall - The Flamingo Pinks by Anne Lowe
  • Farr's Catalogue of Hardy Plant Specialties
  • My Life With Irises by Philip Edinger
  • Hybridizer Joe Ghio: Tuscan/Genovese Hybrid by Joe Ghio
  • Region 14's Heritage, Part One by Roy Oliphant
  • My Life in the Iris World by Keith Keppel
  • Siberians---Milestones and Stepping Stones by Jan Sacks
  • Evolution of the Morgan-Wood Medal
  • History of the Washington Iris Club of Region 18 by Cindy Rust
  • Historic Pictures of Iris People Part One
  • AIS Region 4 Celebrated 60 Years in 2019 by Douglas H. Chyz
  • Bet You Didn't Know... John C. Wister Award by Jim Morris
  • Sutton's Iris Gardens by Mike Sutton
  • Fredericksburg Area Iris Society by Lois Rose
  • Wichita Area Iris Club - 71 Years of Beauty & Friendship by Patricia Ardissone
  • History of the Aril Society International by Tom Waters
  • Central Virginia Iris Society --- A Brief History by Kathy Huneycutt and Lois Rose
  • AIS Youth Program 
  • Founding of Francis Scott Key Iris Society from Society Records
  • Dykes Medal Winners Part One
  • AIS Humor compiled by Jim Morris
  • Historic Pictures of Iris People Part Two
  • Dykes Medal Winners Part Two
  • Spotlights 
    • Tell Huhlestein by Jim Morris
    • F. Cleveland Morgan by Judy Hollingworth

Supplement Four: The Millennium Through to 2020

  • Managing Editor's Preface by Jim Morris
  • Rare Edition --- A Pleasant Surprise by Joe Gatty
  • Comanche Acres: The Gilbert Wild's Buyout by Jim Hedgecock
  • Show Me Iris Society by Eric Tankesley-Clarke
  • History of Region 14, Part Two by Bryce Williamson and Jean Richter
  • Central Arkansas Iris Society by Robert Treadway
  • AIS History of the Last Twenty-five Years compiled by Janis Shackelford
  • Southern Illinois Iris Society by Marylyn J. Redenbo
  • White Country Iris Society History In the Natural State by Alice Jewell
  • American Iris Society 2020 Centennial Iris Winners by Jim Morris
  • Tall Bearded Iris Society History by Judy Keisling
  • Tall Bearded Iris Society Hall of Fame by Jerry Preston James
  • The Class The Stars Fell On by Jim Morris
  • The Spuria Iris Society by Darol Jurn
  • The Historic Iris Preservation Society (HIPS) by Cathy Egerer
  • Reflections from the Prairie State Region 9, Illinois, "The Illini" compiled by Debra & Dave Miller
  • AIS Humor compiled by Jim Morris
  • Society for Pacific Coast Native Irises by Ken Walker
  • British Columbia Iris Society: A Brief History by Ted Baker
  • Clara B. Rees Iris Society by Nancy Mirabella
  • The Early History of SIGNA by Will Plotner
  • 2020 Ackerman Essay Winner by Darby Redman
  • Historic Images of Iris People
  • Random Images
  • AIS Benchmarks of an Era 1995-2020 compiled by Jim Morris and Janis Shackelford
    • Presidents of the American Iris Society
    • Gold Medal Recipients
    • Hybridizer's Medal Recipients
    • Warburton Medal Winners
    • AIS Conventions and Themes
    • AIS Convention Themes and Logo Artwork
    • Distinguished Service Medal Recipients

Supplemental Addendum (5): The Rest of the Story . . . Continues On

  • Managing Editor's Preface by Jim Morris
  • Errata
  • Poetry Ban by Ann Branch Dasch
  • Prelude to New York 2020: Looking back at Tall Bearded Iris History by Jim Morris
  • Mr. Hybridizer Ben Hager (1915-1999) by Keith Keppel, Phil Edinger, and Jim Morris
  • Shoulders by Ben R. Hager as related by Jim Morris
  • Minute Man National Park, Concord, MA by Barbara Schmieder
  • Region 6 Iris History by Jean Kaufmann
  • AIS Round Robin Program by Jim Morris
  • Region 13 Affiliate History by various authors
  • Personalities in Iris Heaven, Region 13 by Jim Morris
  • East Tennessee Iris Society and Greeneville Iris Society, Region 7 by Kim Bowman
  • Mid-America Iris Garden by Paul Black
  • Texoma Rainbow Iris Society - A Brief History by Martha McDowell
  • Heart of Iowa Iris Growers by Pam Messer
  • Iris Chronicles from AIS Bulletins
  • The Santa Fe Iris Society by Barbara Mann
  • Ontario Iris Society by Terry Laurin and Kate Brewitt
  • History of Region 18 by Riley Probst and Dave Niswonger
  • Enchanted Vista Iris Society by Patricia Randall
  • South East Missouri (SEMO) Iris Society by Charles Pickett
  • Missouri's Mr. Hybridizer Dave Niswonger by Charles Pickett and Nyla Hughes
  • Fire Fighter's Memorial Gardens by Dennis Luebkin
  • Society for Louisiana Irises by Patrick O'Connor
  • History of the Sun Country Iris Society by Jenine Cook
  • A Look Back in Time: WWII Effect on AIS by Fred Cassebeer
  • Mesilla Valley Iris Society by Ann Colwell, Fern Gold, and Scarlett Ayres
  • Red Iris by Kelly D. Norris
  • World of Irises, the Blog of The American Iris Society by Andi Rivarola
  • Albuquerque Aril and Iris Society History by Rae Phillips and Helen Crotty
  • The Greater Kansas City Iris Society by Debbie Hughes
  • AIS Humor compiled by Jim Morris
  • Delaware Valley Iris Society: A Look Back by Ron Thoman
  • Sharlot Hall Museum Historic Iris Gardens by Kathleen Shaffer and Dennis Luebkin
  • The iGenerations and AIS by Jim Morris
  • A Bit of History From the Tulsa Area Iris Society by Jerry James
  • Region 15, Southern California and Arizona by Jim Morris and Phil Edinger
  • North Plains Iris Society Golden Anniversary (2019) by Dawn Boyer
  • Scent in Irises by Jim Morris
  • The Next 100 Years of Irises by Kelly D. Norris
  • Historic Images of Iris People
  • Random Images
  • AIS Benchmarks of an Era 1995-2020 compiled by Jim Morris and Janis Shackelford
    • Bennett C. Jones Award for Outstanding Median Hybridizing
    • Editors of the American Iris Society Bulletin IRISES
    • Foster Memorial Plaque awarded to AIS members by the British Iris Society for the advancement of the genus Iris
If you are new to AIS, or irises in general, don't miss this exciting opportunity to read and celebrate the people and plants that have brought us together.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Golden Iris Flowering in my Garden

 By Kathleen Sayce

I wrote about the golden iris misses in my garden during my search for Iris innominata plants and or seeds from various sources in October 2021. Since then Tom Fischer, a member of the Society for Pacific Coast Native Iris, took pity on me and shared seeds from his plants with me two years ago, and this spring, here's the result--flowers!

Iris innominata flowering in my garden with good dark yellow base color and red veins. 

I have several pots, so my next garden project is figuring out where to grow my own patch of this species. It is going to take a few years for my plants to come close to their parents, but as we know, gardening is all about patience. 

A beautiful clump of golden iris in Tom Fischer's garden.  

All it took was 27 years of patience and a determination to keep trying! Thanks, Tom!

Monday, June 6, 2022

Is There Life After Bloom Season?

by Tom Waters

Although I am an unabashed iris enthusiast and grow a garden that is dominated by irises, I want an outdoor space with more than just rows of irises. In particular, I like my garden to be a pleasant and interesting space to sit in or walk through, any time of the year. So over the years, I have acquired a collection of mostly care-free plants that flower during the months when the irises are not in bloom. I live in the arid southwestern US although at an elevation (6000 feet) that keeps us a little cooler than the true deserts of this region. My location is in the United States Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 6a. 

Although most of the plants I describe in this article will be happy in most of the western US, this post is not really intended as a plant list, but more as a recounting of how I have gone about making my outdoor space a garden that features irises, rather than just a giant iris planting. If you share that goal, I hope that you will pick up a few ideas as you read on.

Although I love to read books and watch television programs about garden design, I confess I am not the type who plans a garden on graph paper and then goes out to buy the plants. Rather, I create the garden first, try lots of different things as I think of them, and then see what works. If I like how something turns out, I do it more. In this way, the garden is more the result of evolution and editing than of advance planning.

My iris bloom season is centered in May, and the tall bearded bloom extends into June. I grow many plants of Iris pumila and other dwarfs, which start blooming early in April or at the very end of March. Spring bulbs are of course the obvious way to beautify the garden before the bearded iris bloom season. I gravitate toward daffodils and crocuses, rather than the more formal bedding bulbs such as hyacinths and tulips. I like bulbs that can be scattered around and surprise me when they come up. Although I like the smaller botanical crocuses, I confess that the Dutch giants are really the only ones that make much of an impact here. I do pay some attention to color: the yellow ones are mostly in a bed along the driveway, whereas the quieter garden in the back yard is given over to the white and violet crocuses, and white ‘Thalia’ daffodils.

True geraniums, columbines, and blue flax all start blooming during iris season and continue on for months afterwards. The geraniums need some room to themselves, but the flax and columbines are airy enough that they can live amongst the irises without crowding in on them. The columbines are in only a few places, as they require some shade here. The blue flax is an amazing plant, with long arcing stems and beautiful spectrum-blue flowers. It keeps blooming right through the summer and into autumn. Blue flax seeds itself, so after a few years it will be anywhere in the garden that I want it to be (with no attention or extra effort on my part).

I grow a few daylilies too, as they are showy and bright. I have heard some people recommend not to mix daylilies and irises, since the irises don’t like as much water as the daylilies need. Frankly, in my climate, it’s almost impossible to give irises enough water to bother them. Mine do fine together!

I have a couple very aggressive self-seeders that I enjoy: Mexican feathergrass (Nasella tenuissima) and clary sage (Salvia scarea). The feathergrass ripples in the wind and adds interest to the landscape all year round, since the leaves look nice even when dry over winter. The clary sage blooms profusely as the irises are finishing, through July, and the dried seedheads also look nice through the autumn and winter. Bumblebees and hummingbird moths love them, and we get little birds who come in large numbers to peck around for their seeds. Some people can’t abide aggressive self-seeders, but I don’t really mind. It’s not like you can stop weeding the garden if you don’t grow these things! Since I’m weeding regularly anyway, it makes no difference if I am pulling up these guys rather than something else that would be there instead. The trick is to get used to how they grow and not be taken by surprise. They can seem innocent while young, but that is when you have to be ruthless if you find them in a spot where they will be unwelcome when fully grown.

Last year, I grew a stand of showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa), thinking to do my bit to help out the monarch butterflies. I completely misjudged how big these things get! I love them, though, both the flowers and the raucous cotton-candy like seed heads. This year, they are getting some severe editing. I will restrict them to areas in the back of the bed, behind the irises, not amongst them!

Fallugia paradoxa and Penstemon eatonii

Speaking of seed heads, I somehow managed to live my whole life in New Mexico without noticing Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa) until seeing it at a native plant society gathering a few years ago. Now I am in love! This is a shrub that can grow quite large. It displays simple white flowers late in iris season, followed by pinkish, feathery seedheads that persist until frost. It’s a native here, and requires no care at all once established. With very few exceptions, this is one of my rules: I water and weed the iris beds routinely, but any plant that needs special attention beyond that doesn’t get a place in my garden. I’ll try any plant once; a few might earn a second try, but after that they are off the list.

I also grow quite a few different penstemon species. Most bloom at the end of iris season or shortly afterwards and their flowers last maybe a month or so. Some penstemon species bloom longer. Red ones are pollinated by hummingbirds, although I have seen hummingbirds enjoying the violet ones too.

Most of the other plants in my garden look their best in early summer, and the garden tends to ramp down as the year progresses. My favorite autumn-blooming plants are the hylotelephiums, such as ‘Autumn Joy’ and its ilk. I need to remind myself to get more of these. I have only a few in one spot, but could enjoy them in lots of other places.

One of the consequences of not doing advance planning is that you can end up with “holes” – periods of time when there’s not much in bloom and the garden seems on hold. One solution is to stay alert for this; and when the lull comes around, go visit friends’ gardens and local nurseries and see what looks good. Even if you don’t buy them right away, you can record which plants could be introduced to fill the gap.

I don’t put a lot of effort into finding plants that bloom in autumn. Summers here are hot and dry, and everything gets stressed. By the end of the season, both garden and gardener are looking ahead to the peace of winter, rather than seeking to recreate the exuberance of spring and early summer. I do, however, love the autumn crocuses (Crocus speciosus), which pop up suddenly after a rain and give a final burst of color as the gardening year winds down.

With a little experimentation and some time, it is possible to have a garden that is mostly irises but still holds interest and looks nice year round. Even iris nuts deserve a pleasant outdoor space!

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