Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Growing Irises Out East: Sharing Stories of Rebloom

by Heather Haley

In addition to being a member of the American Iris Society (AIS), I am an active participant and volunteer in North Carolina Cooperative Extension programs. I completed the NC Farm School program 2019. Earlier this month, my husband Chris and I hosted a farm visit for another Farm School graduate, her instructor, and a new horticulture extension agent in our county. 

Heather's family with reblooming iris 'Mesmerizer' on their farm in Ramseur, North Carolina
photo by Grace Kanoy, GeoCore Creative Inc.

Winter is approaching quickly, and Chris and I spent that morning straightening up the kitchen -- just in case we needed to move farm conversations inside. When the visitors arrived, they were met with spring-like conditions and all enthusiastically wanted to visit the production field for bearded irises. The intent of this visit was to support a beginning nursery owner, discuss interests, and share experiences in the business of horticulture. However, once visitors realized the farm had several irises blooming in mid-November, they lost all thought of business pursuits and became highly inquisitive about these plants. 

One inquired, "Are the irises CONFUSED?" I laughed gently and replied, "No. Those are rebloomers. They are just doing what they do best."

Chris and I explained that each of the various irises on our property has genetic information coded in their DNA. Differences in DNA make each iris interesting and different from other varieties. Some iris genes control traits like flower color, whereas others can modify growth and reproductive cycles. With the right DNA sequence, an iris can shorten or skip summer dormancy and proceed directly into its next growth cycle. If climate and cultural conditions are just right, it is possible for daughter rhizomes to bloom in the same year as their mother. These irises aren't confused; they are just unusually prolific. Science buffs use the term "remontant" to describe plants that flower more than once in a growing season. "Rebloom" is the colloquial term for this phenomenon, and an entire chapter on it appears in the third AIS study of the genus Iris: a 1978 book titled The World Of Irises*. 

*The World of Irises book is now out of print, but used copies can be found online. Wayne Messer and Bob Pries have also transcribed select book chapters (including Raymond Smith's chapter on Rebloom) for Iris Encyclopedia. AIS is always looking for volunteers who can type existing content into this online library. If you are interested and available for transcription projects like this, please reach out to Bob at bobpries3@gmail.com. 

Chris reminisced about our household's earliest experience with a reblooming iris. After spending years in apartments during our college years, Chris and I became first-time homeowners and took to gardening in earnest. A modest collection of 19 irises arrived in September 2012 and were gifts from my mother Alleah. We planted them on the north side of the house where they would have good drainage and receive plenty of sun. Among these irises was 'Peggy Sue.' Alleah's description of this iris was deceptively plain: Peggy Sue - L. Lauer '06 - pink, red beard, lightly ruffled.  Although we didn't know it then, 'Peggy Sue' was destined to confuse and delight us. 

Several of our new irises bloomed the following spring, but 'Peggy Sue' wasn't among them. Her first bloomstalk appeared much later . . . in NOVEMBER! We were ecstatic to enjoy a flower in bloom, but also wrongly assumed this iris was confused. I posted a garden photo on Facebook, and included it in an e-mail to other members of the family.

Fall 2013

I suspected this bloom might be evidence of global warming, but my mother set me straight. Alleah was, and still is, vastly more knowledgeable about irises she chooses to maintain in a garden setting. Her response was, "I hate to burst your bubble, but 'Peggy Sue' absolutely knows it's November and is doing the right thing. She blooms EML and RE (AIS abbreviation for early, midseason, late season, and rebloom). . . . So whether or not I labeled the iris RE, she is. I'm attaching the October Santa Rosa Iris Society Newsletter in which I printed a long article on successful rebloomers in California and referred to a commercial garden in Virginia that specializes in rebloomers." 

Alleah's email continued with gems of motherly, irisey, and scholarly advice. "You may wish to go online and see a list of rebloomers in that geographic area and ask for some . . . .  Reblooming is a recessive trait. An iris breeder improves his chances of getting a rebloomer by crossing two rebloomers together, or involving several rebloomers in his line. 'Peggy Sue' has 'Pink Attraction' (RE) in its background, although none of the other irises in its background were registered as rebloomers. You will have to find other evidence of global warming."

Spring 2014

After planting some extra rhizomes of 'Peggy Sue' in the backyard, it became obvious that 'Peggy Sue' in the front yard had better growing conditions. These conditions led to more consistent bloom and rebloom in the front yard compared to the back. Rebloomers appreciate being watered throughout the summer. Frequent rain combined with a leaky hose spigot provided front yard 'Peggy Sue' regular access to water when she wanted it. She responded by blooming regularly and making lots of increases.

Fall 2014

Early Spring 2015

Very Early Spring 2016

Being located close to the foundation of our house also allowed for slightly elevated temperature. Bricks can absorb and store thermal energy from sunshine during the day. When the sun went down, the bricks slowly dissipate stored energy to their surroundings, including front yard 'Peggy Sue.' As years passed, we got several earlier- or later-than-usual bloomstalks, resulting in bloom for Thanksgiving and Christmas! Each time she bloomed, my inner Buddy Holly started singing, "I love you Peggy Sue, with a love so rare and true. Oh, Peggy, My Peggy Sue!"

Late Fall 2015

Winter 2015

Late Winter 2017

'Peggy Sue' was not the only iris we that rebloomed for Chris and me in Mebane, but it was one of the more memorable cultivars we maintained there. Of 80,000+ irises registered with the American Iris Society, about 4,246 (0.5%) are known to exhibit rebloom. By 2015, I was eager to get more rhizomes of reblooming irises. Unfortunately, many of the rebloomers I added didn't seem to like us very much. They didn't die, but only three of the twelve irises Alleah gifted to us demonstrated rebloom. I tried following conventional advice by providing more water and fertilizer, but most never bloomed more than once in a growing season. Thankfully we had better success with the rebloomers I purchased from Alleah's grower recommendation in Virginia, and from rhizome sales hosted by my local iris society. 

'Daughter of Stars', Late Summer 2018

'Bonus Mama', Early Fall 2018

Eventually, I learned that irises that rebloom in one climate (e.g., my mother's garden in California), may not be well suited for rebloom in another (e.g., my garden in North Carolina). I started paying close attention to Colin Campbell's work gathering rebloom data in my region, and combing through back issues of the Reblooming Iris Recorder for reports from gardens closer to me. I joined the Reblooming Iris Society (RIS) in 2021, and could access newer issues of the Reblooming Iris Recorder as they became available. While attending the National AIS Convention in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Alleah and I each purchased the 2022 edition of the Cumulative Checklist of Reblooming Irises

This must-have resource is available as a printed book, flash drive, and digital file sent by e-mail 

Alleah likes using paper reference materials and purchased the rebloom checklist as a spiral-bound book. I prefer having electronic reference materials and purchased a flash drive that contains a .pdf copy of the checklist, as well as a spreadsheet version of data used to create the checklist. I store the rebloom spreadsheet on my phone so I can access needed iris information quickly. The 2022 edition of the rebloom checklist builds on prior editions from 1975 and 1988, which contained 641 and 1,428 varieties respectively. To create these must-have iris resources, the Reblooming Iris Society engages in what I would call "citizen science." Iris enthusiasts, including hybridizers and iris lovers from around the world, voluntarily track the bloom and rebloom behavior for the named iris varieties each growing season. Next, volunteers share their rebloom data with an RIS Area Director who pools rebloom data and organizes it for publication in the Reblooming Iris Recorder, and subsequently in a checklist.

For years, I aspired to track and report my own rebloom data. However, I always struggled to find time and energy to do it. That is . . . until I remembered that I photograph most irises and their identification tags with my cell phone when they bloom. My cell phone records the date and location of my pictures automatically. EUREKA!

Earlier this year Mary Platner, editor of the Reblooming Iris Recorder, called and asked if I would be willing to track rebloom for irises growing at the farm in Ramseur. I was hesitant and explained that most of our irises are recently planted and receive no supplemental water. Mary lives in Scottsdale, Arizona and has her share of irrigation issues. She assured me that my rebloom data would still be valuable and I agreed to help. Bloom charts can be filled out on the computer or printed on paper. Mary provided me with an example chart, and her instructions were easy to follow. Each month is divided into three columns. If the day of the month an iris blooms is between 1 and 10, an "X" is placed in the E column of the appropriate month. Similarly, if it blooms between days 11 and 20, the M column is marked. Finally, if it blooms between days 21 and 31, the L column is marked.

Bloom Chart Directions 2022

Now that overnight temperatures on the farm are below freezing, our 2022 bloom season has ended. I'll use data stored in my phone to chart if and when my reblooming irises came into flower this year. When all is recorded correctly, I plan to email completed bloom charts to my assigned RIS Director and give Mary a heads-up that they are finished.

Hopefully, sharing our experiences will inspire you to add rebloomers to your garden and take part in data collection efforts. Working together, we can help everyone understand reblooming irises better, and rest easy knowing these genetically interesting plants are certainly NOT confused.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Santa Rosa Iris Society Rebloom Update - October 2013

by Alleah Haley

(text originally appeared in The Newsletter of The Santa Rosa Iris Society, 39th year Number 10, October 2013) 

Irises are reblooming, and they’re making quite a splash! All mentioned here are tall bearded unless otherwise noted. ‘Double Shot’ (G. Sutton, 2000) was stunning in the display garden at the Luther Burbank Art and Garden Center on August 23 with two open flowers and more on the way: standards white, sanded violet blue; falls white heavily striped violet blue; beards white; slight sweet fragrance. And a Kerr TB seedling (see below) had a tall bloom stalk just showing color.

I’ve enjoyed established clumps of rebloomers in my garden. First was ‘Precious Little Pink’ (IB, Byers, 1995) with six bloomstalks: standards blue-pink; falls same, washed white; pale orange beards. Then came ‘Bonus Mama’ (Hager, 1990), a gift from Vivian Estrada several years ago: a large warm white with pale yellow in throat and on beards. It rebloomed twice, along with the old standby ‘Immortality’ (Zurbrigg, 1982). It’s pure white, including beards, and nicely ruffled. Mid to late September brought ‘Fall Rerun’ (Hager, 2001), a lightly ruffled medium blue-violet with white area around beards and 10 buds!, and SDB ‘Golden Violet’ (Weiler, 1993), golden bronze with dark violet beards. All these have sweet fragrance.

Rudy Ciuca reported that he and Joe Lawrence had two TBs in bloom at their C&L Vineyards garden in August: ‘Bonus Mama’ and ‘Betty Ford’, the Fred Kerr seedling that is scheduled for introduction in 2014 and being grown as a guest seedling for the 2014 Spring Regional. ‘Betty Ford’ has white standards and blue falls and is tall and stunning! September brought ‘Aunt Mary’ (Stanek, 2000), ‘Autumn Tryst’ (Weiler, 1993), ‘Baby Blessed’ (SDB, Zurbrigg, 1979), Bezinque Sdlg. 07-M 11, ‘Bonus Mama’ (again), ‘Bountifu lHarvest’ (Hager, 1991), ‘Coral Caper’ (MTB, Aitken, 2007), ‘Double Shot’, ‘Echo Location’ (Wilkerson, 2007), ‘Fruited Plain’ (M. Sutton, 2012), ‘Holiday InMexico’ (MTB, Probst, 2012), ‘Jennifer Rebecca’ (Zurbrigg, 1985), Kerr Sdlg. 06-039-A. ‘Pearls of Autumn’ (Hager, 1993), ‘Perpetual Indulgence’ (SDB, Aitken, 2005), 'Poignant' (SDB, G. Sutton, 2012), ‘Smell The Roses’ (SDB, Byers, 1988), ‘Sparkplug’ (SDB, Byers, 1989), ‘Summer Olympics’ (R.G. Smith, 1980). ‘Summer Pearl' (Kelway, 1963), and ‘Total Recall’ (Hager, 1992).

Juanita Breckwoldt noted that only ‘OzarkRebounder’ was in bloom in her and Bob’s garden in San Rafael in August. This TB (Nicodemus, 2003) has deep purple black standards and darker falls with a white area and purple stripes around the purple beard. Late September added ‘Autumn Wine’ (BBSA, Christopherson, 2003), a wine red with lighter rim on falls and white horn.

Marlene Freetly was enthusiastic about her rebloom. ‘Carry On’ (TB, L. Lauer, 2010) has white standards, bishop’s violet falls with white rims and white areas around orange beards, and pronounced sweet fragrance. Four stalks – two with 8 blooms/buds and one with 10! It produced another (5th!) stalk in September with 5 buds. ‘My Generation’ (TB, L. Lauer, 2009) had only one stalk but eight blooms/buds. It is white ground, lined aster violet; the falls have a white rim. Ruffled, pronounced sweet fragrance. She also rebloomed ‘Ozark Rebounder’ and ‘Royal Express’ (TB, L. Lauer, 2008), a violet purple with lighter centers and brown shoulders on falls, ruffles, lace, and pronounced sweet fragrance. September rebloom included ‘Struck Twice’ (L. Lauer, 2009), white over pink; ‘King of Light’ (Baumunk, 2007), yellow self; ‘Peggy Sue' (L. Lauer, 2006), pink; and ‘My Generation (L. Lauer, 2009), reddish purple streaks over white.

Jim Begley has a bed dedicated to rebloomers that was winding down in late September. He rebloomed ‘All Revved Up’ (Wilkerson, 2006), a red purple on cream plic.; ‘Bountiful Harvest’, a white dotted violet-purple plic.; ‘Bonus Mama’; ‘Check It Out’ (L. Lauer, 2007), yellow; ‘Double Shot’; ‘Echo Location’, pale yellow; ‘Fall Rerun’; ‘Forever Ginny’ (Schick, R. 2005), light lavender self; ‘Mariposa Autumn’ (Tasco, 1999), rosy violet on white plic.; ‘Mother Earth’ (Hager, 1988), cream S. and lavender F.; ‘Ozark Rebounder’; ‘Peggy Sue’; ‘Pure as Gold’ (Maryott, 1993), deep gold; ‘Renascent’ (Hager, 2005), light blue self; ‘Sea of Love’ (L. Lauer, 2005), light blue; ‘Speeding Again’ (L Lauer, 1998), light purple; ‘Theme Master’ (Wilkerson, 2004), dark purple; ‘Time and Again’ (Hager, 1991), white self; ‘Jane Troutman (Kerr, 2007), S. amber orange, F ivory edged amber orange; and ‘Carry On’. Jim’s own seedling WW-BW-5 was in full rebloom: a dark blue with wide falls and a white splash around the beards, with 20 buds! Watch for this to be introduced!

The spring (March) 2013 issue of Country Gardens magazine featured a ten-page pictorial spread “Encore! Encore!” on the Winterberry Iris Gardens of Dr. Don and Ginny Spoon in Cross Junction, Virginia. The article focused on reblooming irises and the couple’s hybridizing efforts toward these. Pictured were 24 rebloomers identified by name including the Spoons’ ‘Lady Baltimore’ and ‘My Ginny’ and Dr. Richard Richards’ ‘Easy Being Green’ which won the President’s Cup at the 2012 AIS National Convention in Ontario, California. Winterberry Gardens grows more than 1200 varieties of irises that rebloom somewhere, about 1/3 of which rebloom for them in Virginia. Their website (www.winterberryirises.com) lists 254 varieties of rebloomers for sale.

Also see “Rebloom’s Past is Its Future”, an article by Mike Lockatell of Virginia published in the April/May 2013 Irises, the Bulletin of the American Iris Society*. The author outlines the breeding history of reblooming irises, a recessive trait, starting with Jim Gibson’s ‘Gibson Girl’, through the work of Lloyd Zurbrigg, Schreiner’s ‘Victoria Falls’ (which won the Dykes Medal in 1984), the Spoons, Ghio’s 1999 ‘Double Vision’, the work of Sterling Innerst, and finally Lockatell’s own breeding work. It’s an interesting read.

*If  you’re an AIS Emember, you can read the AIS Bulletin online. See the eMembers page for more information.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

2022 Photo Contest Winners: Pets, Wildlife, or Garden Art with Irises

 Every year the American Iris Society (AIS) sponsors a photo contest to celebrate irises, their use in garden and natural settings, and the people who grow and hybridize them. 

We are pleased to announce the following winners of the 2022 AIS photo contest:

Pets, Wildlife or Garden Art with Irises

First Place – “Light Beam”

photo by Margaret E. Edgington, Fritch, Texas

Second Place – “Ants on Spuria, ‘Rodeo Blue’”

photo by Anna Cadd, Healdsburg, California

Honorable Mention  “New Perspective”

photo by Margaret E. Edgington, Fritch, Texas

First Place Youth – “ Art in the Iris Garden”

photo by Wyatt Willis, Dyersburg, Tennessee

During this contest, photographers submitted entries in the categories listed below, which vary from year to year. Next, a panel of three to five judges reviewed submissions and voted for adult and youth winners for each category. Additional information about the annual photo contest can be found on the AIS website.

Visit other World of Irises blog posts to see 2022 award-winning photos in each category:

  1. Irises in a landscape or garden
  2. Irises in a field
  3. A person or people at iris events or tours with irises
  4. Close-up of an iris or irises
  5. Iris photos – macro
  6. Photos of pets, wildlife, or garden art with the irises (link available after 11/23)

Monday, November 21, 2022

Iris tenax - A wild population in Thurston County, WA

by Mike Unser

While exploring trails and State wildlife preserves in my local area several years ago, I found a wild population of Iris tenax, our local species in the Pacific Coast Iris family. I'd seen this species in the area before, but it was always in open grasslands and prairie preserves. Clumps of irises were growing along a shaded maintenance road and in open spaces with higher moisture content than open prairie lands provide.

Beside the road I. tenax seemed to be happily growing with little direct sunlight and competing with woodland. The clumps were open and not as dense as those found in full sun. Stalks tended to be more vertical and less arching.

The foliage was narrow and grass-like.

The blooms ranged in shade from lighter to darker in tones of orchid pink thru lavender, often with yellow signal markings and lighter fall lines. I caught a white clump blooming once but have not seen it since.

The flowers had flaring petals and enough waving on the falls to make the tips appear pointed. Quite a charming wildflower.

Further down the road the area opens out a bit and the woods recede to the edges of the clearing where  homes once stood. I am guessing they housed people working at the munitions factories in the area during the great wars of the early 20th century. Both homes and factories are long gone, but remnants of them can be found if you keep a sharp eye out.

The open areas are mowed every few years to keep the invasive Scotch broom down. This doesn't seem to harm the irises.

Some have deeper more intense colors to catch the eye.

There were even some very short ones blooming in the middle of the road.

This last one is my favorite. It was a very silvery-toned lilac. Quite unique in the population. I marked it and later scavenged a few seeds from which I have managed to get a single plant growing in the garden. Hoping it retains that unique color. We'll find out next spring. Now if that white one would just turn up again. Would love to get seed from it as well.


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

2022 Photo Contest Winners: Macro Iris Photos

Every year the American Iris Society (AIS) sponsors a photo contest to celebrate irises, their use in garden and natural settings, and the people who grow and hybridize them. 

We are pleased to announce the following winners of the 2022 AIS photo contest:

 Iris Photos - MACRO

First Place – “’Yummy Accent’s’ Beefriend”

photo by Michelle Shriber, Ogden, UT

Second Place – “Red Iris”

photo by Oscar E. Gutierrez, Fredericksburg, VA

Honorable Mention – “Sorbonne”
photo by Greg Glotzbach, Yorkville, IL

Honorable Mention  “Gift 30 Years Ago”

photo by Greg Glotzbach, Yorkville, IL

First Place Youth – ““Howla Pena” 

photo by Wyatt Willis, Dyersburg, TN

During this contest, photographers submitted entries in categories listed below, which vary from year to year. Next, a panel of three to five judges reviewed submissions and voted for adult and youth winners for each category. Additional information about the annual photo contest can be found on the AIS website.

Visit other World of Irises blog posts to see 2022 award-winning photos in each category:

  1. Irises in a landscape or garden
  2. Irises in a field
  3. A person or people at iris events or tours with irises
  4. Close-up of an iris or irises
  5. Iris photos – macro
  6. Photos of pets, wildlife, or garden art with the irises (link available after 11/23)

Monday, November 14, 2022

Siberian/Species Iris Convention 2022

 by Jeff Bennett

A clump of irises at the Siberian/Species Iris Convention in May 2022

Every year, local societies, regions, and national societies have shows, conventions, meetings, and treks. As we found out with Covid, you don’t always know how long it will be to attend the next one. Your local show is the easiest to attend as you can generally drive to it and be home the same day. A regional meeting may require one overnight stay while a national convention will require a flight and at least three nights stay for most attendees. Since I had not been able to attend a national convention yet (due to Covid) and this year I was busy getting my own beds ready for a local regional meeting three weeks after this year’s national convention in New Mexico, I decided to attend the 2022 Siberian/Species Iris Convention. The convention was held May 27-29, 2022 near Seattle, Washington. The King County Iris Society was the host of this event and they did a wonderful job planning years in advance for us to visit three display gardens with guest irises to view and evaluate and vote on.

On our first evening, we had a presentation from Ken Walker on “Iris Species Across the World”. Ken shared his superior knowledge of where species of irises come from with the attendees. His trips to these locations to visit irises in their native habitat were very informative. By showing a map, he was able to show just where certain species were from which in turn helped us understand the requirements we must provide if we are to succeed at growing them here in the USA. Elevation, precipitation, and hi-lo temperatures are all factors to consider. I enjoyed Ken’s ability to explain the growing conditions encountered while on his treks.

Saturday morning we boarded the bus to take us to our first tour location: Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden. This 11-acre garden was established to preserve two gardens that were slated for demolition to expand runways of the airport. Both gardens were physically moved to this new location starting in 1996. Elda Behm’s Paradise Garden was moved to the location in 1999-2000 after a master plan was developed. In 2005, the Seike Japanese Gardens were also moved to this location with the help of the city and many volunteers. The Seike Japanese Gardens and Nursery were also in the airport’s path.

Photographing irises in bloom at Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden 
Rhododendrons in full bloom
Siberian iris 'Silliousness'

The garden is a lush and flowering garden that is free to the public. Ferns, rhododendrons, and lots of irises were in bloom to greet us. The group immediately started taking pictures of the mostly Siberian irises on an overcast day which was perfect for viewing and picture taking. The timing for bloom at this garden was just right in my opinion. The snack table had delicious pastries to pick from while we enjoyed the garden.

The next tour spot was the Bellevue Botanical Garden. It is in the city of Bellevue, Washington. The gardens were opened to the public in 1992. Starting out with 7.5 acres, the garden now encompasses 53 acres and has a visitor center. It also offers classes, webinars, and lectures. The garden itself is very similar to Highline SeaTac Garden in the types of plants on display: hostas, rhododendrons, grasses, dogwoods, and everything that loves the moisture that the Pacific Northwest provides from above. Everything is in meticulously manicured beds along meandering pathways that are very accessible to all abilities for viewing. Again we saw lots of irises in bloom in the public beds and the guest beds. Some of the guest irises had to be protected with wire barriers from rabbits that were nibbling on the shorter foliage of some irises. There was even a sale area with a good sampling of plants to purchase on the honor system. Varieties of Japanese and pseudata irises were offered for sale. Of course, I purchased some, like candy for a kid. Definitely, a place to visit when in the Seattle area.

Iris laevigata 'Variegata'
Siberian iris 'Juniper Leigh'

We returned to our hotel, plants in hand, to rest and refresh until dinner. By the way, the food provided for our dinners was top-notch. Great flavor and choices to please everyone. Carol Warner was our speaker this evening. She is the owner and hybridizer at Draycott Gardens in Maryland. She was able to share pictures of her gardens and how to use beardless irises in them. Her matter-of-fact presentation of her years of experience designing and planting pleasing displays of mixed plantings was inspirational. One thing that stood out for me was how great an iris 'Caesar’s Brother' is. 'Caesar’s Brother' is a Siberian iris that is over 90 years old. It has withstood the test of time and can be grown almost anywhere. I will vouch for that as it grows well in my California garden, ncreasing and flowering every year even though we don’t get long cold periods that Siberians like.

Convention irises with multiple bloom stalks
Convention attendees during judges' training conducted by Carol Warner
Siberians in bud

Sunday morning we boarded buses again for our final tour spot to Cascadia Iris Gardens in Lake Stevens, Washington. Patrick and Margaret Spence have been growing irises at this location since 2012. Situated on over five acres with approximately three acres for their plantings of irises, peonies, lilacs and almost any unusual plant Patrick can sneak in the driveway. His passion for plants was clearly evident during the tour he gave of his garden plantings. He knows the history of every plant there and is truly a connoisseur of all things green. As things would have it, we had a little bit of rain here, but not enough to fluster these visitors. Beautifully grown Siberians and species irises were just about a week away from full bloom. The clumps of 20-30 stalks were just waiting for a sunny day to come forth. In a normal year, they would have been in full bloom; but as we know, this was not a normal year for weather. Cooler and wetter than normal conditions slowed things down just a bit. Nevertheless, we had a beautiful display of healthy irises to appreciate.

Siberian iris 'Summer Sky'
Iris species cross seedling SP13-1-1
Patrick Spence (center) conducting a tour
Iris clumps at Cascadia Iris Gardens

Carol Warner gave a judges' training on Siberian irises. I definitely learned some tips in this training. So much so that I wanted to go back to the previous gardens to look at more details, now that I know.

The convention ended that evening with another great dinner and a “redistribution”. Since a raffle is considered gambling in the state of Washington, the way to “earn” irises is to redistribute them to those that want them. I REALLY enjoyed the redistribution as those that were there can tell you why. An auction of irises was also held and many bidders were vying for many species and cultivars of hard to find irises.

The convention ended that night, but a special invitation went out to attendees to visit two open gardens. Debby Cole graciously opened her garden for viewing. It’s amazing how many Pacific Coast irises you can grow in limited space. Debby does a wonderful job in her hillside plantings.

Debby Cole's Yard
Iris clump in a garden bed
 Pacific Coast iris in bloom

Bob Seaman's Leonine Iris Gardens was also an open garden on this day. This property is filled to the edge with mainly Pacific Coast irises. Due to the cooler spring temperatures, the PCIs were blooming very well still. I’ve never seen so many varieties of PCIs in bloom in one place. Definitely, a place to visit during bloom season in May when the gardens are open for viewing.

Leonine Iris Gardens
A stone garden path with labeled irises
Pacific Coast iris 'Escalona'
Overview of Leonine Iris Gardens

So all in all, go to a convention, regional meeting, or a show and see different types of irises in bloom. Especially in a climate very different from your own. You will then understand what they are supposed to look like when well-grown. You also meet some wonderful people that share your love of irises and realize how much passion is put into creating new irises for us. Looking forward to spring and the next convention.