SALEM, Ore. – Color sight is an amazing gift, and flowers provide some of the best opportunities for enjoying this gift. The Iris provides some of the best colors and just five miles north of Salem, Oregon, the Schreiner’s Iris Garden offers 10 acres of stunning blooms. While many iris lovers attend the Giardo dell’Iris competition in Florence, Italy, or visit Presby Memorial Gardens living museum, from May 9 through June 1, gorgeous blooms can be enjoyed right here for free. The blooms first appear in early May. The free garden opens early May and remains open through the first of June. The ten acres of blooms just might overload your color capacity. The proven relief for color over-saturation is working in dirt, preferably planting Iris.
Liz Schmidt and Ray and Steve are the third generation running the farm, which started in Minnesota. Grandpa F.X. suggested to his kids, Gus, Bob and Connie Schreiner, that there might be a place easier to raise iris than in the 30 degree below zero sand and rocks of Minnesota. In 1947, the Schreiner farm officially moved to Oregon and its current location, which uses the original house as the office.
For a small 200-acre farm they have amassed an impressive array of awards, medals and commendations, including the prestigious Dykes Memorial Medal. However, the awards rank second to the letters received from gardeners sharing their joy and success using Schreiner rhizomes. Liz encourages everyone to visit the gardens during bloom season to enjoy the colors and receive inspiration.
Irises are easy to grow. They do not require a lot of space and are easily transplanted to fill new areas. The variety of colors allow gardeners flexibility in fitting iris into most landscape schemes.
“The plants are very forgiving. We have heard stories of iris growing among discarded appliances and thriving after being driven over,” Liz says. “The huge color variation is not by chance. Ray devotes his time to hybridization. He works on developing new varieties and seeking the holy grail of iris, the Red Beard. Ray has other goals too,
“He works to meet the changing needs and tastes of growers,” Liz explains. “Currently he is working on some improved dwarf varieties and improved stems on some of our standard plants. Developing a successful hybrid is a lot of work and a little luck.”
The flower show draws visitors to Schreiner’s Iris Gardens each year, and guests can plan on the same great experience next year. The family does not want to become the “big box” store of iris. Making the farm bigger would change the operation and the farm’s character. The family focus is on giving others the best flower experience and meeting with new and old gardening friends every bloom season.
Whether it is improving the display gardens to incorporate complementary flowers or seeking their twelfth Dykes Memorial Medal the family works to help growers get the best experience.
Bring your camera, bring your appreciation of color, and bring yourself to an experience that cannot be adequately described with words. It may not be possible to bring home every color you see in the garden, but you can buy a few to plant in your own.
Finally, no, iris beards are not for disguise. The beard is a growth on the sepal that looks like colored whiskers. The folks at Schreiner’s will be happy to explain the difference between a flower sepal and a flower petal. For more information, visit www.schreinersgardens.com
– Patrick McGinty ©2014 Also by Patrick McGinty – “Caise Closed” – available on Amazon.com