Welcome to our Society's website
It is a real privilege to be leading the New Zealand Iris Society forward. The NZIS membership ranges from beginners to very experienced and knowledgeable growers of a wide range of irises. New Zealand provides many variations of climate and soils that allow us to grow a wide variety of species and hybrids. The extensive Iridaceae family is both enthralling and fascinating. Nearly everyone will have some of this family in their garden. From gladiolus, sisyrinchiums, tigridia, crocus, freesia and diorama to the true irises, which in themselves have a huge variety of species. The iris family is extensive with species that will grow in a huge variety of habitats. Central Otago is becomng known for the aril and aril-bred irises that thrive in the hot summers there. It is part of the attraction of selecting and growing from such a wide variety of plants that attracts people to the society. Many of the species available through the seed pool and convention sales tables give unique and interesting plants that add botanical interest to a garden as well as different colour and form.
The annual conventions and also Species and Dwarf Safaris are held in North Island one year and South Island the next. These are sponsored by regional groups and are a major draw-card for members. This is where we meet other growers willing to share their knowledge and expertise. It is where we visit private gardens with botanical treasures growing in environments that suit the plants and not only irises! People who are interested in irises are also interested in other plants and particularly in rare and unusual plants which can be the order of the day!
Joining the NZIS opens all sorts of doors in NZ and Internationally. There are iris societies in most countries and it is very convenient for us in the Southern Hemisphere to travel to the Northern Hemisphere right at their bloom time and in our winter. Of course this works both ways and we often have Northern Hemisphere iris enthusiasts at our conventions here. These connections add to our enjoyment, knowledge and experience.
Here in Nelson where I live, our summers and autumns tend to be dry. Winters may be a bit frosty but we do not have snow on the ground. Our property has free draining alluvial soil and it suits the bearded irises very well. Evansia irises thrive here too in the shade of our deciduous trees. Iris unguicularis cheers our winter days, planted close to the hedge it rewards us with masses of blooms during May, June and July. Tall spuria irises do well here too, tolerating the dry autumn and putting on growth over the late winter to put on a magnificent display in the spring. The tiny spuria Iris graminea with its sweetly perfumed blooms, tolerates the tough area under the pine-nut tree. Some Siberian hybrids are kept close by where I can water them as they prefer some water during the summer and I make the effort as I really love their elegant blooms. I have some Louisiana irises as well but they do not do so well in my garden preferring more damp and a richer soil. It is still fun to try to grow some more challenging species – some will do well and others not so.
I have belonged to the NZIS since about 1980. It has been all a wonderful journey during that time. Meeting other iris enthusiasts has been a highlight. Attending conventions in the UK, USA, Moscow and visiting Dr Rodionenko in St Petersburg and Tomas and Tina Tamburg in Berlin. Judging irises in Florence twice was also very memorable. All this has come about through being a member of the NZIS. Here we have also been visited by other hybridisers – Keith Keppel, USA, Terry Aitken, Canada, Barry Blyth, Australia. How privileged I feel.
I am hoping to visit most regional groups during my 3 year term, giving me the chance to meet local members and perhaps see some of their gardens as well. Climate change seems to be happening for us all and providing us with new challenges in our gardens. Swinging from too much rain to not enough, we may find we can grow something different in the future.
I wish all members a happy and productive 2014 and 2015.