Luck and looks of the iris for city show
There has been an annual iris show in Palmerston North for at least the last decade.
That’s according to a past president of the Palmerston North-based Rangitikei Branch of the New Zealand Iris Society, Sandy Bartle.
The society’s annual two-day show takes place this weekend at the Ferguson St Leisure Centre.
‘‘We hold it for the public as much as anything, and best of all, it’s free.’’
The elegant vari-coloured rhizomes with their distinctive flowers had always been popular, not least because they’re easy to grow, Bartle said.
‘‘People come in droves to see the irises but also to buy plants. It can be hard to find decent irises in nurseries.’’
The hardy plant originated in northern Greece, where it is named for Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow. The French fleurde-lis and the worldwide scouting emblem are both stylised versions of the flower.
Bartle said the plant really caught on about 250 years ago. Since then, breeders have produced some 63,500 named irises, many of these since World War II.
‘‘Quite a few have been produced in New Zealand. Jean Stevens, who was a well-known breeder in Bulls and Whanganui, won a top global award in the 1950s for an iris called Pinnacle.’’
Bartle, a former curator of birds at Te Papa, has been growing the stately flowers since he was 14.
‘‘I just like growing the things - not necessarily the competitive aspect.’’
But he has produced prizewinning blooms from his small suburban plot where 230 plants representing 22 varieties are coming into flower.
‘‘They’re not that good in the wind, and this is the windiest time of the year, so I stake mine.’’
He expected that flower fanciers from all over Manawatu, Rangitikei, Hawkes Bay, Wellington, and possibly from further afield would attend the weekend show.
Entry is free not just for viewers and buyers but also for any home growers who may want to exhibit their blooms.
Society members will be on hand to help anyone set up before 10am on Saturday. It opens at 1pm Saturday and 10am Sunday, closing at 4pm both days.
Iris grower Sandy Bartle in his city garden.