Luck and looks of the iris for city show

The Tribune (NZ) - - COMMUNITY COOKBOOK - RICHARD MAYS

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.

PHOTO: MUR­RAY WIL­SON/ FAIRFAX NZ

Iris grower Sandy Bar­tle in his city gar­den.

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