THE IRIS VIRUS
CHRIS Smith says he’s had “iris virus” for more than 40 years — since seeing a black iris for the first time at a flower show.
“I fell in love with it and no one would tell me where to find one,” says Smith, who has since transformed his backyard at Gretna into a field of irises.
“They were protective of where they got them from. Being a collector, I became interested. There were so many colours. That’s when I got the iris virus.”
Smith grows more than 300 iris varieties from bulbs, which he swaps, trades and gives away to friends.
He’s also amassed a huge collection of iris memorabilia, including vases, plates and picture frames featuring irises.
They can be found in storage boxes or inside his home with his collections of money boxes and wind-up toys.
“Tasmania is perfect for growing irises,” Smith says. “Every home should have them. There’s a variety of colours, they’re easy to grow and they like cold winters and hot summers.”
He says his goal when he started gardening was to make his home more attractive.
“I bought a place between two wonderful gardens and the house was deplorable. I was so embarrassed and thought I’d find out how to make it look nicer,” he says.
“I love what I’ve created. About two weeks ago you couldn’t see the ground, it was wall-to-wall colour. I’ve got known a little bit. People come past and stop and back up to have a look around.
“I’ve just clicked over the 70 [years of age] mark. I do an hour a day in the garden just fiddling and walking around and making things nice.”