The Gazette (Derwent Valley) - - FRONT PAGE - PENNY McLEOD

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.”

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