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Specialty plant organizations tend to be focused. They often do not appeal to general gardeners. Yet they wonder why the gardening public does not beat a path to their door. The general gardener may be interested in having Irises, but views them not as collections, but as elements of the landscape they are creating. The generalist may wish to find some special Iris and come in contact with Irisarians, but I believe they can be easily turned off by the focused concentration that seems to occur to the exclusion of everything else. 


Through horticultural history there have been many plant specialties that have ebbed and waned. Once primroses were really big. But they were so exquisitely developed, that they no longer found a place in gardens and the society collapsed. I worry that we may approach this with Iris. It is not only a matter of their growability, but their place in modern garden settings, not just in collections by themselves. 


I can remember in my youth, great perennial borders with Iris, peonies, poppies, etc. the Iris were magnificent. They were also an integral part of the whole display. It seems I rarely see Iris grown this way anymore. When we become purely collectors I think we loose a perspective on culture that is what most gardeners are looking for. 

ChatOWhitehall@aol.com wrote:In a message dated 8/22/05 1:38:13 PM Eastern Daylight Time, 
kellydn@iastate.edu writes:

<< Too often the general garden public has such a narrow view of the immense 
work produced by our breeders, something I find rather disheartening 
considering the excellent cultivars available. I feel that a considerable amount of 
effort should be placed on educating the public and promoting the newer 
cultivars as horticultural materials not collectors pieces. >>

My own observation is that too often the general garden public has purchased 
irises only to experience disappointment with misnamed cultivars, or other 
nasty but entirely predictable surprises, notably soft rot and borers. I frankly 
don't think much more is understood about the borer than was known in the 
1930s, and that is a bad bad thing because a rollicking infestation of borers or 
soft rot can be a life changing experience, and it is well we admit it. 

But, you see, I don't think most mature gardeners are enthusiastic about 
being briefed in the finer points of chemical warfare against routine iris 
problems. I don't know a single gardener of whatever degree of sophistication--and I 
know all kinds-- who is not environmentally conscious, if not militantly 
organic, at some level. Moreover, I think it to be lamented that AIS is not 
publicly more green. Once when I raised this very point there was some response to 
the effect that the non-profit thing precluded any verdant stance, but I doubt 
that is correct. I think the situation is disappointing, and quite aside from 
any personal moral or spirtual imperatives one might feel along these lines, 
anyone who knows diddly knows that three things which put people off plant 
societies are the competativeness, the infighting, and chemicals. 

Until such time as the hard core iris fanciers, and AIS, can offer better 
solutions to the routine problems which arise in growing irises, and until such 
time as it is understood that one non-negotiable attribute of a fine iris is 
its horticultural soundness, its its joie de vivre, if you will, I personally 
think you are going to have a hard time talking the general garden public into 
beating the big bass drum in the rainbow parade, and the iris will remain a 
specialist's plant, a category which appears to excuse all sins. 


Anner Whitehead 
Richmond VA USA

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