AIS: Educating the Educators
There has been some mention of botanical gardens and getting irises into them
as a means of educating the public or stirring up futher interest or whatever.
I'm obliged to note a pattern I've observed so that if you are inclined to go
this route you can be prepared to take some preemptive action.
Bluntly speaking, I've come to the conclusion that ignorance abounds in the
professional horticulture world about the genus Iris. There are, or have been,
several major display plantings of irises in this neck of the woods. Due to
what I must conclude is the sheer ignorance of those charged with their care,
these have gone through depressing and unnecessary declines and the last thing
that they could be said to do was publicly make the point that irises are good
plants to grow at home.
Whereas one should always bear in mind that something one doesn't know about
could be impacting the situation, like inadequate staffing or poor
organization or a vole problem, sometimes the folks in charge clearly don't
know what they are doing so the plants look it. You can smell the rot on the
beardeds with the four inches of steaming mulch over the rhizome on a sunny
May morning, you can see the beardless things divided down to single fans
several years running, you can see the plants requiring dry conditions
struggling with rot at the bottom of a forty-five degree sloped berm, you can
see the telltale tracks of someone having taken a mantis tiller between the
plants and thus across the roots of a border of bearded things, and so on.
Upon making quiet concerned inquiries one hears complacent and fatalistic
noise about how the irises "had not done well for them" or worse, how they had
enjoyed them but sure ost a lot and so want more.
I simply don't think irises are being tought enough in the general schools of
horticulture, and certainly not the more intricate ramifications of culture in
this broad genus. I base this on my assesment of the knowledge of five senior
professional horticulturalists and upon the egregious errors I see made in
professionally maintained public gardens, not all of which can be laid at the
feet of unsupervised volunteers. I have also heard boneheaded advice being
given out at my local nursery center which is far better than most in the
quality of their staff, many of which are degreed and have professional
So if you intend to try to persuade a local botanic garden or whatever to use
more irises, you may wish to make some subtle and diplomatic efforts to ensure
their survival. Simply providing books for the library won't do it since they
may or may not get consulted. Some folks just don't know they are ignorant
about something,or don't care if the plant doesn't interest them. You might
give some thought to either volunteering to hold an in depth seminar for the
staff and provide very detailed supporting materials, or volunteer to care
for the plants yourself. Otherwise anything can happen, and it will be
happening out in full view of the public.
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