Winners of Ackerman Contest Announced

Winners for the 2018 Ackerman Contest are:

For the Junior Division (ages 12 and under): Katharina Brase
For the Senior Division (ages 13 and above): Lewis Glasscock

Topic Was: Why is the iris the mianstay of the hardy garden?

Katharina Brase submission was:

"The Iris Remains the 'Lovely Lady of the Landscape'

As the American Iris Society is preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary, we are reminded of a quote from its founder and first president, John Wister:  "The iris is the mainstay of the hardy garden."  John Wister was a man who spent his life working with plants.  Obvioulsy they were his passion, because he joined about 50 different horticulture societies, was president of an arboretum, and spent over 50 years landscaping a college campus!  With all of his knowledge and experience with so many different flowers, he still believed that the iris was an important part of any garden.  This is as true today as it was then.  Irises have endured as a favorite garden flower because they are hardy, inexpensive perennials with large, colorful blooms that capture the attention of garden visitors.

Irises are hardy garden flowers.  They are capable of surviving on their own.  Gardeners don't have to plant them from seed each year or dig them up in the fall (like cannas or dahlias).  Even people with very little gardening experience can keep a lump of irises that will cheerfully return each spring with fresh, fragrant blooms.  Although they will survivie on thier own, irises will certainly thrive even more with some care.  Weeding and thinning is important to keep down the competition for sunlight and moisture, and to give the rhizomes room to grow.  A little bit of fertilizer will give them a boost to produce some blue-ribbon blooms.

Irises are inexpensive garden flowers.  Although iris lovers can get carried away at auctions where they enthusiastically compete for brand new introductions, there are certainly cheaper alternatives.  If you don't want to watt ten years for the new introductions to get marked down in price, you can start by finding some free irises from relatives or neighbors.  Even smaller, older, unnamed historical irises have charm.  Add some newer, named irises from your local iris club's sale.  Even better, become a Youth Member of the American Iris Society, and you might possibly find a newer introduction from generous iris hybridizers and gardeners waiting in your mailbox.

Irises put on a stunning display in the spring.  They are one of the largest flowers in the garden.  Their showy blooms appear in practically every color of the rainbow except true red and green.  The bright colors will grab your attention when entering a garden.  The hunt for fresh, fragrant perfume will encourage you to compare each variety.  New shades can combinations of colors are being produced by hybridizers every year.

Every garden needs irises!  They are easy to grow.  They are affordable.  The size and color of their flower is unsurpassed.  John Wister would be amazed if he could see the result of the last hundred years of iris hybridizing.  The iris is truly the "Lovely Lady of the Landscape."

Lewis Glasscock's submission was:  "Iris Essay"

John C. Wister, the first president of the American Iris Society, once said:  "The iris is the mainstay of a hardy garden."  I agree.  Irises are elegant, unique, and easy to grow.

The iris family is a very elegant family as a whole.  The flowers are an unconventional yet graceful shape that is not similar to any other flowers.  The bluish, long, thin leaves are a beautiful sight even when the plant is not in bloom.  In my garden, the tall purple bearded irises stand out because they are taller than the hostas, California poppies, and the lilies of the valley that surround them.

Irises are common, yet look incredibly exotic.  In my garden I grow mostly bearded irises - large, fragrant, colorful flowers that bloom typicaly in lage spring to early summer.  Once a yellow bearded iris in our garden bloomed in November, and the flowers were covered in snow.  The show they put on was miraculous.

Typically, when you think about a plant being elegant it's in reference to the flowers, not with irises!  My favorite part has always been the rhizomes.  I have always been amazed at how such a small rhizome can produce such a large flower.  When I was little I thought the rhizomes looked like fat fingers.

The iris family is also a very diverse group of plants.  Whether you want a beautiful plant to spice up your pond garden, or you're interested in a nice focal point for your drought-tolerant garden, irises can fit in perfectly.  At a park near my house, bunches of bright yellow semi-aquatic irises grow in the creek there.  Irises can be all different shapes and sizes, both plant size and flower size.  Some irises are large and bushy, others are tiny with huge flowers proportionate to the plant, and some are in the middle.  My bearded irises are huge compared to my tiny yellow Dutch irises, who are always first to bloom in early spring.  Irises can be a whole array of colors ranging from reds and oranges to blues and purples.

In all my years of growing irises I have never had any problems.  Every once in a while, I'd have to remove a moldy section on a dormant rhizome, but that has only happened a few times.  Once a few got crown rot, they recovered on thier own and were fine.  Irises are a great plant for beginners and are very tolerant, the main reason they are a mainstay of a hardy garden.  The rhizomes live for a very long time, and naturally divide so that if one does die, it has a perfect replica to take its place.  They're very forgiving compared with some plants I grow, and I never really have to care for them.  The only thing I really do is put the rhizome in the ground, it basically just takes care of itself.