"Oh no! It rained again last night!" was my husband's greeting the morning of the show. But the judges were understanding; they heard about the latest vagaries of our weather here in the Pioneer Valley - the official heat spell of three over-90-degree days in late April that started stalks growing on the TB's, followed by several nights of below-30-degree cold that attacked the forming buds, the thunderstorm just two nights before the show - it knocked over the stalks and blew away the blooms; and showers and wind ever since - all the quirks of Nature that have made this year one to be compared to, when future shows are planned.
The show would - and did - go on as scheduled, rain and wind notwithstanding, even though darker irises had spots of acid rain marring their velvety beauty, even though the wind had snapped the terminal blooms just as they were opening. Members of the Western New England Iris Society had to roll out of bed to select and prepare their irises for the show, even though we had to dodge the raindrops as we tried to choose the stalks that would garner a ribbon, or excite the viewing public enough to get some new converts to the beauty of iris in their gardens and homes.
Judges for the horticultural division were mainly from eastern Massachusetts: Barbara and David Schmeider, Lynn Markham and Connie Hall. Ellen Gallagher from New Hampshire and Bob Sawyer, the American Iris Society vice-president for our region, who lives in Harpswell, Maine, completed the horticultural roster. The judge for the design division was Anne Tiffany.
Queen of Show, the best iris in the show as selected by the American Iris Society qualified judges, was the miniature tall bearded beauty, CAROLYN ROSE. Best tall bearded and winner of the Phillip Bronson award was AURORA'S GOWN. Best intermediate bearded, AVANELLE; best Siberian iris was CHINA SPRING; best species saw two varieties on the stage - Iris Lactaea, which was the 1st runner-up to the best-in-show, and HC FLOP, which was 2nd runner-up. Best seedling was my own 98-96-35, an as yet un-named seedling.
Ten exhibitors from the area entered 63 tall bearded irises, winning 20 blue first-prize ribbons, 15 red second-prizes, 16 white third prizes, and 7 honorable mentions. The winner of this section, AURORA'S GOWN, was also the 3rd runner-up to the best in show. Incidentally, this lovely flower was a creation of the late Barbara Roberts, a friend and member who we lost last year.
There were 17 intermediate bearded irises, garnering 2 blue ribbons, 8 reds, 4 whites, and 1 pink honorable mention. The winner of this section was AVANELLE.
One miniature dwarf iris was entered and it won an honorable mention.
Perhaps it was too early for the border bearded irises, there were only two exhibits, with one second prize and one third awarded.
To make up for that, there was a good selection of miniature tall bearded, with the winner of this section, CAROLYN ROSE, going all the way to Queen Of Show (also known as Best In Show). There were 26 entrants with 12 first prizes, 8 seconds, 2 thirds, and 3 honorable mentions.
The Siberian iris section had a good representation, with the winner of the section garnering a 4th runner-up slot (China Spring). Thirty-five entries generated 10 first prizes, 5 seconds, 7 thirds, and 3 honorable mentions.
As we have grown to expect from this show, the species section made a nice showing, with the first and second runners-up for Queen of Show award coming from here. There were 14 entrants which won 5 blue ribbons, 4 red ones, one white third prize, and 3 honorable mentions. The first runner-up was Iris Lactaea; the second, HC FLOP.
Only 7 seedlings were exhibited, 6 of them tall bearded and one species. Three blue ribbons were awarded. The best of section was a numbered one, my multi-colored tall 98-96-35, a cross between RINGO and RAINBOW TOUR. The species seedling entry, HAPI TOK, gained praises from the judges, along with the blue first prize ribbon.
There were a dozen entries in the 4 design categories, with the best design prize won by Shanna DeSotle for her East Meets West category design. Unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures of the design table, just the winner.
About 130 people entered the raffle for door prizes, with 4 prizes given. Two of the recipients were youngsters; hopefully this will foster a love for our favorite flower. Only 28 attendees bothered to vote for her or his favorite iris; the winner of the popularity poll was SUPREME SULTAN with 4 votes, followed closely by LADY FRIEND and BEGUINE, with 3 each; CAROLYN ROSE received 2 votes.
Quite a few visitors brought their cameras, the irises obliged and posed nicely for them; one professional artist who has a studio at 40 State Street in Shelburne Falls, JoAnne Sherburne, set up her easel and started a pastel portrait of Thornbird, whose subtle coloration intrigued her. She was happy to bring the bloom back to her studio when the show closed, for the finishing touches; she also chose an armful of others. Her studio should have a beautiful selection of iris art within the next few weeks - if you're in the area, why not stop to admire her handiwork, perhaps an easy-care (no weeding necessary) iris picture would make a good gift for a friend.
Chairwoman of the wonderful collation provided for judges and workers was Dianne Cerone. Clean-up found many willing hands working together, just as the set-up chores did the previous evening. Members Dianne Cerone, Steve Smith, Kathy Doherty, Al Sax, Marian Stafford, Nancy Gluek, Michael McGrath, Rae Davis, Bernie Balise, Charlotte Clement, Guy and Andy Wheeler, Shanna DeSotle, Bob and Carol Blais, Mary Spellicy, all were willing helpers. We missed member Harry Bishop, who was unable to attend because of illness.
Most importantly, the chairwoman of the show, Debby Wheeler, deserves beaucoup plaudits for a job well done.
For pictures of these beauties, click here.