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Irises at the heart of Dresden in May and all year long

Irises at the heart of Dresden in May and all year long

Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 5:01 pm

As far as the calendar goes, the Tennessee Iris Festival couldn’t be held at a better time. Irises seem to be at their peak all over Weakley County.
But gardeners who want to submit their flowers for consideration in the two Dresden iris shows on Friday May 6, might have to search their gardens diligently for an iris that has not been beaten into the mud by two weeks of unusual storms.
There will be two iris shows at the festival; both will be at the First Baptist Church Family Life Center in Dresden. One will draw iris gardeners from surrounding towns who have “named varieties” of iris. This show, sponsored by the Ken-Ten Iris Association, will bring in judges affiliated with the American Iris Association.
The top prize will be a $50 gift certificate sponsored by Bancorps South good for purchase of another prize winning iris plant from two prominent Oregon growers.
Another show on a broader horticultural theme will judge iris by size and color categories like black, blue, orange, pink, purple and yellow. A wide range of other flowers will also be judged – from day lilies to azaleas.
About 25 Dresden High School students and their career and technology teachers will be setting up and staffing this horticultural show on Friday as they have been for at least ten years.  
Business and marketing students have solicited sponsors for prizes and designed the brochure; others will be gaining service hours by sorting flowers when they arrive early in the morning (7:30-9:30 a.m.) and helping judges.
Dresden High School has a horticultural class taught by  Jason Kemp and maintains a green house at the school so the flower connection is real.  
Family consumers studies teacher Pat Phillips, health education teacher Gwen Coleman and business and marketing teacher Stacy Lockhart have also helped students get ready for the event. Kemp says that sometimes graduates of the high school come back to the show entering flowers from their own gardens.
One of the tricky aspects of the Iris Festival is depending on Mother Nature to cooperate with the timing of the featured flower.  Irises are in every corner bed surrounding the Dresden court square and it’s helpful if they are in full bloom for the festival. Joyce Reynolds, a long time member of the Ken-Ten club says that the beds are in a kind of “micro-climate” maybe a zone or two warmer than what flowers in Dresden gardens usually experience. This is because they are surrounded by pavement which bakes in added heat.
The club also sells rhizomes, the bulb-like root of the iris plant at its summer sale.
Reynolds says that there will be some iris plants that members potted in the fall on sale at the May festival, but for the most part it is too early to dig up or divide irises now.
After three to four years, irises will multiply enough to be divided but Reynolds warns, “ do not touch an iris now. It will lose a bloom season.” She says the best time to divide or dig up an iris to move it or share with someone else is six to eight weeks after if has bloomed.
wcp 4/28/11

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