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The highlight of my travels in 2021 was a visit to the Schreiner’s Iris Gardens in Salem, Oregon. I had heard about the gardens, but what I had visualized before going was trifling compared to actually seeing them in all of their blooming glory.
I thought we would walk through the fields of blooming irises and see hundreds of the same colors all in one location. Although, we did see one hundred acres of commercial fields of blooms as we entered and left the gardens, we spent our time in the display gardens where the Schreiner family, who own and care for the gardens, have planted each cultivar.
They have created paths for people to walk and get close to the blooming plants. The irises are planted around the flower beds’ edges with blooming lupine, peonies, and allium, planted in each bed’s center, offsetting the riveting-colored irises of different shapes and sizes.
The Story Behind the Gardens
The first Schreiner iris lover was F.X. Schreiner, who lived in Minnesota and was a department store manager. On one of his business trips in 1920, he met John C. Wister, the first president of the American Iris Society. Wister motivated him to start collecting different colors and varieties of iris. Over the years, Schreiner’s flower beds expanded to more than 500 cultivars, and, in 1925, he published his first price list. Three years later, he published his first black-and-white catalog, which had no pictures.
His children grew to have an iris passion, too. F.X. died in 1931, and in 1946, his three offspring—Bob, Connie, and Bernard (Gus)—started looking for a hospitable place to grow irises for commercial purposes. They finally settled in 1947 on 15 acres near Salem, Oregon, in the Willamette Valley.
By the 1990s the Schreiners had expanded their acreage and developed the display gardens on the original Schreiner land purchase. Today their children look for new combinations of colors and shapes by hybridizing the flowers.
They have always enjoyed selecting memorable names for their blooms, like “Angel’s Rest,” “Just the Ticket,” ”Anything for You,” and “Sunrise Splendor.”
For the last 15 years, the Schreiners have held a contest for their customers, to see who can come up with the best names for the new cultivars. The 2022 theme for new names was celebrating the geographic locations and regionally specific objects found in the areas the company ships to across the United States.
The names they chose were “Owyhee Opal”—submitted by Jill R. of Minnesota and “Yes Virginia”—submitted by Deborah B. of Connecticut.
Those of us who have been raising irises for years know they bloom in May and June in our region. Now Schreiner’s has iris available that rebloom later in the summer.
Visiting the Gardens
To prevent the gardens from becoming so overly crowded that people are unable to focus on the individual iris blooms, they ask visitors to sign up on the Internet in two-hour blocks at $5 per person. We signed up for four hours, so we paid $10 each. Also, we packed our lunch and used the picnic tables right in the gardens.
The gardens will be open this year, May 7 through May 31 from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The gardens are located at 3625 Quinaby Road NE in Salem, which is 32 miles south of Portland and 5 miles north of downtown Salem. We used “Google Maps” and drove right to the gardens from Interstate 5.
Visitors can tour the Flower Shed, where they can purchase striking bouquets of blooming irises, or they can place orders for iris rhizomes of blooms found in the display gardens or pictured in Schreiner’s catalog. Artists and photographers are welcome as are dogs on a leash. Be sure to take a rain jacket.
Also visit Schreiner’s Gardens on Facebook, so you will know what to expect when you visit during bloom season.
Schreiner’s has started selling day lilies, so if you have an affinity for this lovely flower in bloom, check with Schreiner’s for the latest in colors. Find their online catalog at schreinersgardens.com.
Better yet, visit the gardens and make out your order there. ISI