Bring home some color from the MVIS Rhizome Sale
By Marissa Bond
The Las Cruces Bulletin
The summer heat still saturates the sidewalks, but the low-slung slant of sunset suggests autumn is finally shouldering in. With a seasonal change that might have some casual gardeners looking to resign their gloves to a winter- long rest, the Mesilla Valley Iris Society (MVIS) is gearing up for their annual Rhizome Sale Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 12-13, at the Mesilla Valley Mall.
When purchased from hybridizers, the iris can range in price from $30 to $75. However, at the sale they range in price from $2 to $10, and all potted iris are being sold for $5.
The sale usually has between 100 and 150 varieties of iris for sale as rhizomes, underground plant stems that will send out new roots. This year MVIS will also have more than 100 potted iris for sale.
Most of the potted iris will be fairly new strains and rebloomers. Our long summers and mild autumns are ideal for reblooming among some iris, which burst back into a second bloom long after the big spring extravaganza.
For those interested in getting started with iris gardening, MVIS members will be present at the sale, wearing blue or cream MVIS shirts, to answer questions and describe what the rhizomes will look like in full bloom. The club members have grown most of the iris varieties in their own gardens, and can answer questions about their needs. “All of these plants too have been grown here in a member’s garden, so they are fully acclimated to the area when the people get them,” said MVIS president Cynthia Wilson. “What happens is that we have a meeting where we order, every year, new iris to come into the community and then we have what we call ‘sitters’ that take these club iris.
“They manage them, water them, get out to the community, in some cases.”
By that time, the iris have adjusted to the arid heat of the Mesilla Valley.
“They don’t have to pay the price and baby them for two or three years, and then they come back to the club and we share all the increase among each other. And then that increase, the next year, will end up in our sale. So it takes two to three years for a new variety, which is a new named iris, to
‘All of these plants too have been grown here in a member’s garden, so they are fully acclimated to the area when the people get them.’
MVIS president they don’t have to spend the time acclimating it to our environment, because we are warmer here and we are drier than most of the country,” said MVIS Treasurer Dale Ellis.
The rhizomes will all be identified with strain and color, as well as a picture of what the flower will look like — and for further details, MVIS members will be happy to fill in the specifics.
“When we’ve had our rhizome sales, people will go, ‘What color is this?’ so we’ll look it up and say, ‘This is Queen’s Robe.’ And we’ll look it up and show it to them,” said Jacquie Pountney, MVIS vice president.
“We’ve run our phones dry looking up. But this is how we can identify the iris. We look them up and make sure the person knows what they are getting and what it will look like. And most of us have Queen’s Robe, and we have it in our garden and can tell them how it does.”
“The rhizomes, when we dig them out of our yard, we trim them up and they are sanitized,” Ellis said. “Which is important, because we are very careful not to spread any iris disease or bugs.”
MVIS is an affiliate of the American Iris Society (AIS), and will be hosting AIS Region 23’s annual convention and seminars, as well as judges training, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 19-20, at the Hotel Encanto, 705 S. Telshor.
The convention will feature vineyard weather specialist Elizabeth Smith and guest speaker Ginny Spoon of Winterberry Iris Gardens. Full registration is $75; for additional information, contact Ann Colwell at 639-1087.
MVIS is also seeking to collaborate with youth organizations in Doña Ana County that are interested in growing iris.
The fledgling program, called Growing Iris Growers, would provide the youth organization with education in iris cultivation, iris rhizomes for planting in the youth garden in the fall, opportunities for field trips to blooming iris gardens and an iris bouquet to display.
The youth organizations that the MVIS is looking for should be able to be involved for a few years, have a dedicated adult sponsor, an appropriate garden plot and access to water and agree to label the iris and return surplus rhizomes to the MVIS. “The types of clubs can be religious, educational or scout clubs,” said Wes Wilson, a member of MVIS.
The Mesilla Valley Iris Society Rhizome Sale will be held 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13, in the Mesilla Valley Mall, 700 S. Telshor Blvd. The sale is a opportunity to gather rhizomes to start of expland your own iris garden and to talk to members of MVIS.
For more information about the Mesilla Valley Iris Society Rhizome Sale, MVIS or its programs, email mvis. firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.aisregion23.com/ aisregion23/MVIS.