A lifelong passion for irises

On a cold, wet day in May, I recently had the pleasure of visiting one of our special iris breeders of Australia.

Margaret Summerill lives in Bombala in southern NSW.  She has been breeding irises for over 30 years, after her first iris was given to her in 1983.  Margaret was inspired to try her hand at breeding after reading an article by renowned breeder, Barry Blyth.  In 1986 she tried to pollinate her first flower ‘just for fun’ and made contact with Graeme Grosvener for some extra advice.

It wasn’t until 10 years after that first introduction to irises  that Margaret had one she thought was spectacular enough to register.  Proudly Mine was listed in 1993, and was followed by over 25 different flowers. Margaret says she finds it hard to pick favourites but some of her best include Fanciful Thoughts, Boys in Blue, and the more recent Spirit of Bombala.

I asked Margaret how she chose the names for her irises – something that has always intrigued me.  She related that she is inspired by places, events or people.  One iris , Mother’s Bessie, reminded her of the colour of her mother’s cow!  She also added that she had used the dictionary at times – Wily Glow meaning inquisitive or artful.

As Margaret became more adept at breeding, collecting many accolades for her irises along the way, she decided to learn more about showing the flowers.  After attending a judges’ school six times, she became an accredited Trial Garden and Show Bench Judge further increasing her already extensive knowledge of irises.

When asked for her best tips for growing strong irises, Margaret confided that she liked to use a good fertiliser such as Osmocote when she first plants out her irises and then again in August before the bloom period.

At Sunshine Iris Nursery we are proud to offer some of Margaret’s irises.  Pictured alongside is Ruby Rover, one she bred in 2012 which is available for purchase now.  We will also have Spirit of Bombala, Mother’s Bessie, Inglewood, Moselle Moon, Fanciful Charm, Fanciful Thoughts, Wily Glow, Rowes, Winsome Annie and Windana available next year. 

Check out some of our other blogs:

Vintage or Historic Irises

Different Types of Irises

Keeping Your Irises Happy Over Summer