Bloomfest at Rainbow Iris Farm

Yesterday was not the best day to drive to Rainbow Iris Farm in rural Bedford, Iowa. For one thing, last week’s unseasonably warm weather had turned unseasonably cold. And windy. And it was raining. So there was mud.

Rainbow Iris Farm is located four miles of dirt (mud) roads off of Hwy. 148, very near the Missouri border. The farm manager is Kelly Norris, a 2008 Iowa State horticulture graduate whom I met when I was working on an entrepreneur feature story for VISIONS magazine. The Norris family owns the farm, but Kelly is gardener extraordinaire. He became Iowa’s youngest certified master gardener at age 13, has published a number of gardening books, and encouraged his family (at age 15) to start the iris farm.

The result is a 7.5-acre plot of blooming beauties. Rainbow Iris Farms is currently celebrating Bloomfest 2011 from May 7 to June 3. From shy, delicate, early-blooming dwarf irises to the showy, tall beardeds, irises are expected to bloom throughout this period of time.

When I was there yesterday, getting a perfectly good pair of shoes muddy, maybe a third of the plots had irises in bloom. The rest of them looked like they were nearly ready to pop. It will just take some warm, sunny weather to get them to show off their colors.

Kelly’s irises are unique in that he is a prolific plant breeder. He is creating new cultivars each year. As I tromped around in the mud, exclaiming about the color of this iris and that, Kelly pointed out that the ones I liked were actually crosses between these other ones here and here…I get sort of lost in the genetics of it all, but gosh they are pretty. Kelly says there are 1,100 different kinds in all.

The Rainbow Iris Farm catalog can be accessed online at www.rainbowfarms.net. Order early for best selection! Plants are shipped in the fall.

If you want to take your chances with the weather, visit the farm yourself. Directions can be found online.

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