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Irises for NZ GardensBOOK REVIEWS

Irises for New Zealand Gardens

By Karen Glasgow
Publilshed by Godwit Press, New Zealand, 1996

Reviewed by Peter Berry

Not since Jean Stevens book "The Iris and its Culture" written in the 1940's has an iris book with a local flavour been published. In a country with so many skillful and talented gardeners the time gap of 50 years is too great. Jean Stevens' book is still widely used and consulted if you are lucky enough to have a copy but it is dated in style and photographs and an update was well overdue.

Many people have over a life time of study and observation developed a knowledge that is of immense value to others but few have the dedication or talent to convert it into a readable and valuable publication. Karen Glasgow has in my opinion achieved that. Sadly she died prior to its publication and her work was brought to fruition by her many friends in the New Zealand Iris Society. I did not have the pleasure of meeting her but knew of her from reading back copies of the Iris Society Bulletin when I first became absorbed by tall bearded irises about ten years ago.

The book is truly a home gardeners' companion. Written in simple but effective language it gives the amateur gardener an excellent insight in to the iris family. The first chapter Iris — the year round flower, dispels the myth that iris are a short season flower. By planting a range of the species, flowers are possible throughout the year. During 1961 I had tall bearded iris in a vase in the house every month of the year. This is a little unusual but not impossible.

Chapter 2 gives a very brief but essential explanation of the genus covering the rootstock, flower and foliage. The opening sentence really invites readers to broaden their knowledge about iris. It says "Irises are a diverse genus of around three hundred species, but extensive hybridisation has given rise to many more garden forms".

The next chapter, "Irises in the Garden" starts with the succinct sentence "Irises are beautiful and versatile garden plants". There is a wealth of knowledge in a few pages that would allow any gardener to select what they wanted to grow and then to achieve it. The variations in the plants requirement with regard to soil type, light and shade, water, and fertility are all adequately explained in straight-forward language.

The following two chapters explains the difference between rhizomatous iris and bulbous iris and the divisions within each group. They will probably be the most referred to chapters in the book and the mastery of the knowledge they contain will lead to excellent displays of iris around New Zealand.

The final two chapters on "Pests and Diseases" and "Propagation" round off an excellent home gardeners guide to iris growing.

The book is generously enhanced with photographs throughout which support the text and will I am sure create many enquiries from plant shops. All in all a valuable edition to the library of garden books that is written for our conditions and talks in our time zones. It will, I am sure be widely read and referred to for many years.

New Zealand Garden Journal: Journal of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture 1997 2(3): 23-24

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