Passionate about flowers? Explore Schreiner’s Iris Gardens

By SUZANNE WARING

The highlight of my travels in 2021 was a visit to Schreiner’s Iris Gardens in Salem, Oregon. I had heard of the gardens, but what I had visualized before going there was insignificant compared to actually seeing them in all their flowery glory.

I thought we would walk through fields of blooming irises and see hundreds of identical colors in one place. Although we saw one hundred acres of commercial flower fields as we entered and left the gardens, we spent our time in the show gardens where the Schreiner family, who own and maintain the gardens, planted each cultivar.

They created paths for people to walk and get closer to flowering plants. Irises are planted around the edges of the flower beds with flowering lupine, peonies and alliums planted in the center of each bed, offsetting the brightly colored irises of varying shapes and sizes.

The story behind the gardens

Schreiner’s first iris enthusiast was FX Schreiner, who lived in Minnesota and was a department store manager. During 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 irises. Over the years Schreiner’s flower beds grew to over 500 cultivars, and in 1925 he published his first price list. Three years later, he published his first catalog in black and white, without photos.

His children also grew up to have a passion for the iris. FX died in 1931, and in 1946 his three descendants – Bob, Connie and Bernard (Gus) – began looking for a hospitable place to grow irises commercially. 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 show gardens on the initial purchase of the Schreiner land. Today their children are looking for new combinations of colors and shapes by hybridizing flowers.

They’ve always loved choosing memorable names for their flowers, like “Angel’s Rest,” “Just the Ticket,” “Anything for You,” and “Sunrise Splendor.”

For the past 15 years, the Schreiners have run a contest for their customers to see who can come up with the best names for new cultivars. The 2022 theme for the new names celebrated geographic locations and region-specific objects found in areas where the company ships across the United States.

The names they chose “Owyhee Opal” – submitted by Jill R. from Minnesota and “Yes Virginia” – submitted by Deborah B. from Connecticut.

Those of us who have been raising irises for years know that they bloom in May and June in our area. Now Schreiner’s has irises available that bloom again later in the summer.

Visit of the gardens

To prevent the gardens from becoming so overcrowded that people can’t concentrate on the individual iris blossoms, they ask visitors to register 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, from May 7 to May 31 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The gardens are located at 3625 Quinaby Road NE in Salem, 32 miles south of Portland and 5 miles north of downtown Salem. We used “Google Maps” and went straight to the gardens from Interstate 5.

Visitors can visit the Flower Shed, where they can purchase striking bouquets of blooming irises, or they can place orders for rhizomes of flower irises found in the show gardens or pictured in Schreiner’s catalog. Artists and photographers are welcome as well as dogs on a leash. Be sure to take a rain jacket.

Also visit Schreiner Gardens on Facebook, so you know what to expect when you visit during the blooming season.

Schreiner’s has started selling day lilies, so if you have an affinity for this lovely blooming flower, check with Schreiner’s for the latest colors. Find their catalog online at schreinersgardens.com.

Better yet, visit the gardens and place your order on the spot. ISI

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