National convention

The American Iris Society holds a national convention in New Mexico for the first time

VADO, New Mexico – For many, this week in April is just a normal week. But for American Iris lovers, it’s this year’s National Iris Convention! Normally, the American Iris Society holds a convention every year, but it was postponed recently due to the pandemic. This is the first convention to be held since the pandemic began, and it’s also the first ever to be held in New Mexico – something Scarlett Ayres, co-chair of the NM convention, is very proud of.

“It’s been going remarkably well. We’re enjoying it, the camaraderie, you know talking with our friends from other past conventions,” Ayres said.

On Thursday, iris enthusiasts were able to tour the gardens participating in this year’s convention. Five busloads of guests visited the Blue J Iris and Calhoun Flower Farms this morning and afternoon, and four other gardens are also open to guests, including the co-chairs’ own garden – Ayres Garden, the Wilson Garden, Fabian Garcia Garden, and the Farm and Ranch Museum Garden.

Mr. Miller is a judge for this year’s convention. He’s been attending the national convention for 30 years! “It’s always a great convention because we see a lot of irises and we see the new ones that have just been crushed and have produced new hybrids,” Miller said.

A few well-known hybridizers are attending this year’s convention, including Thomas Johnson and Riley Probst. Both have been mixing different varieties and offering new color variations for over 30 years.

When ABC-7 asked Probst if he had one of his own varieties on display in the gardens, he laughed and said, “Yeah, but it’s dead!”

Unfortunately, as iris lovers roamed the gardens, only a few flowers have ever bloomed. The rest of the flowers will bloom in about a week, which is right after the convention ends. Gardeners blame the weather for this.

Obviously, the flower is popular for having a national convention of this size. “Irises are called the rainbow flower,” Ayres told me, because they come in pretty much every color except true rose red. Species flower hybridizers have been experimenting for years, creating hundreds or even thousands of new variations of the plants.

The Iris Society will also be holding a rhizome sale at the Mesilla Valley Mall in September, which includes those that were on display in the convention gardens.

If you want to visit one of the gardens in full bloom, you’re in luck! Next Saturday, Calhoun’s and the Blue J Iris Gardens will be open to the public. For more information, you should check their Facebook page, and the convention website: