For the first time in more than 30 years, the annual Iris Show sponsored by the Monument Valley Iris Society will not happen this year. However, the Iris sale will go on as scheduled.

This year’s Iris sale is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, May 30-31 at the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center north of Scottsbluff. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“The university has hosted our show and sale for more than 30 years,” said Iris Society member Ron Charles. “But with the coronavirus pandemic, they’re closed this year so we couldn’t have the indoor show.”

Charles then asked if the society could still have their sale, which is held outdoors. After some discussion, the university agreed, leaving the Iris Society only a few days to get out the word.

“I still think we’ll have a good showing for the weekend,” Charles said. “People are ready to get out of the house and do something.”

This weekend, the society’s 17 members will be taking orders for rhizomes of the Iris varieties now planted in their garden at the university. Shoppers will probably find the perfect Iris for them, as the garden has more than 400 varieties.

A catalog of Iris pictures from member's gardens will also be available for inspection.

“People just need to mark down the variety of Iris they like and bring the information to us at the sales tables we’ll have set up,” Charles said. “All of our rhizomes are $5 each, which is a lot better price than what’s in all the catalogs. They sell some of the newly introduced varieties for $50 to $85 per rhizome.”

People will then be given a date and place where the rhizomes will be available for pickup.

“The sale is the only means of funding the Iris Society,” Charles said. “We don’t have a lot of expenses so we don’t need a ton of money. But there are some bills to pay, like to refurbish the garden every year.”

The Monument Valley Iris Society is an affiliate of Region 21 of the American Iris Society. Their mission statement is to organize and disseminate knowledge of the genus Iris, while fostering its preservation, enjoyment and continued development.”

Hybridizing the Iris is popular among enthusiasts, and the number of varieties show the results. Currently, the American Iris Society has registered almost 60,000 different varieties in seven categories, with 5,000 new ones being registered each year.

Charles has about 150 varieties in his own garden. He likes to collect Dykes medal winners, named for one of the first hybridizers. One of them is the San Francisco winner of the Dykes medal in 1927.

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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