May 18, 2016 - 9:00 PM
'I THINK I HAVE ONE OF THE BIGGEST COLLECTIONS AROUND'
FALKLAND - North Okanagan gardener Marianne Unruh has a hard time picking her favourite hue when it comes to her irises — not surprising given her unusually large collection.
The Falkland resident has more than 250 different coloured irises painting a rainbow in the backyard of her home, just off Highway 97. A garden filled with the same kind of flower has probably never looked so diverse but with black, orange, two-toned, lacy or frilled, each flower in Unruh's garden is unique.
Unruh has called Falkland home for 35 years, but only started cultivating her iris garden five years ago. She started off with just a handful of ‘historic’ irises — old varieties from as far back as the 1800s. From there, she got introduced to more modern varieties with fancy ruffled petals and intricate, lacy blooms.
“It sort of got a little out of control,” Unruh says with a chuckle.
Most of the flowers, which are planted in long, tidy rows, are a variety called tall bearded irises, although she has some dwarf varieties as well. Each plant is clearly labelled, with names like ‘Glamazon’, ‘Stairway to Heaven’, and ‘Just Peachy’ reflecting the personalities of each individual flower.
Asked if she’ll keep expanding her collection, Unruh doesn’t hesitate in saying, ‘of course'.
“It’s an obsession,” she says. “Everyone’s got their unique little thing. This is mine.”
But why irises, and not some other flower species? Unruh can’t really put her finger on it, but has always gravitated to them.
“I don’t know. My mom always had them, my grandma always had them, my aunts always had them,” she says. “I like the idea that you can just put them someplace and leave them. They bloom and then you don’t have to worry about them any more.”
She gets most of her plants through trades with other gardeners, but does buy them when she can’t resist a new colour. Fortunately, the collection itself is so prolific Unruh is able to sell off rhizomes from the plants, which helps fund her obsession. She’s dug up and shipped the hardy plants to every province in the country, she says.
“I think I have one of the biggest collections around. So while I’m not really a nursery or anything organized and it’s just my own personal collection, it’s a good one, I think,” Unruh says.
You can visit Unruh’s garden on Sundays after 10 a.m., or arrange a visit by contacting her through her website. You can find her by turning right at the Petro Canada gas station in Falkland, and turning into the chainlink fenced driveway.
The flowers, which came out early this year, are expected to be in bloom for another couple of weeks.
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