Archive for Thursday, May 4, 2006

Tonganoxie iris gardens will be

May 4, 2006

Once again, Mrs. Miller's irises are in bloom.

And everyone is invited to see them.

The Miller Iris Garden at Canaan Farm will be open for free tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The garden, four miles northwest of Tonganoxie on Kansas Highway 16, also will be open the weekend of May 13-14. And on both weekends, iris bulbs will be for sale.

Annie Hurlbut, whose grandmother, the late Corinne Miller, established the garden 50 years ago, said she's thrilled to see the garden looking like it did in her grandmother's day.

Four years ago, Annie and her mother, Biddy Hurlbut, hired Tonganoxie professional gardener Ernie Morrow to bring the iris gardens back to their earlier grandeur.

Morrow started by researching to see what irises were in the garden. At one time, he said, the garden was made up of 1,500 to 2,000 varieties of irises. Now, he said, there are about 200 varieties.

Morrow backed up his research with records from the garden, old magazines and iris catalogs. He divided and replanted iris bulbs, fashioned smooth walkways and tended to the garden's other flowers, shrubs and trees.

After four years, his work is evident.

"He's got a fabulous sense of aesthetics and balance and great design and he's done a great job with it," Annie Hurlbut said.

But after four years, Morrow is ready for a change of pace.

In June he will retire from the iris garden so he can devote all his time to making pottery. His specialty, at the moment, is fashioning small bowls that nest together.

Hurlbut said, while she and her mother hope to hire another full-time gardener to replace Morrow, she hopes Morrow will continue on in some role.

"I think it's kind of in his blood, I'm hoping he will continue to give us direction and some advice down the road, too," Hurlbut said. "I think that garden is a treasure. We have every desire to keep it going."

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