Sam Caldwell has been raising irises for 15 years and been a member of our Flint River Iris Society for all those years. He has won numerous Blue Ribbons for his irises. In the Spring 2015 FRIS show he took Queen of Show for Doo Wop Memories, Best Bearded Historical with Tropical Butterfly and Best Median with Novella. He also received 13 blue ribbons for other submissions. In the spring 2017 show he won Best Non-Bearded, Best Space Ager (new category) and Most Blue Ribbons(Silver Medal),
Sam has served as treasurer of FRIS for a number of years, and supported the organization financially by contributing many irises for the organization to sell at fund raisers.
I first started growing irises in the mid 1980's when a gentleman named Donald Jones encouraged me to grow them and gave me some from his garden. Mr. Jones and his wife, Betty, both grew beautiful irises. (In 1990, they joined with other iris growers in this area to establish the Flint River Iris Society.)
I planted the irises he gave me in the school yard of Anne Street Elementary where I worked, and he was a bus driver. I later divided the irises and planted some of them in my garden at home. I probably have some of them still growing there.
I joined the Flint River Iris Society in 2000 when my friend, Mary Pond, was a member. Mary would tell me about the organization and how knowledgeable the members were about growing irises, and I felt compelled to join the group. When I attended the first meeting, Betty Jones was the president and welcomed me to the club. In time, I served as program chairman, corresponding secretary, vice president and then president. Over the years I have been Iris Show chairman or co chairman a number of times.
Being a member of the Flint River Iris Society has been a great experience in that I have learned a lot about growing irises from very knowledgeable growers. Many of us grow other plants and we share gardening information in general.
I have enjoyed having irises that I have grown in my garden exhibited in our Spring Iris shows and winning ribbons for them. For the past three years I have entered photographs that I have taken of irises and have won a blue ribbon each year.
I love all irises, but my favorite one to grow is the species of iris known as the Japanese Roof iris, iris tectorum. They are easy to grow and thrive on neglect. Like all irises, they bring beauty to the garden like no other flower can.
Sue is an avid Iris grower and hybridizer who has won numerous Blue Ribbons and awards through the years for the Irises she has grown. She is also a generous giver of Irises, donating 500 iris for the downtown area, including rebloomers which beautify Griffin GA every year. Sue has also given Irises to the UGA Gardens in Griffin as well as the Comfort Inn on Highway 19/41 in Griffin. Be sure to check these locations out and see how Sue has helped make Griffin, the Iris City.
Sue served 8 years as President of FRIS. During this time she also served 3 years as Regional Vice President for Region 5 of the American Iris Society and one term as Secretary for the Region. During this time she attended the National Convention in Illinois representing Region 5. Sue received the Distinquished Service Award for the Region in 2011. She also served as a Show judge for Region 5.
We asked Sue some questions about her love of Iris and her experiences growing them:
When did you begin to have an interest in raising irises and how long have you been growing them? I have loved them all my life. I planted my first one in 1978 and have grown them ever since.
How long have you been a member of FRIS? I have been a member since 1990.
How long have you been a hybridizer? Please explain what a hybridizer is(does?) and how many seedlings you have raised. I made my first crosses in 2000 and from that I got my first seedling in 2001. A hybridizer crosses pollen from one iris to another. My first attempts were to get more "space age" irises. I have registered 21 hybrids. I have many others that I have named but have not registered.
Phyllis Gerike, a member since 2014, was encouraged to join FRIS by member Sally Henderson who noticed that Phyllis was growing irises. Phyllis got her feet wet right away as our club hosted the regional meeting during her first year. She bought some wonderful plants at the show, and her irises are the highlight of her garden, her favorites being Beverly Sills and Skating Party. She mostly grows tall bearded, but has ventured into some smaller varieties. She credits much of her knowledge of irises to Sam Caldwell (another spotlighted member) and the various programs the club offers at our meetings. She was thrilled to get a Bronze Medal in 2017. Phyllis was the chairman of our first photo contest in 2015, and Vice President for 2017.