‘Heartstring Strummer’ home in the Iris Garden at Springfield Botanical Gardens
Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park, 2400 S. Scenic Avenue, Springfield, MO 65807
By George Deatz
Recently I found out that Ben Johnson a member of the Iris Society of the Ozarks is also a member of the Tall Bearded Iris Society and the American Iris Society. It seems to be a well kept secret, but in addition he is an expert local iris hybridizer.
One of his irises ‘Heartstring Strummer’ is on display in the Iris Garden at the Springfield Botanical Gardens. Registered in 1997 ‘Heartstring Strummer’ was introduced in 2001 and is currently distributed worldwide. This locally developed iris won Honorable Mention 2003, Award of Merit 2005, President’s Cup 2005, the prestigious Wister Medal in 2008 and was a runner up for the Dykes Medal, the highest award an iris can win. It is said, this iris presents delightful coloration, exceptional height (40″), heavily ruffled flaring form, slightly sweet fragrance and is a child of Rapture In Blue X Conjuration.
Johnson said, “There are two other hybridizers who are members of the Iris Society of the Ozarks and who have representative varieties in the garden as well: Calvin Helsley of Mansfield and Barbara Nicodemus of Buffalo. Calvin has been hybridizing irises for a great many years, working mainly with Siberian irises, but also with the bearded irises. Barbara has been hybridizing for about the same length of time as myself (around 16 years) and has many fine varieties to her credit. Her Ozark Rebounder (which I am fairly sure is in the garden) is in contention this year for a Wister Medal as well.”
Johnson doesn’t live far from the Botanical Gardens and invited Katie Steinhoff and me to visit his private garden where his backyard is “wall to wall” iris plants, both for display and in various stages of development. After seeing his garden and hearing some of the interesting history of iris I can assure you there will be more locally hybridized iris to come.
The Iris Garden at the Springfield Botanical Gardens currently has a stunning floral presentation. I would say the garden is in peak bloom this week, you won’t want to miss it!
For more information and photos of ‘Heartstring Strummer’ visit the American Iris Society, Iris Encyclopedia at this link: http://wiki.irises.org/bin/view/TbFthruJ/TbHeartstringStrummer
(Local ‘Photos by George’ of ‘Heartstring Strummer’ avaiable by request)