NORMAN — Red Foster says he grows irises rather than other flowers because their hardy nature and drought resistant qualities allow them to thrive under Oklahoma weather conditions.
Plus, he said, he just plain loves them.
“They get me up in the morning and keep me going all day,” Foster said.
Foster is a longtime member and current vice president of the Oklahoma Iris Society, whose members participated in the Norman chapter's National Iris Society Show on Sunday at the Norman Public Library.
The name ‘iris' comes from the Greek goddess of rainbows, and all shades of the rainbow were represented at the show.
Silverado irises with pearly-white petals stood alongside sherbet-orange Volunteer Pride irises. Some varieties, like the deep crimson Cranapple and the royal purple Daughter of Stars, represent variations on more traditional colors.
Others, like the chocolate-brown Huckleberry Fudge and translucent gray-green Ozone Alert, are unlike anything seen in a typical garden.
Foster says he has more than 1,000 irises growing at his home in Shawnee. One of his tricks, he says, is watering them with rainwater, spiked with just a pinch of artificial sweetener. The flowers seem to like it, he said.
More than three dozen flowers were submitted for this year's show. Irises were divided into category by variety, and first-, second- and third-place ribbons were awarded. The blue-ribbon winners moved on to what is called the Queen's Court, where they compete for the title of Queen.
This year's Queen was Night Skies Glowing, an iris grown by Cynthia Wade, of Oklahoma City. Wade is president of the Oklahoma Iris Society.
The contest is open to anyone who grows irises and can name the breed. In the artistic display category, entries were judged on the arrangement of the irises in decorative vases or alongside other flowers.
Louise Carson, a member of the Norman area society, served as show chairwoman. Two of her entries made it to the Queen's Court. Although not a judge in the Norman show, Carson is certified by the Iris Society and knows what traits please the judges.
“There are a lot of things we look for,” she said.
“The condition of the flower, and of the stem, and the culture of the plant. What we really judge them against is not their neighbors, but against what others of its category are supposed to look like,” Carson said.
The Norman chapter will hold sales to raise money for the society on June 22 and July 6. Both sales will be in conjunction with the Norman Farm Market at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds, 615 E Robinson St.
Many of the plants for sale will be the award-winning varieties represented in this year's show, Carson said.