Around this time each year, we begin seeing one of the most gorgeous of spring flowers, the bearded iris, pop up in gardens around the area and in vast fields abutting the shoulders of the Interstate 5 Freeway north of Salem. We learned from our recent guest that the Willamette Valley is one of only seven places in the world with the appropriate climate to grow these royal-looking flowers. Steve Schreiner of Schreiner's Iris Gardens should certainly know this, as his family has been growing and hybridizing irises since 1925--most of those years in the Brooks district just north of Keizer, the Iris Capital of the World!
Steve's great-grandfather Martin Schreiner, wife Magdalena, son Francis Xavier (F.X.), and daughter Ann immigrated from Germany in the 1880s. Four hundred years of war had ravaged their mother country and they hoped to start a new life in Minnesota. Steve's grandfather F.X. Schreiner, a naturalized citizen by 1904, married Veronica Haag in 1909, and added three children, Robert, Connie & Bernard (Gus) to the family over the next 10 years. F.X. worked as a buyer/sales manager for the Schueneman & Mannheim Department Store in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota.
In 1920, F.X. met John Wister, the first president of the new American Iris Society, and his love of for growing irises began. As most of the iris plants came from England and Europe, the field was wide open for American growers. By 1925, they had over 500 varieties growing on their acre plot and decided to sell the plants commercially to fund new plant acquisitions and farm operations. F.X. produced his first price list in 1925, and published his first catalog in 1928. Sadly, F.X. passed away from health issues in 1931, but not before giving his three children some sound advice: get along together and iris growing can be a great family business; find a place with a longer growing season than Minnesota!
Check out their website or phone them at 503-393-3232 to learn more about what's going on out at the Iris Gardens!