Peek Inside the Garden of an Iris Collector


Iris flowers have always made an impression on Doug Chyz. Growing up, he remembers his father growing them in his yard.

“One of my visuals from my childhood is he was going to buy Iris at this farm in western Massachusetts where we lived,” Chyz remembers. “We are driving down this road and all of a sudden, there is this huge plot of Iris in full bloom, right close to the edge of the road.”

Fast forward a few decades, and Chyz has given countless talks on this elegant genus to garden clubs and other organizations. As president of the Fredericksburg, Va., Area Iris Society, he’s preparing to welcome iris enthusiasts to the annual Iris Show May 13.

“This is all about having a good time and enjoying flowers,” Chyz said of the event and their Open Gardens Day on Sunday May 14.

Chyz’s garden is featured, and on his suburban Stafford County lot, he has about 300 iris plants. His garden includes a historical collection of about 150 plants that can be traced to time periods from the 1600s to the 1950s. Chyz also has newer varieties introduced as recently as last year.

Within the genus Iris is a world of variety, and Chyz’s collection covers a lot of ground, including tall beardeds, miniature dwarf beardeds, spurias, Louisianas, Siberians, Japanese and more.

“My bloom season starts at the end of March or beginning of April and will run through the June time frame,” he said.

Iris gardeners value the stories behind their plants highly, and every species has its own list of characteristics and history.

That’s why Plants Map recently worked with Chyz and other iris enthusiasts to launch the Iris Tab, the first of several customized plant tabs to help collectors record and manage notes and information specific to their plants.

For Chyz, collecting Iris has opened up a world of learning about this fascinating genus—and he now shares that knowledge with others through talks and opening his own garden for Iris Society tours.

For those who are just starting out, Chyz highly recommends The Gardener’s Iris Book, by William Shear.

He also recommends joining the American Iris Society and its local affiliates, which offer expertise through their bulletins and events. The Fredericksburg Area Iris Society holds an iris plant sale each year on the last Saturday in July at Roxbury Farm & Garden Center.

During Open Garden Day in May, some garden owners will accept preliminary orders of iris plants they are growing for their FAIS annual July plant sale, subject to the availability of rhizomes when it’s time to harvest.

This can be an excellent opportunity to see iris varieties in an actual garden, not just a picture of a bloom or two.

Visuals are paramount with irises, and the ability to add photos to descriptions of plants is one of the things Chyz likes about Plants Map.

He adds his own pictures and then links his plant profiles out to sites where other gardeners have posted photos, to give people as full a sense as possible of what these plants look like. And all of these pictures can be accessed with the scan of a smartphone when gardeners install Plants Map’s interactive signs and tags in their landscapes.

Chyz has some of the interactive tags in his garden, and if you visit him during Open Garden Day, you’ll be in a great place to get a wealth of information about these interesting plants, which he’s learned so much about since the days when he’d watch his father enjoy them.