West Tennessee Iris Garden
By Andrew Pouncey
While the West Tennessee Iris Society (WTIS) Garden no longer exists, it should be remembered for over 30 years of colorful spring beds and 400 plus varieties of Iris. For many springs, beds of Iris offered beautiful colors for the viewing pleasure of many who waited for the light to turn at the West Street/Poplar Pike railroad crossing.
This small triangle of land, owned by the Norfolk & Southern Railroad, was used for more than 100 years to store tons of riprap (crushed stone to create the bed for the tracks). In 1986, the WTIS and the City of Germantown received permission to locate a garden on the site. WTIS then removed nine truckloads of riprap, trash, and kudzu to clear the area. In the summer of that year, the city graded the property and paved the parking spaces. The club members dug out the remaining rock, designed and planted the garden. Two cherry trees were planted, and one remained following the 1994 ice storm.
In 1999, the garden plan was upgraded in preparation for the American Iris Society National Convention, which was held in Memphis in 2002.
WTIS club members tended the garden and the club paid for its general upkeep. The City of Germantown provided water and electricity at the site. The Iris Garden was maintained as an educational garden. The WTIS purchased the newest varieties to display, and a special effort was made to properly label the names of the Irises. There was a mailbox on site where one could find lists of the varieties planted, and where visitors could leave their comments. More than 400 varieties of Irises, mostly Tall Bearded, were planted. On the west end, one could find other types of Iris such as Spurias, Louisianas, and Siberians. Some complementary perennials, such as peonies, daffodils, and daylilies could also be found in the garden. Crape myrtles were planted on the perimeter. Several hybridizer selections were used, displaying newly created varieties.
Each year, the club hosted a sanctioned American Iris Society Flower Show, where stems of named cultivars were displayed and judged. Additionally, there were 20 Floral designs, featuring Iris. The Iris Show was usually held on the third Saturday of April and was open to the public. The right time for dividing Iris in this area is August, and the club dug and sold a third of the rhizomes.
The last season for viewing the garden was May of 2018. President Caroline Winters said that “many years ago her husband Chuck, Steve Stone and Van Smith were the “triumvirate” caretakers of the garden. Chuck Winters and Steve Stone have died, and those three did most of the heavy work.” Pam Beasley, Germanton Parks & Recreation Director, identified spaces at Oaklawn Gardens to put the Iris, but the public purchased every rhizome the WTIS had by 11 a.m. the morning of the sale. Winters said, “the Iris Garden was a special part of the Germantown Community.”
- “Local Iris Garden Pleases Visitors.” Germantown News, May 13, 2009
- Caroline Winters, WTIS President