About Cascadia Iris Gardens
Cascadia Iris Gardens is owned and operated by Patrick and Margaret Spence.
In 1996, we purchased a run-down mobile home on 1 acre of neglected property. We saw the value of the property and planned to clean it up, build a "real" house, and live a peaceful life in rural Snohomish County, Washington. After 3 years of clearing blackberries, nettles, and garbage from the property, we started landscaping and planted a large vegetable garden. At that time we purchased our first three irises, a red one, a white one, and a blue one. We felt we had all the irises we needed. While Walsterway Iris Gardens was just down the road from us, we thought Ralph and Fran only grew and sold bearded irises (over 500 varieties). We purchased a deep black iris from them one year, but it didn't grow back the next year. Thus ended our first foray into bearded irises.
We began planning our "real" house in 2003, broke ground in April 2004, and completed our new home in January 2005. Since we worked closely with our general contractor during design, costing, and construction, and we lived on-site, we were able to truly experience the entire home-building process. One of the later parts of the construction process involved shopping for kitchen appliances. It was on a fateful September day in 2004 that we decided to stop by a mall across the street from one of the appliance stores we visited. Coincidentally, this was the day King County Iris Society (KCIS) was holding their beardless iris sale in that same mall. While we were primarily fans of beardless iris at the time, we had no idea there were so many different kinds. In addition to purchasing several irises we had never heard of before, we joined KCIS and began attending meetings. Little did we know then how much our random act of going to the mall would change our lives.
As we attended more meetings, we met more iris people, learned about the amazing number of different types of iris, and acquired LOTS of iris plants that quickly filled a large portion of our vegetable garden. After we joined KCIS, we discovered that Walsterway Iris Gardens also grew over 100 varieties each of Siberian and Japanese irises, as well as Pacific Coast irises. In addition to acquiring irises through KCIS activities, we began making regular pilgrimages to Walsterway throughout the growing season to see the various types of irises during their peak blooms. Of course, we also managed to buy a few (or more) during most of our visits to add to our collection.
Patrick's energies have since become focused on Japanese, Arilbred, Louisiana, Spuria, and species irises, while Margaret's interests have grown around Pacific Coast, Siberian, and species irises. Patrick has also taken an interest in hybridizing irises, primarily Japanese and Arilbred. He began meeting and conversing with many of the U.S. hybridizers to learn the tips and tricks of the trade.
In 2007, Patrick tried his hand at hybridizing with his favorite Japanese Irises. Not knowing what to expect, he chose nine different crosses and pollinated 72 flowers. Of the 72 flowers he pollinated, 69 formed seed pods and yielded over 6000 seeds. We now have approximately 1500 seedlings growing and anticipate some beautiful flowers in the coming years. In 2008, Patrick made only one Japanese Iris cross, pollinating one flower that yielded three seeds. With Jennifer's help, he also made many Arilbred crosses. Unfortunately, only three formed pods, yielding 37 seeds. Carol Anne made her own crosses using Spuria Irises, with one pod forming that yielded two seeds. Though our 2008 yield appears less successful, we are very pleased that it will be much more manageable. It was also very nice to have our daughters get involved.
As Patrick's knowledge and interest in raising and hybridizing irises grew, we decided to start a business that could at least partially support our passion for irises and allow us to share them with others. Conversion of our quiet acre of grass, berry bushes, grapes, and the rest of our vegetable garden into iris beds accelerated as we increased our stock and planned to start our business in 2009. Now we have over 1000 different named varieties and species of iris. These include bearded irises of all sizes and a wide variety of beardless irises. What you see in our 2009 catalog is only a small percentage of what we hope to offer in the future.
As if we didn't already have enough of our own irises, we are also very excited that, in 2008, we began hosting Carla Lankow's hybridizing efforts. We planted close to 300 of her 40-chromosome Sino-Siberian Irises. We also planted about 30 Cal-Sib seedlings and a handful of Pacific Coast Iris seedlings. We look forward to working very closely with her and introducing any irises she chooses to register.
So, now we embark on our Cascadia Iris Gardens adventure. There will be lots of hard work ahead, but we look forward to sharing our knowledge, passion, and irises with you. And be sure to come back to this page from time to time, as we'll be updating our evolving history.