Iris growers plan show at mall

Monday, May 6, 2002

Irises will be at their blooming best at Westfield Shoppingtown West Park next weekend.

"You'll see spectacular colors and many varieties," said Charles Pickett, an iris fancier for more than a 50 years.

Gardeners will be looking at two big awards at the Southeast Missouri Iris Society Show Saturday and Sunday at the Famous Barr court of the shopping center.

The show opens at noon Saturday. Flowers will be on display through the day Saturday, and from noon to 5 Sunday.

"There could be as many as 200 entries at the show," said Pickett. "The SEMO Iris Society has more than 30 members."

American Iris Society judges will be at the show, both as judges and to discuss iris growing. "One iris will emerge as 'Queen of Show,'" said Pickett.

The prestigious Dykes Medal, an award presented to iris growers who have created a new variety, may also be presented. Two members of the local club have received Dykes medals -- O.D. Niswonger of Cape Girardeau, a former president of the national iris group, and Elvan Roderick of Fredericktown, Mo.

Niswonger won the Dykes Medal for his "Everything Plus," his own variety, and shared a Dykes award with the late Eugene Buckles of Sikeston, Mo., for the Brown Lasso variety.

Niswonger has worked with irises more than a half-century and has received many awards for his achievements with irises and other plants. Roderick received the Dykes Medal for his Ruffled Ballet.

Pickett, who returned to the Cape Girardeau after retiring from United Airlines at Chicago, has more than 2,000 varieties of irises in the Matthews Iris Garden along Route P in Randles, Mo., a small community about five miles south of Delta, Mo.

"I worked with the irises as a youngster there," he said. As a youngster, Pickett gave his grandmother, the late Anna Matthews, a box of iris bulbs, which he helped plant in the family's back yard at Randles. The irises grew and multiplied.

"I've been working in this garden more than 50 years," said Pickett. "I love the irises, and the colors they provide are great. We hope to see great color this year," he said. "The flowers should be in full bloom by this Mother's Day weekend."

Visitors from a wide area visit the Matthews Iris Garden. "We've had a strange spring this year," said Pickett. "With the rains and cool weather the plants are taller and the blooms should be more spectacular."

Pickett, a graduate of Cape Central High School and Southeast Missouri State University, has some of the newer iris varieties, including Elvis Presley, Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel.

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