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3 Trails KC -- The 2009 A.I.S. National Convention

The 2009 A.I.S. National Convention was held May 11-16 at Overland Park, Kansas, with guest gardens in the surrounding Kansas City area in both Kansas and Missouri.

Pictures of the convention and the guest gardens are available at this site:

3 Trails KC
2009 A.I.S. National Convention

May 11-16, 2009

by Ken Fuchs
May 24, 2009

On Monday May 11, Jim and I drove up I-35 straight through from Temple to Overland Park, Kansas, the site of the 2009 A.I.S. National Convention.  Overland Park is the neighboring community just east of Kansas City.  The trip took ten hours but was easy because we never left I-35.  This was our first time to visit Kansas, and we were amazed how lush and green the southeastern portion of the state is.  And we saw cattle grazing everywhere, even more so than we see here in Texas!

The Convention Headquarters was at the DoubleTree Hotel.  As we later rode on the buses, we learned that the various highways we were taking followed portions of the old Santa Fe, Oregon, and California Trails.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Jim and I took optional bus tours to visit iris gardens and local museums.  The Tuesday tour took us to St. Jo — St. Joseph, Missouri — where we visited four very spectacular gardens.  First we visited Jim Hedgecock’s Comanche Acres Garden.  We were about a week early for his bloom season, so there weren’t many irises to see, but his twenty-acre garden was very impressive.  Next we visited the McGarry Garden, a very elegant garden with manicured lawns on a rolling hillside.  The next garden was just the opposite.  The Bev Hoyt Garden looked totally overgrown on a wooded corner lot in a not-too elegant part of town.  But there were countless types of flowering plants and it was fun wandering around and discovering lavender and other plants we don’t see in Texas.  Our last stop was at the Matthews Garden, which was also located on a large sloping hillside.  I was especially interested in the Siberian irises in bloom because we don’t see them in Texas.   Lawrence and Shirley Matthews obviously have a great time creating new features in their garden.  We smiled at the flocks of sheep (dolls) that seemed to be grazing around their yard.  And a small cottage, home of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, serves as the delightful playhouse for their granddaughter.

On Wednesday we returned to Kansas City, Missouri, where we visited the Steamboat Arabia Museum, which contains vast collections of commercial goods found in a steamboat that sank in 1856.  The river had changed course over the years, and the boat was discovered forty feet underground and excavated in a cornfield near the river back in the early 1990s.  Seeing all of those goods was like walking through a doorway and entering the year 1856.  After lunch we toured the National World War I Museum, and it too is filled with countless authentic artifacts of all kinds:   posters, uniforms, weapons, aircraft, a tank, and gritty replicas of the trenches.  It was a very moving experience to walk through the galleries and to contemplate the “war to end all wars.”

When we returned to the hotel, we were pleased to see Pat Byrne and Carolyn Wylie, who had flown in earlier that afternoon, and Pat was delighted to see her pal Kitty Lack there, too.  We helped Pat set up some her goods in the boutique which we and she had transported to Kansas.  It was also good to see Jim and Beth Alley and Lee and Sandy Schroeder at the Convention.

The Kansas City area was plagued by overcast skies all week, and we feared we would be rained out, but luckily we experienced no rain during the bus tours on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  A terrible storm with hail did blow through Friday evening.  Jim and I had just returned from dinner and had to wait in the van in the hotel parking lot until the rains let up.

Our Texas group stuck together, and as usual, we rode the blue buses.  On Thursday we visited Scott and Debbie Hughes’ garden.  They live out in the country, and they have a small lake on their property which enhanced their garden, which contained the master planting.  After lunch we visited the Kansas State Research and Extension Center, where twenty-seven long rows of iris beds awaited us.  There was not a lot of bloom, but it was still worth the visit. 

On Friday we spent most of the day at the Powell Gardens, an enormous garden which is open to the public and has served as a research center.  It contains an extensive collection of historic irises as well as the Award of Merit collection.  This garden had the most blooms, and garden judging classes were held there during our visit.  On Saturday we visited the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Garden.  Unfortunately, the heavy rains the previous evening had wiped out nearly all of the blooms in the guest garden, but everyone enjoyed walking through the other areas of the botanical garden. There were lots of irises in bloom in other gardens near the main building, so we left with lots of colorful pictures and memories of this garden. 
Our last stop was at the “Two Jims’ Garden,” belonging to Jim Waddick and Jim Murrain.  Their whole yard, both front and back, was filled with all kinds of flowers and a large bamboo grove in the back had a trail running through it.  The guest irises were planted mostly in the front, along their fence line.  Jim Waddick is the co-author of Iris of China, and Zhao Yu-Tang, his Chinese counterpart, was a guest on our bus, as were two young Chinese research gardeners from Shanghai who will serve as interns at the Saint Louis Botanical Garden for a year.  When our bus arrived, everyone eagerly took pictures of the two authors as they greeted one another.  It was “iris diplomacy” in action.  A couple from New Zealand were also on our bus, and it was fun visiting with them, too.

It was a joy visiting the 2009 Convention.  Those of us from Austin were relaxed and didn’t have to worry about any of the convention details.  Now we are looking forward to the 2010 Convention in Madison, Wisconsin, and even more so the 2011 Convention in Victoria, British Columbia.