One of any iris lover’s rituals every spring is to visit commercial iris gardens to check out new iris varieties and revisit old favorites. On the flip side of the coin, selling irises, whether in a commercial garden or as OTIS does in our annual fundraiser sale, requires the involvement of the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ORDA). Our guest speaker this month, Susan Schouten, is a Nursery Inspector for the ORDA and she’s going to tell us what we need to know about the ORDA and nursery inspections. Last year she joined OTIS and planted 500+ irises in her home garden. She has Iris Fever for sure! Here’s Susan’s story in her own words:
“I was born in Boise. Moved to Portland for the first time when I was four. My dad was an avid gardener and taught me to love plants and gardening. Irises were some of his favorites. My dad worked for the USDA and we moved around a lot. After stints in Portland, Reno, Salt Lake City and Ames, Iowa, I moved back to Oregon in 1991 with 3 boys and a soon-to-be ex-husband. I got my bachelor’s degree in Ames at Iowa State in horticulture and ten years later received a master’s degree from Portland State in plant biology. Carol Wilson’s husband, Clyde Calvin was my major professor. Spending time and taking classes from both of them really added to my plant and iris interests.
While working on my Master’s I worked at the state health lab doing pulsed field gel electro- phoresis on E. coli 0157H7 and Salmonella sp. to trace the source of food-borne outbreaks. Using that experience and my horticulture experience, I applied for a job at the plant lab in Salem for ODA. A year later I applied for an inspector position. I’ve been working for ODA for going on 19 years.
I started growing Louisianas, Siberians and PCIs around 15 years ago. I always had a few TBs but they were less exciting to me. I met Jim Craig and Bruce Filardi soon after I started working for the ODA, probably 16-17 years ago. I loved walking around Jim’s garden with him while he explained his hybridizing plan to me. I knew then that someday I would really like to do that. Later I met Will Plotner and the Millers. A couple of years ago I decided it was time to get serious. I now had the space and a little more time. You know the rest.”
We are the Oregon Trail Iris Society and we meet monthly in the Salem area. Each meeting has a new and fun topic. You don’t need to be a member to join us.