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The 2014 SLI Convention in New Orleans will offer visitors a gorgeous array of public and private gardens that feature Louisiana irises.   New Orleans has a long, up-and-down iris history, but post-Katrina it it is decidedly "up".

New Orleans Museum of ArtThe schedule for the New Orleans convention will be unique in that all of the daytime Saturday activities that typically occur in a hotel instead will be held in New Orleans City Park.  Only about twelve miles from the convention hotel, the Park encompasses several significant and adjacent garden areas, including the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, the New Orleans Botanical Garden, and Bayou Metairie, an ancient remnant of the Mississippi River.Botanical Garden 

In the midst of these garden areas sits the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA).  The Iris Show, the Symposium on Iris nelsonii, and the SLI General Membership Meeting will take place in NOMA.  Admission to the entire Museum comes with convention registration.  Those who crave a dose of culture as well as horticulture won't find a better deal than the SLI Convention.

The New Orleans Botanical Garden is not dense with irises.   Instead, the irises are interspersed with the 2,000 varieties of plants and the nation’s largest stand of mature live oaks.  As the same time as the Convention, the Botanical Garden will be holding its Spring Garden Show.  A wide variety of interesting vendors will be set up throughout the garden selling both plants and artwork.   Admission to the Botanical Garden is included in your registration fee, so you are free to wander through this beautiful garden as you wish.

Sculpture GardenThe Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden is unique. Dedicated in 2003, the nearly five acre garden was designed to display over fifty sculptures by American and other artists.   The sculptures are fabulous and the setting beautiful.   The lagoon flowing through the Garden was originally landscaped in 2002 with Iris pseudacorus, but during Hurricane Katrina, this invasive interloper did not fare well.  Thanks to the generosity of many iris growers, it was replaced by masses of Louisiana irises.

The GNOIS Display Garden with around 120 cultivars and many convention guest irises is located within the Sculpture Garden. The Sculpture Garden will be the place to see the widest variety of irises.  GNOIS will have a hospitality tent there, also.

The Friday tour will feature Longue Vue House and Gardens, which consists of a majestic classical revival mansion completed in 1942 and eight acres of gorgeously maintained gardens divided into distinctive "rooms".   Longue Vue was built by Edith and Edgar Stern, New Orleans civic activists and philanthropists. Longue Vue

The Wild Garden at Longue Vue features a hundred yard, meandering walkway lined with Louisiana irises.   The irises were originally planted by Caroline Dormon in the late 1930s but the collection has been updated over the years.  Hilairie Schackai of the Longue Vue staff wrote a recent Fleur de Lis article on the 2013 "Caroline Dorman Day" celebration in the Wild Garden.  You can take a look here

In January 2004, LandscapeOnline published a nice article on the "historic city estate" with many pictures.  There was no hint of the destruction that would occur with Katrina in 2005, and yet the images show scenes that could easily be mistaken for today, a tribute to the major restoration work done after the storm.

The House as well as all the garden rooms will be open to convention attendees. 

The other Friday tours are to private iris gardens.   The Benny Trahan Garden in Slidell undoubtedly has the largest collection in the country of Louisiana iris species, variants and natural hybrids.  These are a product Benny's interest over many years in exploring and collecting throughout Louisiana and even, on a couple of occasions, Florida. 

Visitors will see mass plantings of all five Louisiana iris species, and undoubtedly this will be the only opportunity to observe them together.  There will be hundreds of fulvas and nelsoniis including many variations of each.  Benny has also begun to register hybrids, but his species collection is unique and not to be missed.  You won't see these irises anywhere else.

Eileen Hollander GardenPatrick O’Connor’s garden in suburban Metairie is a hybridizer’s garden. The majority of irises are seedlings under number or recent introductions. It is a compact garden typical of New Orleans and Metairie but with a high density of irises. 

Thursday at SLI Conventions has become a day of "optional" tours.  That's only because there are more great gardens than can be shoehorned into the traditional two day conventions.  This year, the Thursday tours are to Joe Musacchia's garden in Gray, Louisiana, and to Eileen Hollander's garden in New Orleans.  Gray is about an hour west of New Orleans.  Joe’s post-Katrina hybridizing program has produced many excellent irises that have yet to be widely seen.   Many will be on display in the show and as Guest Irises in the Sculpture Garden, but Joe's garden will show the full scope of the progress in his hybridizing program.

The Eileen Hollander Garden, also on Thursday, is a Katrina recovery garden in uptown N.O.   You would never know now that it was covered by seven feet of water for three weeks in 2005.  Except, that is, for the chilling high water marks that Eileen will show you.  Eileen has recreated a beautiful Louisiana iris garden with a unique mixture of hardscaping and landscaping.  Lots of irises to see in a very cool setting.

Eileen grows over 150 cultivars in a variety of ways, such as raised beds, sunken beds, pots with drainage, and tubs with no drain holes.  The visit to her garden will be not only an opportunity to see beautiful irises but to compare approaches to growing culture.  Eileen authored an interesting article on the history of her garden in a recent issue of the Fleur de Lis which you can download as a pdf here.

Deja VoodooAunt RoseTrahan Yellow NelsoniiEstelle Egan






Capping off the Thursday tours will be a visit to a cemetery.   Yes, you read that correctly.  We will go to one of New Orleans' "Cities of the Dead", Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, located just across the street from the legendary Commander's Palace restaurant.  This stop will afford a chance to see not only one of the City's most notable and iconic above-ground cemeteries, but also a bit of the beautiful Garden District in Uptown New Orleans where Lafayette No. 1 is located.Lafayette Cemetary No. 1


The irises above are, from left:  'Deja Voodoo' (O'Connor), 'Aunt Rose' (Musacchia), Yellow I. nelsonii found by Benny Trahan, and 'Estelle Egan' (O'Connor), named for Eileen Hollander's mother.