The American Iris Society Region 4

Fredericksburg Area Iris Society
 A Brief History
By Lois Rose (charter member)

The Fredericksburg-Richmond Iris Society was founded by a very determined lady named Ruth Walker. Ruth loved to grow all kinds of plants, and particularly irises. She joined the American Iris Society in 1981 and was assigned to the Richmond Chapter of AIS, listed as “inactive” on the “Welcome to Region 4” letter Ruth received. Inactive? Ruth Walker? Not a chance. Ruth went to work to re-activate her local chapter. [References were always to “chapters,” not “affiliates,” back then.]

Ruth put vases of irises in local banks and other public places, accompanied by notes saying that a local chapter of the American Iris Society was being organized and to contact her for more information. She also contacted all the other AIS members of the “inactive” Richmond Chapter. On April 1, 1984, five dedicated iris lovers met at the Richmond home of Floris and Herbert Eby and the Fredericksburg-Richmond Iris Society was formed. The name was changed slightly from that of the inactive chapter to reflect the location of the core group of active members. Ruth Walker was elected “chairlady” of the group, Roger Glasshoff Vice-Chairman, Alvern Perry Treasurer, and Floris Eby Newsletter Editor.

The new society held its first rhizome sale August 18, 1984, and its first show May 25, 1985, both at the Spotsylvania Mall. Also in 1984 we began our tradition of ending the growing season and meeting year with an annual Harvest Dinner. In 1985 the National Park Service contacted FRIS for help seeking historic irises for a period garden they were restoring at Chatham Manor, a National Park Service property in Stafford. We located and provided appropriate irises and, in exchange, Chatham Manor provided us with space to plant three long display beds outside the formal historic garden area. We maintained those display beds until 1995 when we could no longer get members to help with them.

In the meantime, our fledgling society also volunteered to host the 1987 Region 4 Spring Meeting. Lois Rose was meeting chairman and the gardens on tour were those of Ruth Walker, Freda Martin, Lois Rose, Roger Glasshoff, and Chatham Manor. We subsequently hosted the Region 4 Spring Meeting in 1995, 2009, 2016, and 2019, and the Region 4 Fall Meeting in 1989, 2001 and 2004.

In 1992 the members in the Richmond area decided to form their own chapter. With the help of FRIS, they held an iris exhibition at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in May to attract potential new members. In July 1992 the Central Virginia Iris Society was formed and FRIS changed its name to the Fredericksburg Area Iris Society (FAIS).

In 2003, when the National Convention of the American Iris Society was hosted by Region 4, the Fredericksburg area gardens of Jim Schroetter, Jack and Rosalie Loving, Sonia and Kurt Kuppert, and Lois Rose were included as convention tour gardens, with the Loving garden being a near master planting for tall bearded and beardless guest irises.

FRIS/FAIS has held an annual rhizome sale since that first sale in 1985. Since all of our membership fees go to AIS (we charge no local membership dues and 100% of our members belong to AIS), this sale is our only source of operating funds. Our sales have been so successful that in the fall of 1996 we began offering an annual $500 scholarship to a horticulture student at Virginia Tech, and in 2009 we added a second annual $500 scholarship to a horticulture student at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

Since our first show in 1985 we have held an annual show except when we were hosting the Regional Spring Meeting (and in 2007 when the show had to be canceled). In addition, beginning in 1997, we have offered an annual tour of various members’ gardens. Initially this was a car caravan tour with participants driving around together to the various gardens. This format was too restrictive for many would-be participants, so starting in 2006 we called it “Open Garden Day,” advertised in the local newspaper which gardens were open, and let the public decide which gardens to visit. Also beginning in 2006 we have taken “pre-sale” orders at our show and in some of the open gardens. When we dig for our rhizome sale in July, we set aside the best rhizomes to fill these “pre-sale” orders first, and we charge a little more for this custom service. This has been a very successful outreach program.

FRIS/FAIS has offered a “Guest Iris Program” to its members almost every year since 1997. Each year we decide what kind of irises to focus on—new introductions, rebloomers, Siberian, Japanese, etc.—and how much we will spend. We then purchase irises with club funds and distribute them to different members to grow for a two- or three-year period. At the end of the growing period, the host gardener keeps one increase, and the remaining increases come back to the sale. This helps add new varieties to our gardens and encourages members to grow a variety of different kinds of irises.

FAIS generally meets monthly, usually the second Saturday of the month, from March through November. Besides our show, open gardens, rhizome sale, and Harvest Dinner, we have program meetings in March, April, June, and August, and an annual picnic in September.

FAIS members have served in Regional and National positions. FRIS Charter Members Anne and Mike Lowe served as editors of Region 4’s Newscast from 1989 through 1991. Anne was Region 4 Regional Vice-President from 1996-1998. Mike served on the AIS Board of Directors from 1997-2002 and Anne and Mike served the as AIS Registrars from 2004-2011, recording and publishing all new iris registrations and introductions. Jointly they were the recipients of the AIS Gold Medal in 2011. Lois Rose, Sue Shackelford, and Tricia Taylor have served as Secretary for Region 4. Currently (Spring 2020) Sue Shackelford is Judge’s Training Chair, Lois Rose is Historian, and Doug Chyz is Regional Vice-President for AIS Region 4. Doug Chyz is also currently on the AIS Board of Directors and is co-chair of the AIS Public Relations and Marketing Committee. Lois Rose has served on the AIS Board of Directors and, since 2010, has been part of the AIS Exhibitions Committee, approving show schedules for AIS Affiliates throughout the US and Canada. Two FAIS members have received the E. Roy Epperson Service Award for service to Region 4—Lois Rose in 2014 and Doug Chyz in 2019