April 4, 2020 Mandeville, La.
Starting back in 2017 a small group of volunteers planted the first Louisiana species irises at the Northlake Nature Center. The management there had wholeheartedly agreed to accept
irises that were being rescued from properties where irises were threatened with destruction by development.
More irises were added after the first year when those first few irises did well and bloomed. Then the first "Louisiana Iris Bloom Celebration" was organized by the Nature Center to draw the public out to see this amazing display of blooming wild irises the following year. Well, one thing led to another, and the Northlake Nature Center became home to over 4,000 Louisiana species irises as more and
as more and more iris rescue projects were done and space was needed to find a home for them.
2020's event was to be third "Louisiana Iris Bloom Celebration". Expectations were high that this would be "The Big One" that everyone in the beginning envisioned would happen one day. Although the rules for fighting the COVID-19 virus caused the event to be cancelled, many families needed a place to get out of the house, so with social distancing the rule, huge numbers of people went to the Nature Center during the two week period the irises were in bloom instead of just attending a one day event.
The bloom lived up to everyone's expectations and it was spectacular, although it is very difficult to capture this in photos. It truly was the best display of wild, native Louisiana irises blooming in their natural habitat in Southeast Louisiana that can safely be seen by the public.
Gary Salathe, with the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI), was the driving force behind the project from its inception, but many volunteers played an important role in making it happen by collecting irises from the sites they needed to be rescued from and caring for them until they could be planted at the Northlake Nature Center.
The location where the irises were temporary stored and grown to strengthen up before being replanting was the Greater New Orleans Iris Society's (GNOIS) City Park iris nursery. The GNOIS not only shared their nursery space, but also supported the effort by supplying the plant growing containers, platforms for the growing containers and the potting soil. Members of the GNOIS also volunteered for the two Louisiana Iris Bloom Celebrations at the Nature Center, helping to make them both successful.
Special thanks goes out to the executive director of the Northlake Nature Center, Rue Mcneill and Larry Burch, CEO of the Northlake Nature Center, for taking a chance on the idea in the first place and then being totally supportive of the effort once things got rolling. They deserve credit for the recognition the Northlake Nature Center is now getting as the "Go-to place" to see native Louisiana irises in bloom.