A Kansas City, Missouri, native, Shana Gammon has been around irises her whole life and the familiar has become her passion. Gammon is the owner of Stormy Weather Iris Gardens, a private house garden that sits on a quarter acre within Lynchburg City limits.
Consisting of five beds and 200 different varieties of tall bearded iris, the garden officially opened to the public in 2017.
“I started doing floral photography in 2006 or 2007,” Gammon said of how the garden got its start. “I exhibited nationally and worked with hospitals around the country, providing photos for their galleries and so on. With four children, it was easier to grow what I wanted to photograph rather than travel around to shoot. Irises were one of the flowers I started growing at that time and they became one of my favorite flowers.”
Stormy Weather Iris Garden grows irises in every color and color pattern, from Plicata and Broken Color irises to Amoena and several Space Age varieties.
“All are tall bearded, but each is different,” said Gammon.
As if walking among a sea of multicolored irises weren’t special enough, Stormy Weather Iris Garden is also one of two Historic Iris Display Gardens in Virginia, with the second being Tufton Farm at Monticello.
“I love history, so joining the Historic Iris Society was a perfect fit for me,” explained Gammon. “One of the requirements is that you have to have at least 15 historic iris varieties in your garden and the garden should be open to the public. We have more than 15 historic varieties but we also have many newer introductions.”
To qualify as a historic iris, the iris must have been introduced to the American Iris Society 30 years ago or earlier.
For Gammon, sourcing which irises to grow in the gardens is one of the highlights of operating a historic iris garden.
“I’ve worked hard over the years to establish a collection that is unique and something you won’t see anywhere else in Central Virginia,” she said. “My collection is from private and commercial growers from around the United States. We have some varieties from well-known hybridizers, but I also like to reach out to hybridizers within local clubs around the county and collect their varieties as well. They haven’t received as much recognition nationally, but their varieties are beautiful.”
Last year, Gammon obtained varieties from a hybridizer in New Mexico and, in the previous year, she obtained several varieties from a hybridizer in Wisconsin—varieties that are unique to their collection and that won’t be found anywhere else in the area.
Home gardeners looking to expand their own iris gardens or dip their toes into planting irises for the first time can look to Stormy Weather Iris Gardens for their rhizome purchases. Their annual rhizome sale is the third weekend in July, which runs on Etsy.
“Each year we have sold out within a few hours,” Gammon said. “This year will be the first year we will be shipping nationwide, so order early!”
Stormy Weather Iris Gardens is state licensed and inspected for rhizome delivery, and their Etsy shop can be found on Etsy by searching “Stormy Weather Iris”.
To visit Stormy Weather Iris Gardens, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a visitation time. They will begin scheduling in the first week of April and visits are free. Irises usually start blooming toward the end of April and their Open House runs the first two weekends in May with peak bloom typically around Mother’s Day.