By Ron L. Killingsworth

Visiting the home of Caroline Dormon is like traveling back in time. The Briarwood Nature Preserve has certainly accomplished its mission of keeping the preserve the way it was when Dr. Dormon lived in this tranquil place. My family was fortunate to visit Briarwood in early April when the curators, Richard and Jesse Johnson, were honored for their many years of service to Briarwood, beginning in about 1971 as full time work. Sue and I returned in late April, during the LA iris bloom season, and were delighted to see some of the older varieties of LA irises growing in Caroline’s “bay gall” garden.

Just before Caroline died she formed a non-profit organization and, in her will, left the house and property to The Foundation for the Preservation of the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve. She left little or no money to support the organization as she had lived a very frugal life and money had never been very important to her. She had many problems just trying to get financial backing in order to have her books published.

Edith Stern from Longvue Gardens in New Orleans and some of her “flower loving” friends funded the publication of Caroline’s book, Wild Flowers of Louisiana. Profits from the sale of this book provided the “seed” money to begin organizing and keeping up the foundation, with the purpose of keeping the preserve the way it was when Caroline walked its shaded pathways.

Plantation Point Nursery on Caddo Lake in Mooringsport, LA
It is great to see a revival of interest in Louisiana irises in their old localities, such as New Orleans, where we are beginning to see an increase in membership. This could also be true of the North Louisiana area near Shreveport. People were collecting and growing Louisiana irises there even before the organization of the Society for Louisiana Irises in 1941. I saw collected irises growing in the garden of William C. Fitzhugh of Shreveport before I went to South Louisiana to teach in 1940.

Louisiana irises growing in New Zealand after being imported

In the beginning there was a garden. Two gardens, in fact. One, of moderate size in the outskirts of Auckland’s west, and the other larger, in a rural area on the North Shore of the city. Each belonged to an enthusiastic member of the New Zealand Iris Society, who each belonged to a different Group of the Society.  

It all started when like minds met and so began a friendship based on our mutual love of irises, with Louisiana irises being one of our particular interests. We went on to collect what could be found within New Zealand shores, with each of us buying different hybrids to avoid duplication. At that time, in the mid to late nineties, there was quite a number of newer Louisiana hybrids in the country. They had been imported from Australia, mainly cultivars from John Taylor and Heather Pryor, through Rainbow Ridge Nursery.The importing nursery subsequently closed, and the supply of new cultivars came to an end.

Violet Ray

Photos and Story by Dr. Gladden Willis

As this Iris season comes and passes we would like to pay some attention to the Irises collected or hybridized by Miss Caroline Dormon. A few still reside here in the Bay Garden at the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve and they include  Wheelhorse, Violet Ray, The Kahn, Saucy Minx, WoodViolet and FireAlarm

The annual color explosion of Briarwood's louisiana iris

by Richard Johnson

After a seemingly unending winter, spring arrived at Briarwood with an explosion of color and the air has been perfumed with a myriad of fragrances!

The harbingers of spring let us know in early March that spring was indeed coming with the various narcissus blooming in profusion across the wildflower meadow. Their abundant blooms letting us know that they, if no one else, appreciated the cold winter.