Thank you Heather Pryor for dedicating your well deserved DeBallion Medal to Lynn's memory. It's a great tribute to her. Thank you to Paul Gossett for allowing me to spend a few moments talking about Lynn's history in the iris world. She had a strong connection to both the SLI and Region 15 and so it is particularly appropriate to speak of it here.
She was always mildly interested in gardening and always had a few bearded irises in the garden. One in particular that her mom had given her, an old brown one, went with us as we moved around Southern California.
The real start of her passion was a spring 1989 trip to Descanso Gardens in the LA area with her brother, Stan, where there was a huge display of blooming bearded irises. The following weekend was the San Fernando Iris Society sale at the Northridge Mall. Pete Desantis & Eileen Fiumara were on duty at the time; they really "put the arm" on her and she bought several rhizomes. Eileen recently recalled that one of them was 'Queen in Calico,' a 1980 introduction by Jim Gibson.
Lynn quickly caught the bug and in order to learn more about irises she decided that she would work for one of the local commercial growers as an unpaid apprentice. The first two calls brought negative results; the third was to Judy Mogil of Van Owen Iris Garden who said "of course, when can you start?"
Judy and Lynn became fast friends. Several days a week for about 3 years I dropped Lynn off at Judy's on the way to work and picked her up on the way home. Lynn learned a number of valuable things from Judy: weeding, how to make crosses, weeding, iris culture, weeding, how to run a commercial garden, weeding and, perhaps most importantly for the long term, she was introduced to Louisiana irises.
Through Judy, Lynn met and formed friendships with many well known in the iris world: Terry and Barbara Aitken, Joe Ghio, Jim McWhirter, Keith Keppel, Mary and Bob Dunn and many, many others. They were her heroes and although she was initially shy about talking with Mr. Schreiner or Mr. Keppel or Mr. Jones about irises, it quickly became Ray or Keith or Bennett. She learned quickly, and it wasn't long before she could hold her own with anyone in iris discussions.
The old brown one I spoke of went with us to our first SFVIS meeting. It was identified as 'Joseph's Mantle'. I hope her mom bought the rhizome for its name because Joseph was Lynn's dad's name and that's too much of a coincidence to be an accident.
Our townhouse had a small back yard with a lawn, about 30 feet on a side. Within a few months the lawn was gone and the yard was covered with iris beds. They were mostly bearded, but a few Louisianas were included too. Lynn didn't allow me to work the beds, even to weed, because she feared I would pull out a rhizome or somehow move a marker.
Lynn's dream of having a commercial garden emerged in the early 1990's. And when I retired in 1997 we moved to a couple of acres in southwest Washington where she opened Isle of View Iris Garden.Many have commented on the garden's name; her response was "say it slowly". If you do that it comes out "I love you". Isle of View is the way her dad signed cards to her mom.
Lynn loved to cook and entertain and it wasn't long until the Oregon and Washington iris communities were frequent visitors to our place. Her love affair with Louisianas really took off when one of the areas "old timers" threw down a challenge by stating that LA's didn't grow well in the Pacific Northwest climate. If you knew Lynn, you understand that the best way to influence her to do something was to tell her that it was impossible. Then, if you were smart, you got out of the way so as not to get run over.
Once she decided that her first love was Louisianas she threw herself into changing over the garden in the same way she attacked everything she decided to do. Within a few years Isle of View was one of the premier growers of Louisiana irises in the country.
Why was Lynn such a positive force in the iris world? After all she never introduced a cultivar, and was involved for only about 15 years. I think there are two reasons. First she was passionate about the plants, and second, she loved the people and showed it.
Our good friend, Joan Bowers, wrote that Lynn had a fast wit and a great sense of humor, a wonderful generosity of spirit, incredibly good taste, made incredibly tasty goodies, and had a will to achieve that which she set out to do. Mary Coslett, another close friend, said that Lynn's life could be summarized by 5 F words: family, friends, food, fun, and flowers.
I'm sure Lynn and Mary Dunn are together somewhere arguing about crosses they'd like to make. So to those of you who hybridize Louisianas, if you get a wild idea from out of nowhere, you know where it came from.
Thanks again, Heather, for your tribute to Lynn, thank you all for being part of her life. To you all; honor Lynn by cherishing her memory.
[Editor's Note: This tribute to the late Lynn Finkel of Washington State was delivered by her husband, Barry, at the Society for Louisiana Irises convention in Tucson. This comes close to summarizing the abiding presence of Lynn in one's life --once one came into contact with this vivacious woman of wit, charm, and real garden intelligence. Barry's remarks in Tucson came in the aftermat of President Paul Gossett's announcement from Heather Pryor of New South Wales, Australia, that she was dedicating her recently announced DeBaillon Medal to the memory of Lynn.]
This article first appeared in the SLI Newsletter, the quartely publication of SLI, in the Summer 2005 issue.