Riot of color expected for couple’s Iris Festival
Meri O’Hare expected to be surrounded by color early this week but remained patient because she is where she wants to be.
“The Lord made me to be on my knees gardening and weeding,” she said.
She has ample opportunity to do so on the 10-acre farmstead she and her husband, David, own about 4 miles northwest of Tonganoxie. On Monday as a hot wind chased away memories of a cool spring, a few spots of blooming color dotted the rows of iris plants pregnant with buds promising a hint of what is to come when 200 colors or color combinations of irises are in bloom.
“Last year on Mother’s Day, we were filled with blooms,” Meri said. “With this weather, it won’t be long.”
The couple planted the iris tubers in 2004. Now that they are mature enough to divide, the O’Hares are having their first Iris Festival. Each Thursday through Sunday in May, they will be selling iris tubers for $3.50 each or three for $10.
There will be about 200 color or color combinations of iris for sale, Meri said.
“It’s the nearest thing to an orchid I can grow,” Meri said of the iris. “Growing up, I lived on a farm in North Dakota with irises. I love them. They’re kind of my flower.”
She lived for years in Baltimore nurturing award-winning flower gardens while making a living “traveling like a Gypsy” selling her quilts.
“I’m not a professional horticulturist and I don’t have a degree, but in the state of Maryland I had the first-place perennial bed,” she said. “My flowers won blue ribbons at the state fair, and the judges came to see my bed.
“I haven’t got anymore ribbons in Kansas. I’ll have to participate in a local event.”
Although irises are obviously central to their Iris Festival, visitors will also find for sale Meri’s patchwork quilting items and David’s ironwork creations crafted from hammers, wrenches and other tools.
“We stopped in western Kansas out by Hays, and I saw some of that type of thing for sale,” he said. “I thought, ‘I have broken tools around. I can do that.’”
They are also inviting people to just come out and enjoy the farm with its orchard and shaded sitting areas. Meri said she’s the oldest of 12 children and Dave was one of seven siblings, so they do like having people around.
The farm has been certified as a natural wildlife preserve for birds and animals and they are working with Kansas University about having it declared a butterfly refuge, Meri said.
“Bring a basket of chicken and spend some time to enjoy the moment,” she said. “We’ll provide the quilt for the ground and the picnic table.”
The farm is the third house on the right on Leavenworth County Road 30 east of the Kansas Highway 16 intersection between McLouth and Tonganoxie. There also is signage at that intersection directing people to the farm, Meri said.