• Tony Bosworth

Blooming lovely at Bilpin



If you ask iris grower Michael Barnes to name his favourite iris, he says that’s a really difficult one.

This is a bit like asking me to name my favourite child,” says Michael, “but if nobody else is listening I’ll admit that I love Montmartre.”

The Montmarte is definitely a beauty but it’s just one of thousands of irises Mr Barnes has on show at Iris Australis garden in Bilpin. And from tomorrow and through the weekend you could pop along there and have a wander through his gardens because they’re open long weekends – Friday to Sunday - all of this month.

Mr Barnes has a real passion for the flowers since breeding irises at

his parents’ place in the late ‘90s.

“But I’ve only been active again in the industry for the last five years since buying my 25-acre Bilpin property. In addition to my operation here, I (usually) spend the northern hemisphere spring visiting and hybridising at iris farms in France, Slovakia and America.”

We asked, why irises?

“Just take a look at them. What can possibly compete? The main thing I love is the diversity of colours and patterns, and how low maintenance they are. Additionally, the specialist growers are a great group of people, scattered across the country, and around the world. I’m currently president of the Iris Society of Australia, secretary and treasurer of the NSW region, and national coordinator for the trial garden program, so I have great opportunities to interact with other growers.”

What is it about irises that’s so special?

“They are very different to any other flower, come in an amazing array of colours and patterns, are very easy to maintain, and are suited to a very broad range of environments, from deserts to wetlands, literally,” says Mr Barnes.

So if you’re looking to buy some world-class irises, or just fancy a meander through the 1600 metres of iris beds, take a trip to Iris Australis from Friday through to Sunday from 10am to 4pm. Entry is free and there’s an easy contactless payment method if you’re tempted to buy – personally we think you will.

Irises on display include tall bearded, dwarves, intermediates, wetlands and water variants.

Iris Australis is at 2419 Bells Line of Road, Bilpin. Call 0412 985 238 if you’d like more information.

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