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After some twenty-five years of gardening adventures, a random comment by a gardening buddy spurred a challenge that has become a passion in MJ Urist's life. The suggestion, "you should try..." led to the discovery of a great native wildflower that grew virtually unnoticed by gardening enthusiasts for hundreds of years... the Louisiana Iris. MJ's enthusiasm for the wild child of the Mississippi valley and Gulf coast and its more refined offspring, has evolved into a mission of encouraging others in the cultivation of this North American wildflower to the furthest range of its growth. Perhaps along the way, others will come to appreciate the impact of the loss of coastal wetlands along the Gulf and the need to protect the rich and varied ecosystem that produced this unique native plant.
With her two best friends, Trial and Error, the generosity, friendship and expertise of a network of growers and hybridizers in Louisiana and across the country, MJ was able to develop the knowledge and techniques to grow these beautiful flowers in the northern climates of Upstate New York, only 85 miles south of the Canadian border. From the first seven cultivars obtained in 2007, the gardens have grown to over 5000 square feet and over 200 cultivars, plus a large number of seedlings under evaluation. Along the way MJ found that with minimal accommodation, this beauty from the bayou easily adapts to the challenges and vagaries of northern growing and rests comfortably beneath the deep, white winter mulch. Rhizomes from Louisiana Iris Gardens irises are robust and vigorous, and adapted for fall planting throughout the country.

MJ enjoys the designation Master Gardener, serves on the Board of Directors for the Society for Louisiana Iris, is a member of the Greater New Orleans Iris Society, and is a member and Garden/Exhibition Judge of the American Iris Society.


Meet Our Hybridizers

Joe Musacchia
Joe became interested in Louisiana irises after a series of failures growing plants that, while beautiful, just weren't suited to his sultry, damp, south Louisiana location. It was a perfect match! Joe began his hybridizing efforts in the late 1990's, but experienced a monumental disruption to his "pipeline" with back to back hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. In 2008, Joe began recovering seedlings from the mess left behind from the storms, and also began making new crosses for the future, some of which are just now reaching final evaluation before release.
Joe resides in Gray, La. with his wife, Sally. In the photo above, Joe is captured in the act of hybridizing under the watchful eye of his garden companion, Tootsie.

Patrick O'Connor
Patrick O’Connor has been growing Louisiana irises since the mid-1970s. His interest began when he discovered the native I. fulva growing in the yard of a new family home. He began hybridizing in the late 1970s and has registered over 70 cultivars. For about ten years, he operated a commercial iris nursery, Zydeco Louisiana Iris Garden. Patrick lives in Metairie, LA, a suburb of New Orleans, with his wife Juliette, and an ever-changing assortment of small rescued, and fostered dogs.Louisiana Iris Gardens is honored to be the introducing nursery for Patrick's exceptional flowers.