Want Unique Iris Blooms? Schreiner’s Gardens Wins that Prize

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By Jill Brooke

The Oregon grape may have been anointed the state flower in 1899 but it really should be the tall proud Iris since Schreiner’s Gardens, the United States’ most prolific and extraordinary flower farm for this bloom has been operating in Salem near the Willamette Valley since 1947. 

For four generations now, yes four generations, the Schreiner family has been cultivating the land, expanding their output, and creating a laboratory of over 10,000 seedling beds to explore new color patterns and possibilities. 

“Every year we have 14 new varieties,” says Liz Schreiner-Schmidt, who along with her nephew Ben runs this 150-acre farm. 

What are the most popular flowers that dazzle and delight? 

“Autumn Riesling, Oui Madame, Open Ocean, Immortality and Dracula’s Kiss,” says Ben Schreiner, who is known as the farm’s on-site scientist, always on the hunt for hues with unexpected designs and shapes.

Their family journey to becoming the most famous iris breeder in the United States began not in Oregon but in Minnesota. 

An avid gardener, F.X. Schreiner worked in a department in Minnesota when he went east on a routine business trip in 1920. There he met John C. Wister, the first president of the American Iris Society. The chance encounter sparked “a love affair” with the flower and soon Schreiner became a world-renowned iris collector. Amassing over 500 cultivars and starting a catalog service, he shared his passion with his children, Bob, Connie, and Bernard (Gus), who then managed the reins of the burgeoning business after he died. 

However, they soon realized to expand the business, they needed a more hospitable climate and soil and moved to Oregon in 1947. By the 1970s, the original 15-acre plot expanded to 50 acres with the increased demand and fascination of “bearded iris” flowers. 

Gus’ grandson Ben Schreiner entered the business in 2016 becoming the fourth generation to be part of the farm and Liz, who is Gus’ daughter, has run the business side for decades.

So what are the easiest iris flowers to grow? “We’re most famous for the Bearded Iris and Beardless Iris (Louisiana, Siberian and Japanese, for example) and they are the easiest to grow,” says Liz Schreiner-Schmidt,  though the award-winning “Black is Black” has also been a fan fave recently. 

Luckily, the iris has had a resurgence in popularity. And it’s not only for the kaleidoscope of cool color groupings this family has created.

In Greek mythology, Iris was the goddess who created the arc of the rainbow to travel from heaven to earth. Her journey wasn’t marked by sadness because the rainbow is full of color and wonder. Iris also filled the role of an angel in transporting female souls to heaven. To this day, Greeks plant purple irises on women’s graves so that Iris will guide them to their resting place in heaven. Plus, the French,  starting with Henry VI, adopted the Iris as a heraldic symbol, the fleur-de-lis.

But lately, some have suggested that the flower with its three distinct petals also represents the House of Dragons in HBO’s “Game of Thrones” spinoff.  The Goo Goo Dolls and U2 sang a song about this rare bloom and it has also become a more popular girl’s name.

Although it is also the state flower of Tennessee, this spring bloom and the significance of what the Schreiners have achieved certainly begs the debate to expand what state flowers are in each state since Oregon is home to this thriving enterprise that brings joy to so many.

Meanwhile, remaining a gem of the Schreiner’s enterprise is its stunning 10-acre display garden that the family opens up to the public in May. 

Fully developed in the 1990s, the display garden sits atop the original Schreiner parcel first purchased in 1947. The breathtaking garden and surrounding commercial fields see tens of thousands of visitors from the Willamette Valley and beyond. As his descendants say, it’s a pilgrimage F.X. Schreiner would surely feel proud of if he were alive to see it.  However,  as Liz says, he did pass on a strong work ethic that is planted in all the descendants – thus ensuring professional longevity, unlike so many. other generational businesses.

1) What is your superpower flower?

Although they also now produce and grow daylilies again, and other flowers, it is the iris that is their most popular flower Especially the bearded iris bloom.

2) A Challenge and Solution?

Aside from their family history of leaving Minnesota for Oregon for better soil,  the family has had to be on the lookout for new technologies to make planting more efficient. “These are field-grown iris flowers, not in pots or gravel,” explains Liz Schreiner-Schmidt. “On rainy days, the tractors can’t go out.” To make up for the weather issues, the success of the company has enabled them to purchase new machinery that speeds up planting. Definitely experiment with technologies for the future.


Although this is a very close family that has run the company since 1947, both Ben and Liz create a family atmosphere with their employees where they encourage ideas and input “We have employees that have been here for 40 years,” says Liz Schreiner-Schmidt. In fact, an employee just gave an idea recently implemented to speed up retail by getting bulbs in groups. Furthermore, they are “actually building our infrastructure to work smarter not harder.”

4) What Makes Them Proud and Future Plans?

The sheer variety of flowers available in so many colors, all grown to be adaptable to different climates and cultural preferences. Ben is also hoping to create even more better-performing flowers that rebloom.

Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD,  floral editor for Aspire Design and Home magazine and contributor to Florists Review magazine.