‘Iris Man’ Don Goss has a field of flowers for sale in Fort Wayne

Don Goss' iris field is filled with all sorts of colors, which changes week by week as more bloom. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Don Goss writes out an order at his iris farm Saturday on Smith Road. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Thunder Spirit is a bit of a late bloomer in Don Goss' field. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
It was a good day for Wine and Roses in Don Goss' field Saturday. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Don Goss chooses his iris from a list by the American Iris Society. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Don Goss provides a typed list of prices for each of the irises he sells. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Janice Derek shops Saturday and has been buying iris from Don Goss for 20 years. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Rayanne Batchelder helps her mother, Brandie, by taking photos of Don Goss' irises Saturday. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Gnus Flash, with its violet, cream and sliver streaks, is available for sale by Don Goss. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Metal signs tell buyers with iris are which as some of the flowers haven't bloomed yet. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Don Goss' chair sits next to his iris field. Known as "the Iris Man," Goss has customers who come back each year for his flowers. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)

Don Goss hoed his field of 450 iris Friday and on Saturday he was getting ready to put his sign out to let people know they were for sale. However, he’d already been visited by about 10 people.

“They seem to know where I am,” said Goss, who taught art and theater for 57 years at the former Elmhurst High School.

Some customers have come to the Iris Man’s house at 6311 Smith Road for decades, with up to 10 people showing up a day to get a typed list of his 17 rows of irises, with names like Boogie Woogie, Fortunate Son and Loop the Loop.

Goss won’t say how old he is, only that he’s lived in the house since he was 2.

The irises are the symposium list of the top 100 irises as selected by the American Iris Society’s members. Prices range from 50 cents for the oldest registered irises such as 1927’s blue purple Baldwin to $50 for the newest varieties, including Vanilla Frappe that’s white and pale lavender with orange beards, the fuzzy-looking parts coming from the middle. Many of the irises cost around $4.

Each iris’ name is stamped into a metal sign, with Goss explaining the flowers follow where the sign is planted. Bloom season is April 27-June 15, with peak bloom time being around May 30, plus or minus a week.

“We had a cold, wet and snowy springtime,” Goss said. That will slow down the iris from emerging.

On Saturday some blooms still hadn’t opened. Meanwhile, Brandie Batchelder, a sign language interpreter at Wayne High School, said some had bloomed overnight. She had been there the day before to start taking photos of each kind of iris that Goss had.

“I’ve come here for three years and love it,” she said. “I wait all year.”

She brought along her daughter, Rayanna, to help take photos so she can catalog the plants, partly so she knows what she has but also because she believes Goss’ garden is such an incredible effort.

Another woman was taking photos so she could paint the flowers, Goss said.

Goss’ mother first planted iris at the home after receiving six hybridized irises for her birthday in 1941. Now totaling 450, the number is actually half of what he had.

“It got to be too much,” he said.

These days he hoes a little then sits in the lawn chair that’s next to the iris field, which includes the Emma Cook on his typed list. That white one with a bluish purple border came directly from the Bluffton hybridizer’s garden, he said. With her husband, Paul, and then after his death, she created 70 iris hybrids. She died in 1982.

Sitting in a chair on his porch, Goss asks customers which irises they want, making out a receipt in return for a check or cash. Customers will have to wait until the third week of June after the iris are done blooming to pick up their bulbs.

RELATED STORY: Northeastern Indiana Iris Society plant sale July 30 at Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory

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