Lilacs, irises on display at Glenara Gardens
AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Above, George Boyce, who with his wife Carol took top honors at the Delaware Valley Iris Show receiving American Iris Society Rosettes and the coveted American Iris Societies' Silver and Bronze medals for the most Blue Ribbons at the show. They grow hybrid lilacs, daylilies, and Siberian and Japanese irises at their seven-acre Glenara Gardens in Palmerton.
Award-winning lilacs, daylilies, and Siberian and Japanese irises will be on display beginning this weekend and for selected weekends for visitors at Glenara Gardens, a seven-acre private Palmerton garden.
Glenara Gardens invites visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the following dates:
• May 4-5: Lilac Weekend,
• May 18-19: Siberian and Bearded Iris Weekend
• June 22-23: Japanese Iris Weekend
In recent years, George and Carol Boyce, proprietors of Glenara Gardens, took top honors at the Delaware Valley Iris Show, receiving American Iris Society Rosettes and the coveted American Iris Societies' Silver and Bronze medals for the most Blue Ribbons at the shows.
At a recent Delaware Valley Iris Show, the Boyces entered 25 varieties of irises and received 24 ribbons. Hundreds of varieties of irises are grown at Glenara Gardens.
"We did very well," George said. "We received everything short of Best in Show."
In the Japanese Iris category, the Boyce's Pink Puffer variety won the Best in Show. Their entry was over nine inches in diameter, with six variegated pink and purple petals, called falls, sporting yellow blazes inside purple stamens.
The Japanese Iris was the Japanese Emperors' personal flower for centuries. It was introduced to the United States in the 1960s. It is a beardless variety, larger than domestic irises, and is available in colors from light blue to dark blue to purple to pink to white.
At Glenara Gardens, the Boyces raise lilacs, Siberian and Japanese irises, and daylilies. Their irises flower from May until the end of June, usually peaking around June 18. Weather permitting, the lilacs, in colors from white to pink to red to rose to blue to deep purple, will be on display this weekend.
The Boyces were introduced to irises in the 1960s, when they were living in Maine, where their neighbor was Dr. Currier McEwen.
"He was the man who literally wrote the book on the Japanese and Siberian Iris," Boyce said. "From there, it just mushroomed along."
Although Glenara Gardens is only 5 years old, it contains plants up to 100 years old that have been selected, bred and relocated to Palmerton by the Boyces.
George and Carol also have helped develop varieties of roses, lilacs, daylilies, and Siberian and Japanese irises. Glenara Gardens is home to over 500 varieties of irises and has hosted judges' training for the Delaware Iris Society. George Boyce is the regional vice president for the American Iris Society.
Boyce's interest in plants began as a farm boy growing up in the New York's Adirondack Mountains.
"My mother was the 13th child of a dairy farmer," he said. "I spent my summers bringing in the hay. I get kind of a scratchy back just thinking of it."
When Carol decided to return closer to her Pennsylvania roots six years ago, she took a job as superintendent at the Palmerton School District and they found property suitable for relocating their garden. Over several trips with their Suburban, they relocated over 1,000 plants to their new home which they named Glenara Gardens.
"Glenara, we made up the name in the 1960s," Boyce said, "only to find such a name in Scotland. I didn't know it at the time."
Glenara was the name of their business at the time a dog kennel.
"The name has followed us through six or seven states, and several businesses because we already had the name incorporated."
While living on the east coast, the Boyces became associated with the Universities of Maine and New Hampshire horticultural colleges.
"They have been producing winter hardy plants for years," he said. "We were fortunately able to link with those universities."
Ten years ago, George retired, deciding to focus his energies on gardening. He enjoys creating new varieties by cross-pollenating existing varieties, and then patiently waiting for the seed germination, plant growth, and blossoming which typically leads to hundreds of failures before discovering a successful hybrid.
"Glenara Gardens is my crowning achievement and it will get better every year," Boyce noted. "Every year, we add to it."
Glenara Gardens is located at 520 Dairy Road in Palmerton. For information, call (607) 857-8732. Visitors are invited to visit the grounds there is no need to check into the house and there is no charge.
Directions: From Route 209, take Hemlock Street south 1.6 miles and bear left to Dairy Road. Go 0.3 miles to 520 Dairy Road on the mailbox across the street from the property. The property is accessed from a common driveway and is by the home to the left.
From Fireline Road, take Dairy Road 1.7 miles to 520 Dairy Road.