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Go for a look at iris farms in San Jose, Stockton, Sebastopol.

The number of well-known hybridizers in the greater Bay Area makes it one of the prime iris-breeding regions in the world. Of these specialists, three open their doors to the public this season, when many irises reach peak bloom. During this time, you're welcome to browse through the fields of well-labeled flowers and place orders for delivery at planting time in summer and fall.

The growers we list are located about an hour's drive south, east, and north of San Francisco. The first is in San Jose near Interstate 280, the second is in Stockton, and the third is in Sebastopol a few miles from U.S. 101.

Many people come simply to enjoy the colorful show. But if you're a serious iris shopper, you might want to bring a notebook, good walking shoes, and a camera. In all cases, you can pick up a mail-order catalog or price list near the entrance to use as a guide.

You'll find an intriguing diversity of flower colors and patterns: subtle pastels, intense blues, rusts, and bicolors, and new smoky shades of bronze and gold. At each of the nurseries, owners are happy to help with selections. Before you come, they suggest making a list of colors that work best in your garden.

Maryott's Iris Gardens, 1069 Bird Avenue in San Jose, offers tall bearded irises, remontant (reblooming) varieties, and some spuria irises. The 1-acre garden is open only on weekends, from 10 to 5, during the flowering season. Peak bloom is expected near the end of April, with flowering continuing until mid-May; for exact dates, call (408) 265-2498.

To get to the garden, which is in the residential Willow glen neighborhood, exit I-280 at Bird Avenue and drive about 3/4 mile south. Look for the garden gate on your right; the path leads to the picturesque growting grounds tucked behind the houses.

Melrose Gardens, 309 Best Road S. in Stockton, is one of the largest iris (and daylily) growers on the West Coast. Irises growing here include many tall, intermediate, and dwarf bearded, remontant bearded, and arilbred iris as well as non-bearded Siberians, Louisiana iris, water iris, and a wide variety of spurias. Tall bearded irises usually peak in late April, the spuria irises in the first two weeks of May. Hours are 8 to sundown daily, but if you want to see flowers of a particular variety, call (209) 465-8578 ahead to check blooming dates.

From 1-5 in Stockton, take Charter Way (State 4) east towards State 99. Follow the northbound overpass across the highway to Main Street. Turn right, drive 4-1/2 miles, and turn right on Best Road.

Cottage Gardens, 6225 Vine Hill School Road in Sebastopol, grows tall bearded irises, Louisianas, and Siberians. Hours are 9 to 5 Saturdays and Sundays on the first three weekends in May; the telephone number is (707) 823-3322.

From U.S. 101, take Guerneville Road west 7 miles. Turn right on Laguna Road and left on Vine Hill School Road. Cottage Gardens will be on your left, just past the old school.
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Date:May 1, 1984
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