An Iris for Carole

By: Richard G Turner Jr

Richard G Turner Jr is the editor emeritus of Pacific Horticulture. After receiving degrees in architecture and landscape architecture from…

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Carole Ann Vossen, 1941-2005

Carole Ann Vossen, 1941-2005

Anyone who gardens will find it’s good for the soul. You can kind of forget everything else when you’re out there in your garden. Flowers give back much more than you give them.

Carole Vossen, Redding Record Searchlight, April 24, 1987

We lost a dear friend in mid-January. Carole Vossen slipped away quietly at a hospital in Redding, California, after a suffering massive stroke a few days earlier. She and husband Jerry had just celebrated thirty-nine years of marriage. Carole served as advertising manager for Pacific Horticulture and was a familiar face to those visiting our booth at the NW Flower & Garden Show each year.

Carole was another example of Pacific Horticulture’s “iris connection.” As we mentioned on page one of the April 2003 issue, irises have been a long-time love of both past and current editors. Iris brought George and Olive Waters together, and ultimately led to his taking on the editorship of our fledgling journal. As active members of the American Iris Society (AIS), they have produced twenty editions of the society’s annual calendar. They also brought both staff and volunteers to help in the production and distribution of Pacific Horticulture from among their many friends in the local chapters of the AIS. Carole Vossen was one of those individuals.

Carole began growing iris in the mid-1970s around her home on the family’s ranch in Igo, a small rural community southwest of Redding. Carole was born there and lived all of her life in Shasta County, at the northern end of the Sacramento Valley. She loved the country life and understood the challenges of gardening in an area with cold winters and baking hot summers. Bearded irises of all sizes, shapes, and colors thrived in her garden. Over the last thirty years, the collection grew to about a thousand cultivars in her acre-plus iris garden.

Carole realized that her climate and soils were also well suited for the cultivation of the group of irises known as arils (see Pacific Horticulture, Fall 1979). Mostly native to mountains, steppes, and semi-deserts from the eastern end of the Mediterranean Basin to southwestern Asia, these irises are known for their unusual colors and beautifully veined falls and standards. After succeeding with the first few, she began collecting these uncommon irises but found, as others have, that the arilbreds (hybrids with bearded and other irises) were of easier cultivation and more generous with their flowers. She devoted a portion of her garden to them and enjoyed a measure of success with some of her own hybrids.

A charter member of the Shasta Iris Society, she was also active in the Aril Society International. It was through these groups that she met George and Olive and, in 1990, accepted their offer to serve as advertising manager for Pacific Horticulture, following her retirement from a career as a legal secretary for the county’s district attorney. She worked tirelessly on behalf of the magazine and will be hard to replace.

As I write this in late February, I sense that Carole is smiling down on my garden where a few early blossoms have begun to appear on plants of Iris
douglasii
and its hybrids. New leaves are spearing upward on the several pots of small Iris species purchased a year ago for the rock garden. Before the winter is out, I’ll have enough of the rock garden built to provide pockets for them. I’ll be planting the iris in memory of Carole, who, over the past eight years of my editorship, became a close personal friend and horticultural confidant.

RGT

Carole is survived by her parents, her husband, two sons, and one grandchild, and by countless friends, colleagues, and fellow iris-lovers. Readers and advertisers wishing to send condolences to Carole’s family may send them to Jerry Vossen, PO Box 7, Igo, CA 96047.