The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Forrest Hershberger
Sidney Sun-Telegraph 

50-plus Year Flower Garden Sold


Forrest Hershberger

Wanda Rezac sits in the shade of her golf cart, her transportation among her extensive iris gardens at her home west of Sidney. She has more than 3,000 varieties of irises in her gardens. She has sold her irises to a green house in Arkansas.

The experience greets visitors before crossing the threshold. Entering the dirt driveway at certain times of the year, a visitor is welcomed with the warm scent of fresh flowers, irises to be specific. The four plots are only a sample of what used to dominate the home of Wanda Rezac west of Sidney.

She started what became a passionate hobby when she and her husband bought a house in Sidney in the early 1950s. She says a neighbor was thinning her flowers and offered her some. The few flowers were planted, then when they moved to their home northwest of Sidney, the irises were transplanted to their new home.

"It grew and it grew and I never knew when to quit," Rezac said recently.

Now older and moving slower, she has decided to sell her irises, all 3,000 varieties. She said people from Arkansas bought all of them and are digging them up. Two plots have been taken and the rest are expected to be harvested next week.

"It is amazing to me there can be so many color combinations," she said from the cart she uses to drive among the flower gardens.

She added that the new hybrids are not as hearty as previous generations. She said the Iris Society visited her home the last two summers.

"They were digging those they couldn't find anymore," she said. "They salvaged around 300."

Her home, and the longtime home of the countless irises, has a history of near 58 years.

"We moved out here in 1960," she said. "I moved my irises every time I moved. Its been quite an attraction."

Irises bloom for about three weeks. Irises have been in America since the 1600s, possibly brought across the Atlantic Ocean with the early settlers, according to The website says there are three noteworthy groups: the Blue Flag Iris, the Louisiana Iris and the Pacific Coast Iris. The site goes on to say Blue Flag is also called the wild iris and grows in the east. The Louisiana or Hexagona Iris is native to the Mississippi Basin of Florida, Alabama and Georgia and the Pacific Coast Iris is found in California, Oregon and Washington State.

In addition to these three, Rezac has hybrids unique to her gardens, including one hybrid carrying her name.

"People say there's not that many combinations (more than 3,000 in her gardens). I just say 'come out and look,'" she said.

Some of the hybrids are very fragrant with an attractive scent, while others have a scent that is less attractive. Most of her irises were purchased from green houses throughout the country. She said there are greenhouses in other countries that have developed very nice hybrids as well. She said no one has developed a good bright red hybrid. New hybrids cost about $60 each, she said. She never sold her flowers. She was more interested in having a collection of flowers.

Part of her motivation for selling her irises is her health, and the physical requirement to maintain the gardens. She isn't able to weed the gardens as she would like.

"It's a big job to keep them clean," she said.

She points out areas in her iris gardens that were once completely free of weeds, but now are a battle ground between natural foliage and the fragrant irises. Areas that were once overwhelmed with color and olfactory delight are increasingly grasses and weeds.

The removal of the irises will close another chapter in her family's work with raising and selling specific agriculture: chickens (more than 1,000 sold over a year), ducks, and even bee hives for honey.

"We had honey bees; sold honey in stores in Sidney," she said.

At one time, her family had more than 100 bee hives. They sold honey at the Octoberfest for about 15 years. The bee keeping enterprise started coming to an end when insects started preying on the bees.

"It was a good experience," she said.


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