Our people: Sam Rix

While researching the article on Louisiana irises, I came across a terrific story – that of Louisiana iris breeder Sam Rix of Mount Maunganui who in 1965 became the first non-American to win the Mary Swords DeBaillon Medal for the best Louisiana iris of the year with ‘Frances Elizabeth’ (registered in 1957).

Sam was the proprietor of the well-known (but now long gone) Oceanside Hotel at Mount Maunganui – the site now occupied by the Oceanside Resort & Twin Towers. The link names Florence and James Rix as owners from after World War 2 but that it was sold to a business in 1959 with Bill and Jean Fenton (the grandparents of military historian Dr Damien Fenton) running it.

The article linked to above is written by Stephanie Boot, also a Louisiana iris breeder, who quotes from a letter Sam wrote:

“I have had to work under difficulties in a very exposed position, for our hotel is right on the sand dunes, facing the Pacific Ocean. Storms sweep in from the sea, and have frequently scorched many of my plants badly. I have noticed though, that the Louisiana irises have withstood salt spray very well. I have been studying genetics, in the hope that more knowledge may make it possible for me to produce something worthwhile in years to come.”

Sam died in 1998. Apparently there was no obituary published.


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