Iris Garden at Mahoney State Park

Have you ever seen the iris garden at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park?

purple irises and gazebo painting

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I might never have even seen the irises if it hadn’t been for… but I’m getting ahead of myself!

Have you ever been to Mahoney State Park?

Mahoney State Park is located just off I-80 between Lincoln and Omaha at Exit 426. There are a lot of great activities to do there: picnicking, camping, riding horses, miniature golf, a water park, and even a theater. The park sees some serious traffic, but it never feels crowded. There is always space for a few more visitors and always something fun to do.

I might never have seen the irises if it hadn’t been for a birthday party and my daughter’s special request to ride horses with her friends.

While they rode, I had time to kill. Across the drive, I saw this pretty white gazebo…and beyond, a colorful swathe of irises filling every bed with an amazing amount of color.

Someone has put a lot of effort into tending
the iris garden at Mahoney State Park.

Terraces formed by low walls of rough square blocks of native sandstone separate the beds into gently sloping sections.

Irises are one of my favorite flowers. I’m not quite sure where they rank on the favorites scale, somewhere up there with roses, orchids, and tulips, but it’s a close race to determine which is more lovely.

I’ve seen a number of iris gardens, and gardens with lots of lovely plants including irises, but this iris garden is one of the best. The variety of irises blooming, the health of the plants, and the location and size of the garden worked together in harmony to create a great experience.

While there, I saw these rich cobalt blue irises, and I fell in love! That soft, silky cobalt blue drinks in the light while giving off a subtle sheen… Perfect, just perfect…

As one friend and appreciator of my artwork enthused, “They draw the eye inward and upward toward the gazebo and the sky.”

I don’t know their name. It has been a few years since I took the photos I used to create this painting. I wish that I cataloged the name of the irises at that time. Well, maybe there will be a next time?

Have you noticed the incredible blue sky in this painting?

Painterly iris garden and trees

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A blue sky is somewhat of a rarity in Nebraska. Most of the time, when I take a photo, I don’t have the luxury of a blue sky for a backdrop. A lot of the time, we have a high thin haze that turns the sky an opalescent white. Far too much of the time, the sky is very cloudy.

I do like a cloudy gray day, but not when I’m taking pictures, and I don’t like gray skies in paintings. When I have to, I’ll add in a blue sky, but this time I didn’t have to.

The percentage of fluffy white clouds to blue sky was just perfect too: enough to make the sky interesting while not being so much as to mask it completely.

Painterly stone terrace iris garden

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I also painted two companion pieces for the painting of the bandstand, the one on the right with the crooked terrace, and the one below with the profusion of purple irises.

There are no large, close-up irises in these paintings because they would have obscured other details that were farther away.

Looking through the photos I took that day, I’ve realized that for Nebraska, this was an unusually beautiful, sunny spring day. Here’s hoping we have more like that next year.

Continuing with the theme from my last blog post, I painted these irises in the same vivid fusion of romantic and impressionist styles using a digital watercolor technique paired with an oil pastel brush.

I love painting irises. I plan to paint more. Maybe I’ll even paint more from Mahoney State Park…

When you get a chance, I do hope you’ll check out the
iris garden at Mahoney State Park. It’s amazing!

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