Although I never met Francesca Thoolen in person, she long held a special place among my iris friends. Long before the internet, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, we corresponded through the Aril Society's robin program. We shared a particular passion: the arilpums. Francesca and Harald Mathes took the lead in creating this new family of arilbred dwarfs, and it was a privilege to learn from both of them, when I was only about 20 years old. Years later, in the 1990s when I finally had my own home and a place to garden again, we resumed our correspondence. Francesca did not hesitate to share her knowledge and her seedlings. Soon I had half a dozen beautiful little arilpums blooming profusely in my Santa Fe garden.
I admired Francesca's dedication to the iris world. Even as she had to scale back her gardening to accommodate declining health, she remained active in ASI, contributing to the society's publications and then taking on the role of checklist editor.
Francesca Thoolen died in March 2011. As I write, her 'Aladdin's Gem' is blooming in my new garden. It brings fond memories with it.
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