Dusky Dancer, Mary Frances, Sapphire Hills, Conche Call, River Hawk, Dazzling Gold, Star Wars, New Moon, Melody Ripples, Christmas Rubies . . . .

The names sound like the horses in the Kentucky Derby. But they're actually irises - and, along with flowers with equally colorful titles, they'll be on display this weekend at the Garden Center in Sugarhouse Park.The occasion is the annual iris show sponsored by the Utah Iris Society. Flowers will be on display Saturday, 1:30-6 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The event is open to the public, and anyone may enter. Members of the organization stress, however, that all irises must be identified by name in order to be in the competition.

Ribbons will be awarded for first, second and third places. In addition, there will be an award for the person who receives the most blue ribbons and a runner-up prize for the second most blue ribbons.

The theme for this year's show is "Paint a Picture with Iris." In addition to regular class competition, exhibitors will have the opportunity to create arrangements that reflect their interpretations of famous paintings. Prints of paintings, such as "Starry Night" by Vincent Van Gogh and the "Three Musicians" by Pablo Picasso, will be mounted on easels next to the arrangements.

This year's theme was selected by Shannon Lorenzo, show co-chairperson. Lorenzo is a noted arranger with numerous top awards to her credit. In addition to awarding the usual first, second and third place ribbons, there will be an award for the best design of the show and also for the most first place entries in this section.

Cathy Hagan Reed also is serving as a show co-chairman, and Alan Toronto is in charge of publicity. Both are national iris judges.

It takes two to three years to become a qualified judge, they note. And just how long does it take to become hooked on growing and showing irises? Not long at all. Reed was hooked the minute she entered an iris show just for fun and, much to her amazement and delight, got a top prize for one of her specimens.

Toronto's story is much the same: He began growing irises when his neighbor gave him some starts. A bit later in the gardening game, he heard about a local iris show and decided to enter to see what it was like.

"I wondered if I could win with my flowers," recalls the iris grower. "Oh, I really didn't think it was possible against so many experts, but my flowers were pretty, so I thought there was no harm in trying."

The judges awarded him three blue ribbons - and he has been a proud iris grower and promoter ever since.

Numerous other Utahns are similarly involved, and the state boasts some of the finest iris hybridizers in the world, according to Reed. Notable in the group are Melba Hamblen of Roy, recipient of the British Foster Award and the Gold Medal of the American Iris Society for her outstanding contributions; Esther Tams, Cache Valley, the hybridizer of Dream Lover, a Dykes Medal winner (the highest award given in iris culture).

George Mayberry of Provo has done some noteworthy work in the area of spooned and horned irises, which are variations on the usual bearded flowers.

Working with the earth and growing and exhibiting irises are wonderful and rewarding hobbies, Reed and Tornonto emphasize. There's something magical about seeing huge, magnificent blooms spring from seedlings. Ever since the flower was named after Iris, the Egyptian goddess of the rainbow, people have been awed by its dramatic appearance - sword shaped leaves and conspicuous blooms composed of three petals and three drooping sepals of widely varying colorations. The iris definitely isn't a shrinking violet!

There are dozens of varieties blooming in gardens these days, and hybridizers and dedicated iris fans are always hard at work trying to come up with something new, more splendid and more colorful. Yellow, soft shell pink, deep purple, white . . . the shades already seem endless. But there are some colors that horticulturists still are seeking.

A real, deep black. According to Reed, it exists in the arils hybrid. But to her knowledge, it doesn't exist in the ordinary lacy petaled flower. And lipstick red. Nobody has come up with that shade yet, either, she points out. But a lot of people are trying.

Officers of the Utah Iris Society, an affliate of the American Iris Society, are DeRay Taylor, president; Randy Brown, first vice president; Chalotte Easter, second vice president; Larene Done, treasurer; Bonnie Woolley, secretary; Bonnie Knudsen, parlimentarian.

Directors of the state group are Candy Thomas, Jim Reed, Paul J. Smith, Darlene Pinegar and Cathy Hagan Reed.

For further information about the society or about the show, call Reed at 355-1791 (business) or 272-7992 (home). Toronto may be reached at 581-9468. Or contact Shannon Lorenzo, 487-7971.