Last year, a friend gave me about a dozen iris from her late mother in laws garden. She had no idea of what colors much less names they were but I was thrilled just the same because these have been in their garden for a very long time. I hoped for heirlooms. The gift came later in the season therefor only one bloomed- a yellow. I then waited patiently to see what I had all of last year. In the meantime, they unexpectedly divided like mad.
For the last week, its been somewhat like Christmas here for me. Every morning I wake up eagerly awaiting the sun to reveal which delicate tissue wrapped pod has blossomed. So far:
Possibly, Coronation. I am told by my friend Mary – a member of one of the Iris historical societies- that this type was introduced in the 20’s and was popular in graveyards.
Evolution, a variety from the 1930’s. Its colors remind me of a sunset. So far it looks like these are the two varieties in that bunch. I’m thrilled of course. I already had:
No idea about name or history but I think its my favorite. Its at least 3 feet tall and is an early bloomer. I have another purple variety that haven’t bloomed yet- a smaller “Japanese Iris” as well. Photos when they do.
Iris came into my life in such an odd way. I recall how an elderly neighbor in Chicago used to wax poetic about his collection and while I liked them well enough, I didn’t think they were an easy flower to grow so I just used to nod politely and let him talk.
Then we moved up here and we eventually uncovered the two previously mentioned bunches – one hidden amongst the thorny raspberry patch and the other in a cluster of unmowed grass….as far from the house as you can get. We moved the Bearded Iris under the Oak tree ( my pet project has been to “decorate” beneath it) where I can appreciate them as well as access easily for bouquets. I have to move the Japanese one as well as place samples of each variety in pots in case we do sell the property.
I was very wrong about them being hard to grow …they are easy as pie. The rhizome stays in the ground so they are extremely hardy. Our area can dip well below freezing into the negative numbers (-32 and thereabouts) and stay there for days if not weeks. Its nice to not have to dig them up! And though our spring weather can be extreme with high tornado level winds, hail and torrential rains, they have held up beautifully.
The worst part is having to divide them but even that has rewards because one can spread them around as gifts to friends and even entice friends to do the digging.
I realized something about them- they are tokens of friendship. If you have watched The Botany of Desire, it is stated how plants use these sort of enchantments in order to survive. Iris propagate easily and they encouraging gift giving. In this way, they also propagate memories and friendship which is the way they move into other gardens. Clever flower! And it gets even better. One can plant from seed but even with heirlooms, each seed wont necessarily produce true. Instead, the rhizome carries the true genetic code and that of course is u der ground.
Mary and I will trade ( she has my Japanese ones already) and in this way, no matter what becomes of me, I will live on in her garden. When she thins hers, I will cherish her gifts too and the friend who gifted me the dozen also lives in my garden, as does her late mother in law who I barely knew and of course my elderly neighbor from Chicago lives in memory if not in the garden itself. Thats quite a feat for a flower!
Now I’m planning on how, if we move, I will prepare samples to take with me and how to encourage the kids to also take samples to grow in my memory when I am gone. I think that ultimately, thats the beauty of some gardens- they can be legacies if we allow it.