I would like to…render thanks now to this graceful iris which arises from reedy stems in delicate flower-heads of dark purple, lavender, and white. It varies in its colour[sic], and that is one of its most attractive characteristics.
More For Your Garden
June 27th, 1954
If you’ve read my post, Snatching Velvet in the Night, you’ll know I always wanted irises for my garden but thought they were too expensive; not enough bang for my buck. Now, I have some, courtesy of a neighbor, but still stand perplexed by the absolute obsession some people have for this flower. I asked my friends at the American Iris Society to explain their passion in hopes it might ignite in me a greater respect. I spoke with Andi Rivarola, photographer and social media manager for the AIS in regards to the iris and what he has to say was very interesting. He says it was the blue hues of the iris which drew him especially:
“In nature blue is rare and unique, and this definitely made an impact on me. Of course there’s no color limitation on irises, they are available in yellow, red, black, brown, white, purple, etc.”
As far as blue goes, Vita has written about the difficulties of finding the perfect shade of blue. I think Andi is right, the irises tower above all others in the color department. Here is what else he had to say in our interview:
Me – “As I’ve written before in my posts, I admire the American Iris Society because they’ve chosen, over all others, the iris as their focus and their first love. So I wonder what makes the Iris so special?”
Andi – “For me, irises are special because of their very form and variety of color. Most flowers have a centered focus and a round type form – petals come out of this center, just as the daylily or rose. The iris has a vertical form, some petals go up while others go down (standards and falls). Besides this, irises truly have the colors of the rainbow. I was truly impacted by the blue iris. Many irises are blue, for example dark blue like, tall bearded iris ‘Navy Blues,’ or light blue like, ‘Above the Clouds.’
When I look up the irises Vita had in her garden, the chrysographes, douglasiana, graminea, innominate, japonica, sibirica, and the stylosa – just to name a few, they all seem to be miniature versions of what I have seen growing. However, as I snuck around the neighborhood yesterday, creeping into my neighbors weedy pathways and mulched landscapes, I found something interesting. Tucked in the corner of my neighbor’s neglected garden was a species which resembled the iris sibirica of Sissinghurst. According to Andi Rivarola, my suspicions were correct, it was an iris sibirica or Siberian iris. One of Vita’s iris’. Growing in such an awkward spot, I can only imagine it was a remnant of a by-gone era. That property used to be the old schoolhouse for my neighborhood 100 years ago. Perhaps a teacher planted iris sibirica for her beloved students long ago. Maybe there were other flowers there too, but this is all that remains.
On another note, you might remember from my post, History’s Peony: A Search & Rescue, a different neighbor was tearing down his historic home; what used to be the neighborhood general store. From that property, I dug up a 100 year old peony, but also asked permission to take some old iris rhizomes. I didn’t know their color or variety, which made it more fun. They bloomed this weekend an interesting yellow, purple and mauve-brown and they smell like black licorice and grape candy. They pair nicely with the allium and the green foliage of my hydrangea. I really enjoy seeing them out my window each morning.
I think I might grow to love the iris after all.