An iris clump seems to grow at lightning speed once the rains abate and the sun comes out. Within days the buds open wide to reveal their hidden secrets. These hardy flowers are a favourite of mine, as they meet my gardening criteria: they are pretty; they bloom every spring; they need next to no maintenance.
Skimming through the web in an effort to glean some factoids about irises, I discovered that the name iris stems from the Greek word for ‘rainbow’. According to ancient lore, a Greek goddess named Iris travelled along rainbows to deliver messages between heaven and earth.
The iris is the national flower of Croatia, the state flower of Tennessee and the provincial flower of Quebec (Canada). Vincent van Gogh painted several famous pictures of irises. The fleur-de-lis is a stylized iris, and can be seen in the Quebec flag, the logo of the New Orleans Saints pro football team, on the flag of Saint Louis, Missouri and on the coat of arms of Florence (Italy).
A Japanese Connection
In Japanese culture, the iris flower is revered for its purifying properties. In addition, the flower “… is a common symbol found in kimono fabrics, as well as in paintings and the short Japanese poetry style known as haiku.”
Japanese culture is near and dear to my heart, after teaching English as a Second Language courses in Nishinomiya, Japan. Flashing back to that summer of 1978, I remembered a particular excursion to a sacred place. The orderly crowd of hundreds wound along a curvy path towards the temple or shrine. Flowing alongside the path as far as the eye could see: a purple and white river of irises, stately and elegant, awe-inspiring and memorable.
If you’re an artist, you may wish to paint an iris. My favourite YouTube video featured Danny Chen’s Chinese brush painting. With only a few well-placed strokes, this artist’s painting came to life.
Or, if you’re like me and are impatient, try the Waterlogue app and make your own watercolour in an instant.
Next time you’re wandering out and about, take a moment to admire the irises in your neighbourhood. You may be glad you did.