Heritage Iris and Other Flowers

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal

These iris are in my front yard. The old timey name for them when I was growing up was “flags.” There couldn’t be a much better plant for sharing. Dig up a few rhizomes and give them to a friend and soon they’ll have a patch like these. I got the start of these from my sister who got them from the yard where our grandfather and aunt lived when we were growing up. I also have some darker purple ones that came from the house where I grew up. Then I have some more from our old country church and even some from the remains of an old house I discovered way back in the woods. Those probably trace their beginnings back over a hundred and fifty years.  Maybe longer. I just discovered this year an iris blade by another house site on our farm. I’m going to dig up one of the bulbs and add them to my collection.

The thing about iris is that you can’t really throw them away. Pitch them down the hill and the next thing you know spring comes around again and the hillside is blooming. Joyfully. Cheerfully. Like an old friend.

There are 200-300 different varieties and colors of iris and that’s where the flower gets its name – from a Greek word for rainbow. Blessed with the colors of the rainbow and the purest white, the iris has been recognized as the dancing spirit of early summer. The Chinese think its soft, fluttering petals look like butterfly wings, flapping gently in the breeze and so the flower there is known as Tze Hu-tieh or “The Purple Butterfly.”   In other countries, the flower symbolism associated with the iris is faith, wisdom, cherished friendship, hope, valor, promise in love, wisdom. Irises were used in Mary Gardens. The blade-shaped foliage denotes the sorrows which ‘pierced her heart.’

I just found out all that info. I don’t have symbolic reasons for liking them. I just do. I like their many colors, the fact that even major neglect rarely damages them. They bloom with abandon year after year. They stand tall in a vase and the buds keep blooming out. And some of them have the most delicious fragrance. Some of these purple ones in the photo are fragrant and others are not even though the blooms look identical.

But one of the best reasons I like them is because they bloomed for my parents and grandparents and great grandparents. They connect me with my heritage. I like putting those kinds of flowers in my yard. Besides the iris, I have a japonica bush and peonies from my dad’s homeplace and more peonies from my mother-in-law’s last house. I have lilac bushes from my brother-in-law’s house. I have maples and poplars moved to the yard from the field. I have a cherry tree from my uncle. I have daylilies from my daughter. And when I look at these flowers and plants, I remember those people and I smile thinking of the heritage of beauty that has been entrusted to me.

Do you have flowers that make you remember past places or people?