Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Iris Fantasy

To me, iris are such beautiful plants that you hardly have to write anything about them. They speak for themselves. They also hold a special place in my heart because my mother had a long row of them in her garden back in Iowa where I grew up. Each spring as they bloomed, I would go down the row smelling each one, and marveling at the wonderful scents. At their best, the fragrances are truly delicious, almost hinting at edibility. Not so much at the bronze and yellow ones, which often smell more like something that came out of a male cat, but even those are interesting.

Iris aren't very popular in Istanbul, because they're associated mostly with graveyards, which explode with iris every spring. So the only tall bearded you see here is generally the very early purple I. germanica. Luckily for me, the fact that purple iris grow in graveyards doesn't count against iris, it just makes the graveyards that much more beautiful! This is one of the blooms on a plant that pops a good week and half before any of the rest. Other than that, it's almost identical with them.

In my mother's garden, there was a particular sky-blue one that sticks in my mind. I have no idea what the name of the variety was. But the blue was so pure and clear that sometimes I wonder if the reason I've been unable to find anything like it, is that I've idealized it in my mind and nothing will ever measure up. And I had a fantasy when it came to that iris. I had it with most of them, but it was especially the clear blue one that brought it up. It was not enough to look at the iris, or smell it; I wanted to be inside the iris. Maybe it was the fact that the upright, incurving standards of bearded iris suggest a room by their very shape. I wonder if I'm the only one who thought of it. But who wouldn't want to walk inside a cave of their favorite color, backlit by the sun, and surrounded by the intoxicating scent of iris?

I used to think that at least the bees could enjoy it. Later I learned that the inside of the "room" formed by iris petals are of absolutely no interest to a bee at all; they enter the little "ramp" over the yellow beard, three on each flower. So I needn't envy them, my fantasy remains mine.

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