It's a spring for Irises

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on April 22, 2012

I have a ton of shortcomings; I just hate to admit to this one. I have sorely neglected my irises, I really have. But I swear, I promise to do much better; I really really will. And if you take time to read this, please don't look at the weeds. I honestly have no excuses.

It was a very early spring with blooms appearing at least 3 weeks earlier than usual. March was filled with wisteria and rhododendrons, azaleas and flowering trees. By the end of March everything was green. But the biggest surprise came in early April when irises I hadn't seen in years began to bloom, all at the same time.

I should have paid more attention over the years. The old blue flags that my grandfather planted in his flower garden were my favorites when I was a little girl, maybe because they were blue, or maybe because they were about my height and I could look at them eye to eye.

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In my grandfather's garden in 1944

But over the years I became interested in other plants and didn't give much thought to irises. They were like a lot of other things I took for granted.

The past two years we have been in near drought conditions in western Kentucky with very heavy rains, wind and flooding in spring, and very long, hot, dry summers.  Again I didn't pay much attention but I realized my irises had very nearly quit blooming.

It doesn't matter, I remember thinking, they are old plants anyway. But that wasn't true. Some of them had only in recent years been given to me by my internet gardening buddies. I just realized that this year when they all started blooming early in April. Suddenly I had iris blooms that I'd never seen before.

I don't know if the early spring jogged them into bloom, or if they just suddenly woke up and decided to join the sunshine; whatever it was, it sure is pretty around here.

This house was built in 1971, we moved into it in '74. With it came these two irises.

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Of course they've been moved a few times, here, there and somewhere else over the years; I just didn't miss them when they were not blooming.


This copper colored iris lived along the driveway of a little old lady whose house was next door to the entrance to the school where I taught for more years than I care to remember. Some spring mornings she'd be out there tending her irises when I made my early morning trek to school. Sometimes she'd stop and wave as I pulled into the school's entrance right beside her copper colored irises.  I always waved good morning to her, too.

Some time before I retired I noticed the irises were blooming but my friend wasn't outside with them, and that year I learned that our school system had purchased the property where she had lived. The house and grounds were going to be razed to make way for a track for our track team. The old lady was no longer living and her family had sold the property. Permission was given to those of us who asked, so we went to the property one afternoon and gathered some rhizomes before the property was cleared to the ground. I always think of her and her good morning waves when these lovely irises bloom.

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Some of the following came from the mountains, some came from internet friends, some came from a dear friend in Ohio; most I thought I had lost and it's for sure if they had name tags, the tags are no longer with them.  

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Here is my newest passion, shared with me by Muddymitts three years ago and more beautiful than I deserve since I had to ask again for its name. This is Pompano Peach and I love its color.

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I have daylilies, roses, ferns, hostas, heucheras, monarda, spiderwort, dandelions and chickweed and most every other weed or plant that will grow here in this hot, wet, dry, you never know what to expect climate; but I didn't keep up with my irises. You'd think with PollyK being one of my dearest friends I'd know all about them.

But with apologies to her and with thanks to all who've shared with me over the years, I'll try to find their long lost names and take much better care of them.

I think maybe this was their year to stand up and say, "Hey, look at us, we've outlasted a lot of your other plants and you didn't have to pay a bit of attention to us. Now don't you think it's time to open your eyes and see what you've missed?"

I guess I need to get them all together and create a real iris garden, instead of leaving them to fend for themselves beneath the cedar tree, on the rock wall, beside the buddleia, up against the foundation and covered in weeds.

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Now I know very well that all you iris growers will cringe when you read this. I don't blame you a bit, I cringe while writing it. But the thing is, I promise to do much better!

Are your irises blooming yet?  Some are, because I've seen them. Maybe you could share pictures of them in the threads that follow this article, and maybe, if I'm very lucky, you might even provide names for the ones that happily bloom untended in my yard.

Related articles:
iris

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired art and humanities teacher. I am an artist and I am also a writer who has written a series of articles about the history and medicinal value of Kentucky wildflowers. The articles tell of growing up in the mountains of southeast Kentucky with my great Aunt Bett and Granny Ninna. I currently live in western KY.

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