IrisWednesday, June 04, 2014
When I was a boy in Argentina plants somehow were always part of my life even though I was not consciously interested in them. Walking to school from the Belgrano R station meant that while walking under the jacarandás I would either step on either their falling blue flowers or their large pods which we called chauchas. Riding the train home to Coghlan I would notice the blue or white flowers of morning glories. I was much too young to understand the difference between garden worthy plants and weeds.
My mother cultivated a beautiful garden that featured a large wisteria, many oleanders and plants that grow in the zone of Buenos Aires which is identical to South Africa. This meant we had irises and calla lilies. I think that my mother in a futile attempt to make me interested in the garden planted snapdragons. I still remember where they grew in the long narrow garden that we had. I was more interested in the many plum trees, the backyard fig tree and the níspero (loquat). I would climb them to eat their fruit. I tried a green persimmon (my father called it a kaki) once and that was enough. My mouth puckered up and I thought it was going to close in on itself.
I never connected the relationship between the irises to my Aunt Iris Hayward. My father insisted in pronouncing iris and Aunt Iris in Spanish. Sort of eerees (but you must place your tongue closer to your upper front teeth to get that Spanish r). I simply never connected even though my grandmother had some Filipino friends, the Moretas, whose many children (I think there were eight of them) were either (the men) named after biblical angels or archangels or (the women) after flowers. I only remember Violeta Moreta.
My knowledge of iris the flower ends right there. I know that my wife (she is snobbish in her choice of garden plants) considers bearded irises as common fodder but appreciates Siberian irisis and Iris ensata (Japanese iris).
But through the years of gardening here in Vancouver I do know that irises need full sun (in short supply in our shady garden). I have also heard Rosemary say that their flowers are short-lived. But both of us appreciate the Iris pseudacorus (Flag Iris). In spite of the shade of our side-garden pond they grow well (they are supposed to be invasive) and flower (yellow).
My Spanish Dictionary (Real Academia Española) informs me that iris derives from the Latin and it means rainbow. In Spanish we unnecessarily call a rainbow an arco iris. It would seem according to the mataburros (donkey killer is an epithet for dictionary in Spanish) that iris is sufficient. It is because iris plants come in so many colours that they have been given that name
Further exploration has made me learn that the Florentine Iris, also known as Orris Root is used for perfumes and is one of the special ingredients of Bombay Sapphire Gin.
The Iris has suddenly made its appearance in our garden. A nearby house was sold and then sold again. We noticed the demolition markers on the sidewalk. So Rosemary and I “liberated” some of the plants. I know my father would have opted for the word pinch. In that garden there were two large irises with blue buds. Rosemary uncharacteristically nodded in the affirmative when I pointed my spade at them.
One week later the two irises are in bloom (very dark blue) in her perennial bed which is the sunniest in our garden. Today I cut one of them to scan.
I can report that besides being very beautiful their scent resembles cocoa powder.