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  • Writer's pictureJill

Irises for My Mom

My mom loved irises, and was an avid gardener all of her life. In that regard, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. I love irises and have loved gardening all of my life too. So, because my mom lived with us for 15 years before she went to her reward, she was the resident gardener, and planted dozens of irises all over our garden, in every possible nook and cranny.

Now that I am the resident gardener, I am doing my best to take care of her irises, making sure that they continue to grace our spring garden. This has been a bigger job than I had expected. There are so many irises in so many places! But I have been dogged in my quest to make sure that they have the best care, and part of that job means that I have to dig them up, divide the bulbs, and then replant them, so that we continue to have my mom’s presence in our garden into the future.

The video above is sort of a “how to” about the process of taking care of my irises, and the method of “dividing” them. So I won’t go into detail about that here. But as I spent all of this time with my mom’s irises, I realized that I don’t know very much about them, except that they’re stunners in spring, and one of the most dependable flowers in my garden. So I did a little research…and I found out more about this spring beauty.

First of all, the name of the iris derives from Greek mythology, for the goddess of the rainbow. Her name actually carried a double meaning, being connected with both the Greek word iris "the rainbow" and eiris "messenger." Though, while irises may have acquired their name because of the wide array of colors, there is one color that you will never see in an iris. Ever see a red one? Nope. There’s burgundy, rust, copper, lots of red adjacent iris colors but no geranium red, or rose red. But it’s not for lack of trying. Here’s a fascinating article about the efforts to create the perfect red iris!

One of the earliest known artworks of an iris appears on a fresco in the Greek island of Crete, in King Minos’ palace, dating from 2100 B.C. In Britain, in the late 1500’s there is a well known painting of Queen Elizabeth I in an iris embroidered gown. And of course, we can’t forget Louis XIVth’s adoption of the iris as a symbol of power and position in the late 1600’s, which became stylized as the Fleur de Lys, used as the symbol of French royalty for centuries.

Irises have also been used in medicinal preparations for skin infections, and digestive problems. Today it is still used in medicines that cleanse the liver.

According to some experts, after the rose, the iris is the most favored flower of artists. It appears in paintings by daVinci, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, and of course, Monet. Van Gogh’s iris painting sold for 53 million dollars, the highest price every paid for a painting at that time.

And yet, though the iris has a royal provenance of Kings and millionaires, it is just as comfortable in the backyard gardens of regular people like you and me.

Thanks to my mom, the vista from my kitchen window is punctuated by these tall beauties, elegant, and erect, demanding respect, and commanding our attention. I spent the last month, digging, dividing, and planting irises in every nook and cranny of my garden. Just like my mom. And I couldn’t be happier about that.

Referenced: about Irises


Mary Anne Rapuano
Aug 06, 2020

My very favorite flower...the poor man's orchid? Nice dividing and replanting...Hope you will show us the result next Spring?


Aug 06, 2020

Thank you for providing both an excellent how to video with a wonderful backstory. We can’t grow iris here but I was called upon to dig 200 amaryllis bulbs that were slated for the dumpster. I have some sense of the task. Not an easy one at all.

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