Monday, June 22, 2009

No-name irises

The first bearded iris to bloom.

As much as I like knowing the specific variety of a plant, sometimes, in the end, it doesn't really matter. Take these two bearded irises for example. The gold one is the first to bloom here; the first bud opened a week ago. It came from a stand of irises at my father-in-law's Chicago-area home. They were planted many years ago and the name has long been forgotten.

Found in a Nebraska cemetery.

The name of the pale yellow iris, which started blooming just a day later, also is unknown. It's from a country cemetery in southwestern Nebraska, where it rings the graves of my great-grandparents. The tiny graveyard is in the middle of nowhere, and who knows who originally planted the iris or how many springs they have bloomed. We sliced off a couple of pieces of rhizome when we visited about 10 years ago. It was one of those perfect fall Nebraska afternoons, when everything was blue sky and burnished earth, and it seemed appropriate to take a piece of the day back to Minnesota with us. From those first few pieces of rhizomes we now have six sturdy, beautiful clumps.

Both varieties feature smallish blossoms, very different from some of the highly-bred varieties you see in many catalogs. But they possess a simplicity and a grace that can't be duplicated. Plus, every summer they are a reminder of where we came from.

Purple 'Joan Elliot' campanula glomerata is a friendly companion
for the Nebraska immigrant.

1 comment:

  1. The bearded iris that came from your father-in-laws home looks very much like it may be a "Jitterbug." It was a popular iris for the area due to its long lasting flower and bloom time of late spring to mid-summer. More information and photos about it can be found at