Monday, June 22, 2009
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.
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.