Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Showing the Flag Irises: the Garden in High Spring


                 The iris is the colored part of your eye. In Greek mythology Iris is one of those many 'other' gods and goddesses not included on the 'A' list of Olympian celebrities. Also described as the personification of the rainbow -- maybe there's a clue for an answer -- she is  goddess of the sea and sky who serves as a messenger of the gods. Thereby, learned sources tell us, linking the gods to us little people here below. The question is how did this divine character name come to be applied to the showy perennial that flourishes in late May and early June? Maybe it's the plant's ability to produce flowers in all the colors of the rainbow? Maybe Iris flowers are thought, in some way, to channel the beauty of the immortals -- creatures who tend to lie around in flower gardens (no ants at their picnic) -- to mortal nature.
            One thing everybody who grows irises knows about these blossoms is they're not immortal. You have to catch them while you can, because they don't last long.
            The other interesting term is "flag iris," which a little research tells me is apparently the common gardener's term for the species Iris Versicolor ("changeable in color"). Varieties include the Blue Flag, Harlequin Blueflag, Larger Blue Flag, Northern Blue Flag, and Poison Flag. In the UK and Ireland it's called Purple Iris.
            I don't which kinds of flags we're flying here in the back garden, but I am happy to report that this spring the flower is really flying. Anne said the blossoms look like prom dresses. I can't think of a better comparison.
            I transplanted these irises a couple of years ago to their current situation in the hope of giving them more sun, or even just a change of scene, from a place where most of them were failing to bloom. It took them a couple of years to settle in. This year they're dressing up a whole ballroom in fancy dress 'flag' blossoms.
            The photos here come from a week ago.
            I've thought of irises as June bloomers. We haven't had any June yet this year, because the first few days of the month were given over to after-effects from the last day of May wallopaloozer

downpour that delivered an average month-of-May rainfall in a single day, after a month-long drought.
            Happily our irises appear oblivious to the changes in weather. We have another big sweet flag iris bombshell on the way that I haven't tried to get a photo yet because they're still emerging.
            Another high-spring merry month of May bloomer that sparkled this year is speedwell, (fourth photo) which I have come to learn is technically veronica, or veronica officinalis. The word "speedwell" means thrive, and it's a good name for such hardy fellows. Veronica comes from Saint Veronica, and the connection of the flower to the death of Jesus is another one of those grim legends I'm going to omit repeating here.
            I've planted speedwell in various places in our garden, both in front of the house and in the back garden, because it's hardy and reliable, and the flowers come in a charming variety of blue, or blue and white shades. And because they are just so "May."
            I'm sorry to see the high tide of May flow away from us so quickly. The only compensation is we're smack into the high-sun, high-octane bloom season of June.