To me, irises are the most exquisite flowers on earth. When many people think of irises, they think of Van Gogh's heartbreakingly beautiful purple blooms:
But in fact, in modern times irises are grown in every color imaginable.
The original French fleur de lys were the precurors to today's irises. Traditional irises were what we would consider small (and here's Van Gogh again):
But the trend in recent years has been towards bigger, showier, bearded varieties.
I'm not, by any means, an iris expert. They're just my favorite flowers, and anything I know about them is what I've picked up by serving as a part-time volunteer every bloom season (more or less the four-week period surrounding Memorial Day) for the past eleven or twelve years at the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in Montclair, New Jersey. The Presby Gardens have been a fixture at that site since 1927, and bloom season there is really something to behold. The beds house over 3,000 varieties of iris, some dating back to the 1500's and some hybridized just in the past year. The people who really work at the gardens are incredible fonts of information on all things iris, and I can't think of many ways I'd rather spend a few hours than sitting in that extraordinary setting at the "host table," greeting visitors and trying to answer their questions. I've also worked in the Bloom Room, the on-site gift shop featuring a wide variety of home and garden items, many of them iris-related. The Gardens have become a symbol of spring to me.
If you live in New York or northern New Jersey, please stop by this bloom season! People visit the Gardens from all over the world. They bring their children, they bring their dogs, they picnic on the hill. Pretty much everyone leaves there smiling. Even grumpy old me!!!
p.s. Sorry about my tantrum yesterday. Will try to complete the rest of the alphabet without any further disruption. Will no doubt fail, but will sincerely try.