Bearded Iris blooms. Even year I look forward to perusing the Iris flowers as they bloom across our various rhizome clumps. My Grandfather had a whole backyard full of them. He cross bred, cut and spliced in a decades long attempt to breed an original. Although he never succeeded he took great pride in the quest.
As his small grandson, I would be subject to instruction on the various attributes of his favourites. I can still remember the ones with peach and apricot hues that I thought were pretty and special. I still have the set of small scalpels, spatulas and tweezers he used for dissecting and cross pollinating.
In the off season, I would get to enjoy the fallow patches being rested for next season’s plantings. The sandy grey soil was ideally mouldable for designing and constructing large townships through which I drove toy cars and above which I flew toy planes, before ravaging them with troops of merciless toy soldiers and destructive machines of war.
In so doing, it was not uncommon for me to dig up ancient lead MIAs and other paraphealia from a previous age – when my father and uncles played the same games before me.
My wife and I moved into the house after my grandfather died. Our son and daughter followed to play in sandpits in the same backyard, but with less ruthlessness.
We dug up the hundreds of, possibly thousands, of Iris rhizomes as we returned the backyard to a more diverse and recreational space. In turn these were bagged and distributed to friends, family and workplaces across the city. I like to think of them as a pleasurable legacy, still growing in unanticipated locations. Maybe even being passed on again to new generations as they continue to multiply and flourish.
These are the toughest of plants. When at their best they are also the most easily damaged. They do well in poor soil and conditions, survive frosts, can largely be left to fend for themselves. Then every Spring for a few brief weeks they flower in splendour. Such beautiful blooms on close inspection they stimulate wonder. Such tall flower spikes topped with such colourful blooms they should not be ignored. And yet, they are often ignored. They remain such a fragile thing. If you don’t appreciate them immediately at full bloom they are like to be gone the next time you look, weatherbeaten by either wind or rain. Turned into a torn, ragged mess with little shape or form.
Great beauty is such a transient condition in living things. So often taken for granted before appreciated – and then gone. Irises remind me to take the time to appreciate.