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  • Writer's pictureGranny Bonnet

Iris

February 2023

Painting of a blue iris plant by Granny Bonnet
Painting of a blue iris plant by Granny Bonnet

One of my most favourite flowers is the Iris. From early clumps of Iris sylvatica that can expand into great swathes of blue or purple carpeting, to stately flag irises that rise out of the border in so many different guises. The most well-known border variety is Iris germanica, sometimes known as bearded iris, whose flowers come in all colours, often with elaborate ruffles. I'm particularly fond of one that goes by the name of Rajah which was given to me by a long-dead friend and which I have managed to keep going for many years. Its main petals are a soft bronze colour and its middle is yellow, not particularly showy by today’s standards, but it has a heavenly scent.


Not so another of my garden companions that chooses to stay rather more hidden in the light shadow of a Cedrus Deodar and which definitely does not have an attractive perfume!

Iris Feotidissima—stinking iris. Image credit: Patrick Roper
Iris Feotidissima—stinking iris. Image credit: Patrick Roper

​The flowers are fairly insignificant pale yellow with a touch of mauve and are veined with darker lines. While they can be easily overlooked at the time of flowering, at the other end of the season it’s a different story as the large seed-pods burst open to revel glorious flaming orange seeds that light the gloom of the corner it chooses to reside in.


Iris berries by Jymm
Iris berries by Jymm

In plant-lore, this iris has many names. Blue Devil, Dragon Flower, Dagger Flower are a few of them. Stinking Iris, Bloody Bones and Roast-Beef Plant are others, for if the leaves are bruised, they give off an unpleasant odour like stale, bloody meat. The evergreen leaves are typically flat, narrow and upright and I can certainly see how it acquired its other common-names Gladdon or Gladwyn, as they derive from Old English for 'sword'.

Irises carved in oak—Granny Bonnet
Irises carved in oak—Granny Bonnet

Many years ago Granny carved some irises in Oak. More recently, on holiday in France, I whiled away some time painting an iris to be left in the lovely old house we were sharing with friends. Now I have it in mind to get out my pastels and attempt another painting for myself. This time I hope I can do justice to the elegant purple Iris Siberica. I for one, just can't get enough of irises and their lovely fragrant blooms!


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