The unique shape of the iris is striking – three petals that stretch upward to form a crown, and three more petals that drape downward for its skirt. My father once called them “flags,” and after I laughed at him I learned that this was a somewhat old-fashioned name for an iris. Some say this is the flower after which the French fleur-de-lis is modeled.
The iris is the state flower of Tennessee. One of the state songs is When It’s Iris Time in Tennessee:
Where the Iris grows,
Where the Harpeth flows,
That is where I long to be.
There’s a picture there that lives in memory
When it’s Iris time in Tennessee.
Iris can be found in a wide range of colors, pastels and deep jewel tones, which is appropriate since they are named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow. Some are two-tone specimens. But in my mind the real, true iris is purple. That’s the color of the state flower, and that’s the signature shade of the most recognized variety. The traditional sight of purple iris growing against an old stone wall makes my heart sing.
Growing up, our house was situated on a high riverbank, and my grandfather planted iris all along the edge of the bluff. Some were purple, some yellow, and some were white. They would bloom in stages, by color. It was quite a delightful sight, one that remained in my memory long after we moved away. When I went back recently to visit the place where I grew up, the white iris were blooming. Yes, they were still there! Again, my heart was full.