Hello Irises.

April 11, 2011

In my mother's yard. Photo by Bryan Moats.

Whenever I see an iris I think of my grandmother. She loved them, especially the purple ones, and each spring her front yard would be covered in blooms  (someday when the McElroy House opens the yard will be filled with them again).

Somewhere  in boxes I have yet to unpack there are photos of my mother and grandmother in front of those irises, dressed in their finest Sunday clothes. They were the backdrop to all Easter photos.

Because irises have always reminded me of my grandmother, they became a symbol to me decades before I understood anything about flowers. I had them included in my wedding bouquet, and I planted one at my first apartment in Fayetteville in a a rather bad spot. I don’t think it made it.

I recall one afternoon around six years ago walking back to work from the public library in Fayetteville and seeing an older women tending to her front yard full of irises. They came in all colors—yellow, deep purple, white, lilac, tri-colors of all mixes. There had to be thousands.

I stopped and spoke to her and told her of my grandmother’s love for them and how beautiful her own garden was. She looked so beautiful standing there surrounded by all those flowers. So then she cut several for me and put them in a coffee can filled with water so that I could take them back to my office.  To this day that kindness from a complete stranger stands out in my mind as one of the best gifts of all time.

Last time I was back home the irises were in bloom all along my mother’s backyard. They are there, at least partially, because they reminded her of her own mother. Here are a few photos.

Do you have any iris stories? I’d love to hear them.


12 Responses to “Hello Irises.”

  1. Jo Ann said

    Meredith: I love, love, love, this story, and I love the fact the lady gave you some of her irises!
    I know you don’t know my children other than Paul…but every Mother’s Day since his sister, Lisa, was one, irises have been part of my Mother’s Day celebration. That year (1968), we lived in Anderson, Indiana, and we flat poor. We lived in a rental house, and on that holiday, irises were blooming in the back yard. Paul’s Dad tried to make the day very special, without much cash…he and Lisa brought me breakfast in bed, and he had rubber-banded an iris around Lisa’s head before they walked in! Every Mother’s Day since, irises have been a part of Mother’s Days for me…one year all 5 kids had rubber-banded irises on their heads, sometimes there were irises in a vase, representing each child; I’ve received a watercolor print of 5 irises, lots of cards with irises on them, etc. When I see irises in the Spring, I think of Jim’s caring, and the kids’ caring, and how precious they are to me. Sometimes it’s wonderful to recall how traditions begin, isn’t it? This one with one tiny little one year old and a thoughtful Daddy, short on cash. I’m so glad we were short on that cash…that’s when creativity comes into our lives, love reigns, and traditons are born!

  2. samantha said

    There were purple irises blooming outside when Eliza was born here in our living room. Everything had kind of stalled out for a really long time. I started talking to her to convince her to come on out. I told her about those flowers out there and their color purple.

    I told our midwives that Alice Walker said that God got mad if someone walked past the color purple without noticing. Maria told me she couldn’t stop wearing purple since then. I myself have added a lot of purple to my own wardrobe since then as well.

    I sung Eliza a tune in utero and then used the same one to calm her down her first days and years of adjusting to her body. I made up lyrics that include the iris blooming. Our first one is in the yard now, and I always link it to her birth.

    • Sam, this is so awesome! Every time I hear more about Eliza’s birth I just can’t get over how amazing it was. Such a special, special person. Both of you.

      And I love that you told the midwives about Alice Walker’s quote and that you now have more purple in your wardrobe!
      I’d love to hear the lyrics sometime if you’d share.

  3. Janis said

    I love Iris’ too! Especially the purple ones. My mom always had them growing on each side of her long driveway. It sounds like they are very much a”Mom” flower. I love you too Meredith, give G and I a hug for me. I sure miss them but love reading about them and looking at photos, Your blog always makes me feel and visualize your Mom’s smile! Janis

  4. Rhonda said

    My favorite flower is the iris and I’m particularly fond of the purples since purple is my favorite color. My grandmother had beautiful purple irises growing along the ditch in front of her house. (Purple was her favorite color, too.) She never did anything to them and they were lovely year after year. Mom transplanted some to her house after my grandparents died. Those are the hardiest irises ever. I used to have white, purple and yellow in my backyard but, for some reason, they’ve all turned white. Maybe they were hybrids.

  5. Nelda said

    My dad is the iris-lover in my family. Somehow all the neighbors we ever had always contacted him whenever they were thinning their irises, so our front and back yards had them all the time. He’d dig them out and rearrange them according other landscaping and building projects. The last time I visited my dad’s childhood home in western New York, I realized how different the gardening experience must have been for him there than it is out in the high desert in Utah. Things just grow there because it rains so often; gardening in Utah is like trying to conjure up little green things by pouring water on the earth. I think my dad takes pity on volunteer plants and cast-off iris bulbs because they have to work so hard to make it, and who is he to put a stop to that?

  6. Jill said

    My grandma always loved irises, too! And, they always make me think of her. We have that in common 🙂

  7. […] once gave them a cutting of the lilac bush or the four o’clocks which now cover their yard.   Last year I wrote a piece about my grandmother’s love for irises and soon discovered just how many other people had similar connections to the plant, family members […]

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