June Irises and Rainbows

Wabash iris by Emanuel Melo

Irises are at full bloom in Ontario. I have loved them since my mother first brought home a clump shared from Randy’s garden. As well as being a close family friend, Randy was an artist and a master of silk screening. He knew beauty in gardens and art. These personal connections evoke fond memories.

The unusual shapes of the flowers and the flowing colours of irises appeal to me on other levels. While the most common varieties of the flower include purples, whites and yellows, more exotic varieties feature peaches, oranges and even black. This week, twitter posts have featured several varieties, including some with very interesting colours and names.

The Toronto Botanical Gardens featured the early blooming, ‘Earl of Essex’ which was first registered in 1980. I find the colours pretty but not varied. The name seems very traditional.

Later in the week, The Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton featured a number of exotic varieties.

Names like ‘Anvil of Darkness’, ‘Wintry Sky’ and ‘Dracula’s Kiss’ lead me to believe that those who first hybridized these varieties were poets and lovers of classic literature. According to Schreiners Gardens, a centre of iris development in Oregon, these varieties were hybridized and registered fairly recently, in 1998, 2002 and 2009 respectively.

Irises also come in a variety of shapes. While many like ‘The Earl of Essex’ are Bearded, other lesser-known types with varying form include Japanese, Siberian and Louisiana. American Meadows has great information about the origins and history of irises, the different varieties as well as planting and care guides.

Irises are named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow. In June, I celebrate rainbows, signs of beauty and hope and a powerful symbol of the beauty of diversity. I welcome the lessons of the beauty of colour, shape and variety from the iris family. A flower devoid of colour and plain of shape is not an iris. All varieties are welcome in my garden.

With special thanks to long time friend and mentor, Emanuel Melo, for the featured photo of Iris Germanica ‘Wabash’ (1930-1939) from his garden. You will find many more interesting photos and stories in his blog.



  1. I love Irises, too! We have mostly the large purple and white variety with the little threads of yellow in their petals. But we also have some small ones that bloom in little flowers that are a deep purple almost black. The first spring we were in our house I thought some Irises would look so nice in a vase on our mantle. Big mistake. Those lovely petals left purple stains all over our freshly painted wall! So now I just enjoy them outside.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s