I wish my iris were as nice as Nannie’s. My grandmother, Mary Higgs Wren (everyone but her sisters called her Mary Jim) grew and hybridized iris. For a couple of weeks every year, all around her yard, there were hundreds and hundreds of them. You see them in almost every picture of the house.
Nannie had all sorts of varieties. Mom recently gave me her log book of what she had, where she got it, and when. Also in the log were the results of her mixing and creating her own hybrid iris.
When Kathleen and I bought our house, I got a bunch of the iris. I bought a bunch of other fancy varieties, too. For a few years, they really looked good. The spring was a burst of color. But, the rest of the year, there were only a bunch of fronds that got overgrown and scraggly looking. Then brown spot and borers and bunnies came. Then travel came. I never had the green thumb or patience that Nannie had, so my iris never looked, and still don’t look as good.
Iris are basically weeds. They grow and make tons of babies. Every four or five years, you have to dig them all up, split them, and plant no more than 1/4 of what you dug up. Last summer was a digging time. I actually took out a couple of beds and dug and split a couple of others. I sent boxes and boxes of rhizomes to my family. And my yard is still overgrown with iris.
But, every year about this time, I watch them carefully. There are a couple of little patches of iris still in the yard that are special to me. Nannie always called this little white one the White Flag of Spring. It’s small, never more than about 14 inches high. But, without fail, it blooms right a the end of March, or at the latest the first week of April. And right on schedule, it bloomed this past week. It always makes me think of Nannie’s house and all her iris. And then I smile.