In 1970, when I was ten, my family moved into a house with a long bed beside the driveway just bursting with these purple iris. I'd never seen anything like them before. They held me spellbound. I thought they smelled like grapes. My sister said they reminded her of jelly beans. The fragrance was heavenly, one of those scents that drifts softly and sweetly across the garden, drawing you nearer.
I've carried these irises along with me from garden to garden for close to 50 years. During my time in St. Louis, when I didn't have a garden, they carried on at my daughter's, waiting until I had a place for them again. Now they're finding places in new gardens and with new generations as my older girls are becoming gardeners themselves.
I love plants with a history, whether that history is a personal connection or a more anonymous connection with other gardeners from the past whose names I will never know. I've often wondered about the people who planted these irises in the bed at my childhood home. Who were they and how did they came to plant them? Part of me yearns to identify the variety of iris I have and to know its history. But not knowing hasn't diminished my fascination and love for these flowers and, in the end, knowing isn't really that important. What is important to me is their beauty and the fact that they do somehow connect me to people and to places that were, and are, and are yet to be.
I don't have a lot of happy memories from my childhood. These flowers are one and I'm happy that they will continue to be a beautiful connection through generations of my family long after I am only a memory myself.
©2019 by Karen Opp James. All rights reserved.