Friday, May 23, 2014

Decapitating my Friends

These pink and yellow irises were given to me by a friend years ago.  She brought them to me in a plastic grocery bag, and told me that they were tough, and I could just stick them on the ground and walk away.  I did like she said, and since then the irises have multiplied and are some of my favorite blooms.  

My friend moved away and we've lost touch, but I think about her every year , when the irises bloom.  Flowers are nice that way. 

These purple irises were "rescued" by myself and another friend, a friend I worked with for years.  He and I spent many days working out of town together, and doing field work in the mountains of eastern Kentucky.  We were working in a hollow that was going to be filled with dirt and rock excavated from a new highway, and the people had already moved from the houses, which stood empty and lonely looking.  It was early spring, and the irises were just poking out of the ground in what used to be someones yard.  I had a yard for the first time, and had plenty of room, so we decided to rescue the irises from being covered by the hollow fill, even though we didn't know what color they were, so I could plant them at my house.  

We found an old broken clothes basket in the ditch, and my friend pulled the rhizomes out of the ground with his hands for me, and loaded them in the basket.  I no longer work with him, and I see him from time to time at conferences and workshops, but I don't get to spend time with him like we used to.  I think of him and some of our adventures every time these rescued purple irises in my front yard bloom.  

These purple and blue irises were given to me by another person who I no longer see.  I received two bulbs in a package from a store as a gift, packed in moss with directions for how to plant them.  This person loved the color purple, so it was no surprise to find that the irises have lovely deep purple falls and delicate purple streaks inside light blue standards.  

The two bulbs were given to me about eight years ago, and each year a new one comes up with the last, so even though I no longer see the person who gave them to me, her irises are with me more now then ever before.  

All my irises are the bearded variety, which are not native to Kentucky.  The beard is that fuzzy bee landing pad on the petal that hangs down.  

My red and yellow irises came with the house, so they don't remind me of long lost friends, but they do help me remember the surprise I got when they showed up the first time.  We bought our house, which is our first house, in the late winter, and all the vegetation was clipped close to the ground and was not very impressive.  It was exciting to watch things appear throughout the spring and summer.  I still get excited as I wait for the irises to bloom, but now I know what color to expect, so it isn't quite as surprising as that first year.  

Knowing that the bees can see the ultraviolet spectrum, I recently looked at some ultraviolet images of irises on the inter web, to see what the bees are seeing.  The "landing pad", shown above on the lower red petal in the area with the fuzzy beard and the light colored stripes, looks dark, nearly black in the ultraviolet images.  If I were a bee, I guess I would hone in on that dark area, land on the nice fuzzy landing strip, and crawl forward following the stripes toward the nectar deep inside the flower.  On my way, my back would rub against the stamen under that little flower petal flap, which is placed at exactly my height, and I would share the pollen from my last flower with this one (hold on, if I'm depositing flower sperm, what does that make me in this scenario!?), and on my way out I would get dusted with pollen from this flower.  It's a dusty job, nectar gathering, but I gotta eat, right?  

It kind of blows my mind that such a complicated structure, with nectar, landing pads, perfectly sized pollen applicators and removers is produced by a plant just to attract a bee.  Talk about sex drive!  And the whole apparatus is attractive looking to me too, so I'm encouraging them to live in my yard, and multiply.  Wait, did I just get manipulated by a plant!?  It happens.

I have a tendency to anthropomorphize my plants anyway, so I don't know if I've watched Alice in Wonderland too many times, or if irises just have more personality than other plants, but particularly for those which remind me of the people who gave them to me, I definitely have a soft spot for my iris buddies.  I like their company so much I cut their heads off and bring them in the house so they can keep me company!  "Mwa ha ha ha ha!" (evil laugh)  


MA said...

My irises have history too. Beautiful lavender ones that Lori gave me and deep purple "flags" that your great grandmother planted here. They were probably a gift from her friend 100 years ago.

Stormyshay said...

The moral to this story may be... do not give Rain irises or you will never see her again?

rain said...

Ha! I never thought of it that way!

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