Monday, May 14, 2012

Heirloom Iris

I always wanted to collect something but I never really did. It seemed to me that refined old ladies always talk about their collections of things. I happened to marry into a family that collects collections. Lots of them. I'd never heard of anyone collecting flowers until I met my sister-in-law. 
She collects daylilies, and her great uncle before her did as well. Lucky for her. 
Lucky for me, he also collected iris. 

My mother had delightful irises lining our driveway when I was a child. It was the highlight of my May to get off the school bus to their elegant forms. When Mom and Dad moved off the farm, I took some roots with me. This is what makes iris so amazing. They grow on or just barely below the surface, are nearly indestructible (curse you iris borer!) and grow from rhizomes which are easy peasy to propagate. Thus they are a.) easily collectable from folks you know and b.) easily heirloom-able as their upkeep is minimal and they "bloom and grow forever." *cue Edelweiss tune*

 My great-grandmother on my father's side also collected iris though I did not know it until I moved into my house. My Aunt Co had several which she had gotten from Mama Brown and so gave pieces and parts to me. Lastly, my mother-in-law had several that were her mothers that came from various places including her mother's brother, the aforementioned great uncle from above.

The complicated part, because I have to make something so easy complicated somehow, is that a collection needs to have parameters and "just because someone gave it to me" doesn't quite gel. So, "heirloom" is defined as being 30 years or older. As I happen to be in my 30th year, it seems appropriate to officially declare my iris collection relevant to those varieties established prior to 1982. Though the definition of "heirloom" changes every year, for my intents and purposes, I think I will stick to my year of birth going into the future.

Thanks to The Historical Iris Preservation Society (HIPS), I am going through the database one bit at a time trying to figure out what I have. This also helps me in the stores to decide if an iris I find meet my criteria.

This is my favorite one from our driveway when I was a child. 

  My favorite from my mother -in-law and the lovely "blue" from Aunt Co. 

A whole pile from my mother-in-law / Uncle Johnnie. There are six kinds in this bed but only one has been positively identified.

Do you have old "hand-me-down" iris out and about in your yard? Check out the HIPS website and see if you can learn what is what! You may have a rare treasure on your hands and not even know it!

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