The classy way to use irises. They were here before I arrived, naturally.
I love this moment when the flag irises, Iris pseudacorus, bloom around my pond in the country. They are very tall–4 or 5 feet–and stately in a simple way. And if I were an elegant person, I'd leave it at that and avoid all other more tawdry iris adventures.
But I'm not an elegant person, I'm a native of New Jersey. (Though I have been dropping hints to my husband that he needs to watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey in order to appreciate just how far out of the primordial ooze I've managed to climb.)
Also strange things happen, I find, when you buy a Victorian house. Eventually, you start feeling some sympathy for an aesthetic that happens to be ornate.
It started with me at a plant sale four years ago. Our neighbors had just taken down a giant maple tree on the border of my property, and I suddenly had sun in my yard. I also had super-sandy soil and much of what I planted just wilted. Perfect conditions, I was aware, for bearded irises.
So I picked up a plastic bag marked "Blue irises." There were about fifteen rhizomes in there. The price for whole shebang was $3. When they first bloomed, I was ambivalent. They are a kind of washed-out light blue. They are clearly different from the highly bred bearded irises in that their buds are covered in what looks like brown paper.
But three years later, they are tall and beautiful in enormous clumps of spiky foliage, and I love them and am spreading them not just around my back yard, but all over the neighborhood.
Now, I confess, I am really interested in beaded irises, though they are not a good plant for an impatient gardener like me, since they take two years after planting to produce a bloom, and once they do bloom, I decide they are the wrong color and move them to a different spot and set them back another two years.
But I love the velvety dark ones in particular. They are just so outrageous and unlike anything else in the garden. In fact, in their ample use of black and various magentas and purples and giant ruffles flying off in all directions and glowering certainty that serving as a sex object is purpose enough for anyone, The Real Housewives of New Jersey resemble them.
And they–the irises–are all given what are supposed to be sexy names like "Satan's Mistress, ""Recurrent Fantasy," "Aggressively Forward," and "Fatal Attraction."
Hilarious! Ridiculous! Tacky! So New Jersey! Must order more.