"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag
Bearded Irises: White Standards, Purple Falls (1 of 3)

Bearded Irises: White Standards, Purple Falls (1 of 3)

From Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden by Noel Kingsbury:

Iris is, after Rosa, the most genetically complex hardy plant genus. An overview of it presents several oddities:

– No other genus of cultivation includes plants from such totally different habitats, from desert to waterside marginals….

– Flower colour range is exceptionally broad — basically yellow or blue/purple in nature, but with pinks and many very dark purples to almost black now available…. Indeed, the genus is named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow.

– Very few natural species are in cultivation — nearly all garden plants are hybrids.

– Species or varieties with a broad habitat tolerance are few and far between; many are quite particular about conditions, or are relatively high maintenance. Most could be described as connoisseur plants.

– Flowering season tends to be short. No breeder has come up with a gene for long-flowering… yet.

– The flower shape is broadly universal, with standards (the true petals, standing upright in the centre) and falls (petal-like sepals facing down and out). The inner part of each fall is covered by an additional petal-like structure, the style arms, which have evolved from the style. There may (or may not) be a beard of hairs at the top of the fall.”

From the short quotation above, we learn a little bit about the biology of irises, and that the two distinct parts of the plant’s flower are called standards and falls. The irises in the galleries below — from the same general area in Oakland Cemetery’s gardens — exhibit white standards (with blue or purple veining), and falls that are predominantly purple but also seem to reflect back every color of the rainbow, from purple and blue to orange and yellow in the beard.

Over the next few days, I’ll post the rest of the series — where I took my photographs of these flowers (and a few others) and converted their backgrounds to black.

Thanks for taking a look!

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