"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag
Orange and White Irises — and Creamsicles!

Orange and White Irises — and Creamsicles!

From “The Quest for Orange” in The World of Irises, edited by Bee Warburton and Melba Hamblen: 

“The challenge of breeding a good orange iris that will thrive in all areas has resulted in many outstanding introductions in this color class. Although they have fallen short of perfection, usually because of their inability to adapt to variable climactic conditions, each one has contributed to general improvement in clarity of color, form, branching and vigor. Varieties that appear in pedigrees include: Suiter’s Orange Frills and Orange Crush; O. Brown’s Tantallon and Neon Magic; Fay’s Orange Chariot and Radiant Light; Marsh’s Prairie Blaze and Tangerine Sunset; Shoop’s Spanish Affair and Spanish Gift; B. Jones’s Bright Butterfly; Mayberry’s Orange Vista.”

From “Orange” in A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts by Kelly Norris:

“The citrusy range of tones we call orange makes my mouth water. Orange bearded irises sparkle and gleam on warm spring days, the perfect show for a mid-afternoon stroll through the garden with a mimosa. An orange bearded iris of some kind is an essential plant to grow.

“The history of orange bearded irises… traces back to breeding efforts with yellows and pinks, work that was by no means easy. Some of the first orange-colored irises, blends of off-colors or faint allusions to orange by present definitions, lacked good floral substance and architecture. Some of the best examples of these new colors came from crosses involving median irises (standard dwarf bearded, intermediate bearded, miniature tall bearded, and border bearded) and early dwarfs like Schreiner’s unregistered yellow ‘Carpathia’, coupled with further line breeding and use of apricot-colored irises that were the by-products of pink breeding. Many breeders have risen to the challenge of developing orange irises with distinctive colors, good form and substance, and sound growing habits.”

From “Kings, Commoners, and Cones” in Ice Cream: The Delicious History by Marilyn Powell:

“In 1872, the Hokey-Pokey, a frozen fruit bar on a stick, was available, but it was ahead of its time. The idea didn’t really catch on until about fifty years later, when Frank Epperson got the ‘novelty’ going again — that’s the term the trade still uses for pre-made, portable, individual treats….

“One night, Epperson, who manufactured powdered lemonade, left a full glass on the windowsill with a spoon in it. Overnight, the temperature dropped below freezing, and in the morning he realized that he’d produced something he could sell. He called it the Epsicle and patented it in 1924….

“The Epsicle became the Popsicle and proved an instant hit everywhere it was sold, in stands or stores or trucks, on city streets and boardwalks at the seashore, and in amusement parks. It was followed by the Creamsicle and all the other ‘sicles.'”


Of all the irises I’ve photographed at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens, these varieties with orange standards and white falls are among my favorites (except for all the other color combinations, which are also my favorites). There are two different kinds here: those below the double row of asterisks are similar to some I’ve photographed before, and those above that row are new to me, and, very likely, new to the gardens. Their presence among a sea of many-colored tea roses made them especially fun to photograph, and I tried to keep some of the roses in the background (though softly focused) to represent the scenes as I remembered them.

Having seen this iris color combination again this year, I recalled how it originally unearthed some feelings of nostalgia — though I had previously not explored exactly what for. I imagined the colors reminded me of ice cream — specifically, a combo of orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream — and so actually went hunting at two grocery stores this week to see if I could find an icy treat in those colors. I eventually landed on Orange Cream Ice Cream — which is part ice cream and part sherbet — but once I got it home and dug into the container (yum!), I realized that it wasn’t quite what I was nostalgifying: the taste was about right but the blended and swirled colors didn’t seem to match what I was trying to uncover.

So I did some ice cream research (the things I do for my art!), searching for photos using phrases like “orange and white ice cream” or “vanilla and orange sherbet” and various variations. Eventually the internet presented an image of the Creamsicle — which I haven’t eaten since I was a kid, and didn’t even know still existed — and it clicked that that was the connection I was trying to make.

While I don’t think there’s necessarily any relationship between the development of orange — or orange and white — irises and the advent of the Creamsicle, I did find that brief history of how and when the Creamsicle came about (in the third quotation above). There’s some additional history on Wikipedia’s Ice Pop page. It’s probably good that the original (awkward!) name “Epsicle” didn’t stick, having been replaced by “Popsicle” and “Creamsicle.” And — as it turns out — despite the difficulties iris breeders had creating successful orange and white variants (crossing yellow and pink irises), there were eventually several that have been named like the Creamsicle, including Iris ‘Creamsicle’ and Iris ‘Seneca Creamsicle’ — both of which show a similar ruffled petal form, with the latter showing colors very close to those I photographed. So which came first: the frozen Creamsicle or the Iris Creamsicle? Nobody knows for sure — but it’s fascinating the connections one can make among things, even if they’re partly imaginary.

I should mention that while conducting my ice cream research, I found this recipe for Orange Creamsicle Pie — which looks Absolutely Fabulous and may mean another trip to the grocery store to get its ingredients.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!


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