"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag

Blue Iris, Blue Giraffe

From Irises: Their Culture and Selection by Gwendolyn Anley:

“It is not to be expected of the [brown and sepia irises] that they should have the same opacity as the blue irises, that the petals should have the same translucence, the spicing or sugaring, as it were, with gleaming fibers or particles which are nothing less than the flesh of the pure blue iris, so much so that the inadvertent tearing of a petal may seem like the harming of an animal.”


I’m working through the last of my spring iris photos (moving on to summer irises (if I find some) and late-blooming lilies soon), and for the last batch I’ve collected those images where the dominant colors are shades of blue, to post over the next few days.

When I finished post-processing for the iris below, I couldn’t stop thinking that its shape resembled the head of a giraffe. Anthropomorphism, of course, is the attribution of human qualities to nonhuman entities, usually animals, and very often domesticated animals. I don’t know if there’s a variation of anthropomorphism where humans (me!) find animal qualities in plants; I just know I saw this iris as a giraffe.

So I thought it would be fun to pretend I’d discovered a new iris: the giraffe iris. Imagine the fun I was planning to have with this little pretense, all sorts of shrieking blog words and hand-clapping about my great find.


Turns out someone already created a giraffe iris, noted not so much for its animal-like shape but for coloration that resembles a giraffe. See here — where you will find photos of the delightfully named Giraffe Kneehiz (knee-highs??) and a summary of its characteristics and hybridization.

Not to be dissuaded by actual facts, though, here’s my blue giraffe iris, from Oakland Cemetery’s gardens.

And here’s the blue giraffe — from Zoo Atlanta, where all the blue giraffes hang out — that inspired me.

See the resemblance?

Thanks for taking a look!

Memorial Day 2021

From “Memorial Day Address (1884)” by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in American Speeches, edited by Ted Widmer:

“Every year — in the full tide of spring — at the height of the symphony of flowers and love and life — there comes a pause, and through the silence we hear the lonely pipe of death….

“Year after year lovers wandering under the apple boughs and through the clover and deep grass are surprised with sudden tears as they see black veiled figures stealing through the morning to a soldier’s grave. Year after year the comrades of the dead follow, with public honor, procession and commemorative flags and funeral march — honor and grief from us who stand almost alone, and have seen the best and noblest of our generation pass away.

“But grief is not the end of all. I seem to hear the funeral march become a paean. I see beyond the forest the moving banners of a hidden column. Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death — of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and glory of the spring….

“As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.”

From President Biden’s Memorial Day Address at Arlington National Cemetery:

“We are gathered at this sacred place, in this solemn hour, to engage in the most fundamental of undertakings: the rite of remembrance….

“We remember those who gave their all in the service of America, in the service of freedom, and in the service of justice. We remember their sacrifice, their valor, and their grace. We remember their smiles; their loves; their laughter; their essential vibrant and transcendent humanity.

“For while we stand amid monuments of stone, we must never forget that each of these markers, for those known and unknown, here at Arlington and far beyond represent a precious life: a son, a daughter, a mother, a spouse, a brother, a sister, a friend, a neighbor….

“Women and men, all those we honor today, gave their lives for their country, but they live forever in our hearts — forever proud, forever honorable, forever American.”

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

From “My Iris Friends” by Katherine Fellows, in Tall Bearded Iris (Fleur-de-lis): A Flower of Song by Walter Stager:

I am happier for their presence,
Groups of lavender and blue,
For their lavish gifts and treasure,
And their ways so fine and true —
Gifts of beauty without measure,
Gifts of fragrance all so rare;
And we thank the one who gives us
Glorious sunshine, flowers fair.

From the same place (Oakland Cemetery’s gardens) as the previous posts…

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

Bearded Irises: White Standards, Purple Falls (2 of 3)

… here are the last two galleries of white and purple irises on black backgrounds.

Thanks for taking a look!

Bearded Irises: White Standards, Purple Falls (2 of 3)

From “The Spirit of the Iris” by Grace Hine Dalzell, in Tall Bearded Iris (Fleur-de-lis): A Flower of Song by Walter Stager:

Sunbeams imprisoned that fall to the earth and grow;
The lovely lingering blush of sunset afterglow.
The whiteness of the snows, a gleam of garish gold,
A wave of royal purple, a dash of yellow bold.

More irises!

From the same place (Oakland Cemetery’s gardens) as the previous post — here are a few of the images I altered to paint the backgrounds black, with Lightroom’s adjustment brush, and also add a little bright white to the flowers’ standards.

Thanks for taking a look!

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!