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Garden Tales: The Iris

Updated on February 12, 2014

The Iris

I have created the Garden Tales series in order to take a closer look at the plants that we place in our gardens. Plants whose beauty we may enjoy, or whose aroma brightens the air or flavour enhances our food, but plants that we do not really know.

I choose the iris, which wikipedia tells us “is a genus of between 200-300 species of flowering plants with showy flowers which takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow, referring to the wide variety of flower colors found among the many species. As well as being the scientific name, Iris is also very widely used as a common name and refers to all Iris species as well as some closely related genera.”, because it lets me talk about art, in particular my favourite artist.

I always find it difficult when asked what my favourite colour, food, movie, flower or music is; however when it comes to an artist there is no hesitation. I have been an admirer of the work of Vincent Van Gogh for many years.

There are a number of reasons; his determination to continue painting despite the fact that Vincent only sold one painting during his lifetime and only became famous after his death; this is witness his work in a short period of ten years Van Gogh made approximately 900 paintings.

For the record, Vincent van Gogh did not cut off his ear. He only cut off a small portion of his ear lobe.

Starry Night may be his best known work and his sunflower paintings have sold for high dollars in the art marketplace. Given my love for sunflowers one may think that these would be my favourite works, as admirable as they are it is his iris paintings that draw me time and time again.

A few years back I went to an exhibit of Van Gogh’s irises at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Over the years, I have attended many art shows and opening and have curated and participated in a few, this particular show was the most impressive event that I have attended. There were only a few painting, five or six but I slowly move from one to the other over a period of 2 hours and would have gone back but, alas, we had to leave town the next morning.

The iris has a lengthy history, one that dates back to the Ancient Greeks. The Greek Goddess Iris was the messenger of the gods and the personification of the rainbow. Iris was the link between heaven and earth.

Once, purple irises were planted over the graves of women to summon the Goddess to guide the dead in their journey. In Egypt, drawings of the iris have been found in palaces.

Perhaps the best known symbol is the link between the iris the French monarchy; in time the Fleur-de-lis eventually became the recognized national symbol of France.

Irises have been employed in the manufacture of perfume and as a medicine. In perfume, the rhizome of certain species are used as a fixative in perfume and its use in medicine has come into disfavour because the have been shown to be a dangerous purgative.

The magical purposes of the iris include:

1-The iris has been used for purification since the Roman times.

2- Infusions to cleanse temples/places of worship.

3- They were seen to bring purity and light similar to Juno the Goddess of light and new beginnings.

4- The flower has three points which symbolize faith, wisdom and valour.

The iris is a stately plant that will capture the eye of anyone who strolls by yoru garden. It makes for great curb appeal or for many hours of quiet contemplation. If you are a painter or photographer the iris is a great subject and offers a variety of style and colour for your work.

If you are not already growing a variety of iris now, give it some thought and take this opportunity to get to know this ancient plant better.


Van Gogh


Submit a Comment

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 7 years ago from New Brunswick

    You are welcome

  • kgnature profile image

    kgnature 7 years ago from North Carolina

    Very nice. Thanks.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 7 years ago from New Brunswick

    yes, cut them back.

  • profile image

    Marlene Scheffler 7 years ago

    Does one cut back irises in the fall

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks for stopping by and irises can make good neighbours.

  • Dottie1 profile image

    Dottie1 9 years ago from MA, USA

    I would have a hard time picking my 2nd and 3rd and so forth favorite flower but the iris is definately my first pick. They are simply elegant. They are sooo easy to grow and my neighbor loves me because my iris have spread under their fence and they too are now enjoying their beautiful and colorful array of iris.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    wisdom, faith and valour , you are right these are the traits our times require, thanks for the visit.

  • marisuewrites profile image

    marisuewrites 9 years ago from USA

    if I had to pick a favorite flower I couldn't - but the Iris is certainly at the top - I dearly love them. I'm so fond of purple anything and the Iris's soft hue just speaks to me. I did a chalk Iris picture -- took me a few weeks but I loved it and it got many compliments. Lost it in a fire....couldn't bear to try to replace it...but I believe I might try again after seeing these....

    another lovely article about the garden...can't wait for another...I had no idea the Iris has been around so long....wisdom faith and valour? no wonder they have lasted...all the traits we need!! =)

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks ITD for your input and the visit.

  • In The Doghouse profile image

    In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California


    The beauty of an Iris will add to any garden as well as any cut flower arrangement. The vibrant colors and unique flower structure make it a top choice for florists. Great Hub!

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks C.S. flowers are fun and the series feels right. thanks for stopping by.

  • cgull8m profile image

    cgull8m 9 years ago from North Carolina

    I have seen the Van Gogh painting they are beautiful, the Iris makes a perfect flower for the garden. They look so eye pleasing.

  • C.S.Alexis profile image

    C.S.Alexis 9 years ago from NW Indiana

    Great work Bob. I like this idea for your series. Looking forward to more. I am an Iris fan as well. Flowers are fun anyway. C.S. Alexis

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks for visiting.

  • moonlake profile image

    moonlake 9 years ago from America

    Enjoyed your hub. I love irises.