In the lower right corner of this picture, next to the fenced garden gate, and just beyond the mown grass and what appears to be a walkway, there is a small clump of bearded iris foliage. No one knows where these iris came from, or for how long they had been there when this picture was taken in the summer of 1969. They were growing in the garden of my great grandmother, in Hoot Owl Creek, just south of Red Oak in Latimer County of Oklahoma. It is unlikely that my great grandmother purchased such non-utilitarian plant from a nursery. It was probably acquired from a friend or neighbor sometime during the half century that she tended the garden prior to 1969. It could have been around even earlier, since my great grandfather’s family first developed the farm as Oklahoma became a territory.
The flowers are an alluringly soft lavender blue, on elegantly tall and lean stems. They are relatively small for bearded iris, and lack any fancy frills or ruffles. In fact, they are quite neatly tailored, with a simple sweet and fruity fragrance that resembles that of grape pop. This iris is probably one of the prehistoric specie of iris that was used to breed modern cultivars. Some of these sorts of iris were known affectionately as ‘grape pop’ iris, but it is impossible to know if or how this particular iris is related.
Many years ago, probably in the early 1980s, my grandmother brought some of these iris back to her home garden in Santa Clara in California. They proliferated enough to share with friends and neighbors. A few went to my mother’s garden, where they also proliferated and were shared with friends and neighbors. Now, my mother’s great granddaughters play in a garden where these same iris will bloom next spring; only a few months from now, but at least six generations from that well outfitted homestead garden in Hoot Owl Creek.
Where will these iris go from here? It is impossible to say. Younger generations are not very interested in horticulture. However, I really doubt that my great grandmother could have imagined that they would have gotten this far. What is funny is that these iris are probably more interesting now to current generations than they were to my great grandmother when she planted them.