Monday, April 18, 2022

Clarence and Easter Morn

My bearded iris began blooming yesterday, Easter Sunday. 

Their bloom date reminded me of another iris that belonged to another woman in another part of the state. I knew this woman in the early 2000s. and she was in her 80s, quick with a smile and to share an opinion. She was mad about iris. Beds and beds of bearded iris filled her front yard. While she had so many iris of so many colors, she had a favorite: Easter Morn. It's a simple iris, mostly white with a little gold veining near the gold beards. Its fragrance is spicy and sweet. I looked it up and discovered that Edward Essig patented it in 1931. Even though it's considered a historic iris, it was younger than my elderly friend. She claimed that no matter how early or late Easter fell in the spring, Easter Morn would always bloom on Easter Sunday. 

My iris is not Easter Morn. I'm pretty sure the variety I have here in San Francisco is the tall bearded "Clarence," patented in 1990. There's no storied history I know of attached to this particular variety. However, to me, it has a sweet provenance. I received the rhizomes as a passalong plant a few years ago from another elderly friend whose garden is full of color. She's in love with flowers, and each spring starts loads of blooming annuals from seed to go along with her flowery perennials. When I met this friend a few years ago, she had red colored hair, but she stopped dying her hair during the pandemic and it is now the shiniest, most incredible silver. Most of the time when I see her, she's wearing a pink jacket, red lipstick and her silver hair glows. She's beautiful.

I planted the rhizomes she gave me a few years ago in the late summer, and they promptly bloomed that fall. The standards are silvery almost white gradually darkening to a pale lavender. The white falls darken to a watery blue-lavender towards the edges. While the beards are white, the tiniest hint of yellow emerges from the center of the blossom. The individual cell walls are translucent enough to catch the light and each cell sparkles, as if the blossom is crusted with tiny gems. Amazingly, though the heaviest bloom is in the spring, it reliably reblooms in the autumn. In a previous garden, I've grown more unique and more colorful bearded iris, but I've never grown an iris as floriferous as this variety.

Last year, I divided the part of the patch that had grown dense and started a new stand. This morning, I counted 16 spikes in the original stand and 6 in the new clump. Clarence is indefatigable. I'll need to divide part of the original clump again this summer, and I hope to share rhizomes with my friends and neighbors.

Somewhere, in another garden sometime in the future, Clarence will bloom wildly for its new host, and that person will smile over the unstoppable nature of hope.

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