Iris Show

With spring having officially arrived in Roswell, I'm going to dedicate the next few posts to a flower I've been sketching and admiring a great deal lately, the iris.

For as long as I can remember, I've been fond of flowers. As a little girl I used to wander around the backyard picking dandelions that my mother would then dutifully set in a vase on the dining room table. As an adolescent, I enjoyed going to nurseries with my parents to pick out new plants for the coming season, something I still do with them whenever I go home to visit. As someone who's prone to the doldrums during the winter (even in sunny, mild Roswell), flowers bring me a sense of deep joy, but they also encourage reflection. Flowers to me are the quintessential symbol of not only new beginnings, but also of the transience of life and the importance of relishing it while we can.

It is no surprise then, that when I saw an announcement on the Museum's bulletin board about an iris show in Roswell, I decided to go, taking a sketchbook with me. I've been to flower shows before, but generally they tend to be broad in subject and scale, primarily intended to create entire botanical environments. This one, by contrast, was more of a specialty, jewel box-type show, highlighting all the variety possible within the breeding of iris. Let's check out some of these blooms:

There were plenty of iris with dark, velvety colors, the kind that invite the gentle stroke of a finger:

I was expecting to see plenty of purple iris, but what really surprised me was the abundance of warm-color flowers. Look at some of these:

There were also several multi-colored flowers that had no trouble grabbing one's attention.

While most of the flowers were big, ostentatious bearded iris, there were more delicate varieties as well:

A separate section was dedicated to artful installations. I was more interested in the individual flowers, so I didn't tarry here as much:

Since I had brought my sketchbook, I made some drawings of the different varieties for future reference:

While I drew, one of the iris experts kindly began to explain to me the various traits that are exaggerated or diminished when breeding the flowers. Some have more prominent beards, for instance, while others may have their colors altered, and so forth. Indeed, this was all new information to me, so it was an enjoyable learning experience.

As I listened, however, I found myself reflecting on other things, from Gregor Mendel and his experiments to the tulip craze in 17th-century Holland, to the history of human interaction with nature in general. Whether it's dogs, flowers, or entire ecosystems, for as long as we've been in existence we've been manipulating our environments in one way or another. Whether our changes are actually improvements is a whole different kettle of fish.

Or, in this case, a bed of iris.