Thursday, May 7, 2015

Cemetery Iris

Isaac's stone in Neelands
The day that I first found Isaac Werner's grave in Neeland's Cemetery there were iris planted at the base of the stone.  Sometime later the iris tubers were removed.  (See "Finding Isaac's Grave," 1-13-2012 in the blog archives.)  We had a monument company correct the sinking and aligning of the stone and its separate levels, so the tubers may have been removed in that process.  Also, the cemetery board did a wonderful job of installing new fencing and grooming the grounds, and the old tubers may have been removed during that renovation.  I do wish I had been present when the tubers were removed, for I would have rescued the old iris roots and planted them at the farm as a remembrance of Isaac.

Photo by Lyn Fenwick
Iris were a popular flower to plant around grave stones in old cemeteries, primarily because they survive without watering and send up their delicate blooms each spring without any gardener's attention.  The primary threat to the continued blooming of iris is blowing dirt, which gradually covers the tubers.  Blowing sandy loam soil is an ever-present condition in the area where Isaac claimed his homestead!  The tubers are not killed, however, and removing the soil or digging up the tuber and replanting it with the roots and bottom half of the tuber placed in the soil and the top of the tuber exposed will nearly always bring the iris back to bloom.

Photo by Lyn Fenwick
I am a lazy gardener, so these undemanding flowers suit my personality perfectly.  Parts of the country, where winter arrives later and spring arrives earlier, allow re-blooming iris to produce flowers in both spring and fall.  That is when I fell in love with iris.  My mother loved her iris, but their short blooming period did not satisfy me.  Enjoying their flowers in both spring and fall won me over, and I began my collection.  Unfortunately, the tubers I dug from my collection to plant at the farm bloom only in the spring, although they are re-blooming varieties and have thrived with only the opportunity to bloom once a year.  I love them anyway.  Perhaps spring seems to arrive move quickly the older I get.  I am sharing photographs of some of my iris currently in bloom.

Photo by Lyn Fenwick
I wonder what color the iris on Isaac's grave were.  Most of all, I wonder who planted the iris around the base of his stone.  My great grandparents, George and Theresa Hall, were friends, and they were caregivers of him in their home for a short period during his final illness.  Perhaps Theresa and her daughters planted the iris.  Or, perhaps it was his neighbor, Isabel Ross, whom he always called Mrs. Ross, a divorced lady who claimed her homestead as a single woman.  His journal gave no hint of a romance, but his many kindnesses to her and her children may have caused her to feel a fondness for her bachelor neighbor.  Maybe the ladies who were members of the Farmers' Alliance, in which Isaac played such an active role, planted the iris, or mothers of the school children who appreciated Isaac's constant efforts to keep the school house in good repair.  Whoever planted the iris, it makes me feel glad that someone cared enough to decorate Isaac's grave.


The Blog Fodder said...

I love your pictures.
There are many flowers planted around graves in Ukraine. Tulips and Iris especially as they bloom in the spring usually in time for the "Day of Rejoicing" the Sunday after Orthodox Easter.
My mother loved Iris and though she has been gone 13 years, they still bloom by the front door at the farm.
Tanya collects Iris too. She has so many different colours, I can't even count them and every time a new one shows up in the catalogue, she orders it.

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

Good for Tanya! I did much of my collecting when we had lovely formal, boxwood edged gardens in Charlotte, NC. The re-bloomers were dependable twice a year there. I took some from each variety to TX, and they re-bloom fairly well there. I tried to get all my varieties for the farm when we sold our house in TX with the gardens, but I've never had any re-bloom at the farm. I learned that the 'city building' in our TX small town had dug out all the iris and they were just in a big pile of dirt ready to be taken to the dump, so I rescued a few. They were white, when they bloomed, and I fear they may be cross pollenating with my colors, as I am getting an excess of white iris each spring...