They emerge pointing to the sky, gliding upward as if suspended in take-off mode, like space capsules leaving the planet. Each patch it seems, sends a single fanfare bloomer, the emissary ~ she proudly erupts into bloom. Then the rest follow, motherships unfurl, extending exotic landing pad petals to lure bees with their subtle, irresistible scent, a faintly fruity fragrance, subtly honeyish, teasingly sweet and tantalizingly elusive for such a bold flower.
The iris has been a treasured flower since ancient times, and it can be found in temples and Egyptian works of art dating as far back as the 18th Egyptian Dynasty - 400BC. There is an iris carved on the brow of the Sphinx itself.
In 'The Language of Flowers' the iris symbolizes eloquence, perhaps we can thank Iris, the messenger goddess of the rainbow for that.
In Greek mythology, her name is derived from the words iris "the rainbow" and eiris "messenger." she is the personification of a rainbow who links Earth to Olympus and restores peace in nature, the daughter of the god of sea and sky and Elektra 'the amber', a cloud-nymph.
When coastal dwellers saw a rainbow arching between ocean and clouds, they believed it was the goddess Iris replenishing the rain-clouds with water from the sea.
The French monarchy adopted the iris in the middle ages where it found it's way onto shields and coats of arms, This flower is the origin of the Fleur de Lys.
It is believed that the iris was bought lovingly to New World America by English settlers, where we find the earliest records of it in Virginia in the 1600's.
Because of its short-lived glory, one needs to seize the opportunity to enjoy Iris's soft and fragile scent, before the blooms fold away in on themselves, spent.
Perfumers endeavour to capture the aromatic essence of these fleeting flowers by the a rare and almost lost art of enfleurage, a process whereby thousands of flower petals are laid in fat which gradually absorbs and holds their aroma ~ the petals are replaced many times. Ingredients like this are hard to find these days, many perfumers use a chemically synthesized version of the aroma, however, botanical perfumers, who use only plant extracts in their creations create an accord of iris, which is a blend of plant extracts and oils which when blended together create a similar fragrance to the flower itself. This can become a dominant note in a perfumes composition or just part of the story.
Iris is a popular choice for perfumers, not only to capture the fragrance of their fluorescence but also for its rhizomes or roots. The German Iris ~ Iris germanica and Sweet Iris ~ Iris pallida, in particular, are valued for Iridis Rhizoma more commonly known as orris root which one harvested, need to be aged for at least 4 years before adding to a perfume.