GARDEN FANATIC:Walking in my footsteps

“Irises come forth like the belles of the day...” -- Thomas Jefferson

The weekly tasks of deadlines, meetings, and phone calls were already becoming wearisome in this young year. Such routines were seeming too repetitive. Catharine suggested that I consider moving past my apparent discomfort with the daily known, and briefly walk away from work.

I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood... my childhood growing grounds, largely spared from the mansionization on the hills. As I continued on my walk, I spotted an arrangement of irises at a local florist shop in town.

I recalled that Iris was the goddess of the rainbow. She used her iridescent bridge to walk souls to the next life. As the personal messenger of Zeus and Hera, she also connected the thoughts of gods to mortals.


In medieval times, the iris became the emblem of French kings. Legend holds that flag irises showed the Frankish king, Clovis, the walk of victory over the Goths. Later, Louis VII’s banner was called fleur de Louis, which in turn became fleur-de-lis. Its abstract form has been widely used as a motif in many types of art.

The iris also held importance as a religious flower... its trinity of petals and sword-like leaves were significant symbols to the faithful. The leaves represented Mary’s sharp pain for her son’s sufferings, and her devout defense against the devil.

Irises have long been a favorite in Laguna, because of their beautiful color and exquisite forms. The 300 identified species are distributed throughout the temperate world... Costa Rica and other tropical locales are the only places where they cannot be grown.

Irises can be used in many garden situations, whether as a single accent or as a member of a mixed perennial border.


Many Laguna gardens combine irises with daylily, sunrose, and lavender. All these plants grow easily and provide a long blooming period.

Although most garden soil will support irises, well-drained and fertile soils will yield particularly good results. Provide full sunlight and expect flowers to appear mainly in the spring or early summer.

Although my limited time away did not yield intellectual or emotional breakthroughs, a few assumptions slowly dissipated during my walk. With a growing appreciation that we have choices on a daily basis, I will add neighborhood walking as a valued routine. See you next time.

  • Steve Kawaratani is happily married to award winning writer, Catharine Cooper, and has two cats and five dogs. He can be reached at (949) 497-2438, or e-mail to

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