Iris, the rainbow goddess, loves thunderstorms

Thunderstorm are lighting up the sky at the Delta outpost.  This makes five straight days of thunderstorms here.  Luckily we got all the beds weeded before the rains hit.

The strawberries and the the rosemary are suffering, but the iris are loving it.  The strawberry leaves are green and beautiful, but the fruit is rotten due to the incessant rain.  Strawberries like lots of rain until they begin to set fruit.  Then no rain at all until you pick them.  Only those who spray fungicides will have a good crop of strawberries in the Delta this year.  We don’t do that, so looks like we’ll be baking fewer strawberry cakes this winter.

At least the strawberries are green.  Our rosemary is all turning brown from being too wet.  Rosemary is easy to grow, but likes well-drained soils. It even loves a little drought. Those we don’t have this year. We’re propagating rosemary at the Delta outpost to plant at Meadowcreek.  Rosemary allegedly repels deer and improves memory.  We could use both of those at Meadowcreek.

When people smell rosemary, small fat-soluble molecules enter the body through the lining of the nose or lungs and can cross the blood-brain barrier. When people are exposed to different intensities of rosemary aroma, they perform better and faster on tests of brain performance.  In blood samples, levels of the most common chemical in rosemary oil (1,8-cineole or eucalyptol) was highly correlated with test performance.   Eucalyptol may not be causing the cognitive effects.  It may just indicate that harder to detect chemicals from rosemary, such as rosmarinic acid and ursolic acid are working on your brain.

The cause of the repellent effect of rosemary on deer has not been explored, but we’re eager to try it.  Propagation will have to wait until our Delta rosemary recovers from the wet weather.

One heritage plant thrives in repeated thunderstorms: iris.  My grandmother asked me to take over her farm and garden when she decided to move to town.  I lived with her several months to learn about all her plants.  She loved daffodil and iris and Christmas cactus.  Somehow I’ve kept her plants alive through moves from Missouri to Texas to Kentucky to Arkansas.

Bliss Irises The Garden 1921This time of year, the iris is my favorite.  It’s a purple and yellow bearded iris that I haven’t seen anywhere else.  It flowers later than my yellow and white irises.  That means it’s out when we’re picking strawberries.  But even when its so wet the strawberries rot, the iris look great.

At Meadowcreek, we have a lovely wild dwarf iris which seems to be sprouting everywhere this time of year.  Wild irises are found all around the world.  Iris is the name for a genus which includes about 300 species.  The name comes from the Greek goddess of the rainbow, who carried messages between earth and sky.  One of the earliest known artworks of an iris is a fresco in King Minos’ palace on the Greek Island of Crete. The palace dates from 2100 BC.  The most famous use of the iris is as a symbol of French kings.  The iris flower was adapted on royal flags as the Fleur de Lys.  It disappeared from the French flag with their Revolution, but is still on the flag of the Province of Quebec in Canada.

We love having a diversity of plants.  If the weather isn’t great for one, it will be for some of the others.  Much like in farming, where a diversity of crops leads to more resilience.  Over-reliance on one crop sooner or later will result in a total crop failure.  Diversifying with both animals and crops increases resilience even more.  Sure it can be more efficient to specialize in just one type of production.  But, in the long run, you pay for it.

Since we’re not farming commercially anymore, we can really appreciate the diversity just for its own sake.  And to remember my grandmother and the long line of plant-lovers who have created and perpetuated Iris and rosemary and strawberries.  And its something anyone can do, even if all you have is a sunny windowsill.





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