When It’s Iris Time in Tennessee

Iris in my front flower bed!

It’s Iris time in Tennessee again! I get pretty ridiculously excited every year as it gets closer to time for my irises to start blooming. Late March to early April usually finds me on my knees in the flower bed studying to see if any bloom stalks are starting to appear with promises of blooms around the corner.

As a native Tennessean, I was taught Tennessee history as a child in school and I was taught that the state flower of Tennessee is the Tennessee Iris.  Like many other Tennessee kids working on school projects, I drew pictures of Irises and even did a paint applique of an iris on a wall hanging that was my Tennessee project in 4th grade.  I have since learned that the Iris as the state flower is only half true.  In 1919, the state Senate approved a resolution to allow Tennessee school children to decide what the official state flower would be and the children of Tennessee picked the passion flower.  Fourteen years later in 1933, the state legislature passed another resolution stating that the Iris was the state flower of Tennessee and that the passion flower was never officially approved as State flower.   Apparently quite the debate broke out from flower supporters divided between the passion flower and the Iris with each side taking their cases before the state legislation.  Reportedly, these debates became quite heated and if that doesn’t prove that humans will fight over anything, I don’t know what does.  But also, any people who are that passionate about flowers are probably people I would like.  So for forty years, Tennessee had two state flowers with advocates for each flower fighting back and forth amongst themselves about which should be the official flower.  In 1973, the General Assembly settled the matter by naming the passion flower as the state wildflower and the Iris as the state cultivated flower.  In 2012, another flower was added to our state flower collection when the Tennessee echinacea or the coneflower was named the second official state wildflower.

Iris found along a walk near my home

When I moved several years ago from my home in Nashville, I made sure to dig up my iris bulbs and bring them along with me to my new town.  Those faithful bulbs made the trip with me and have continued to bloom every year in their new location.  If flowers have stories, these tell one of many years in a shady garden in Nashville when I didn’t know much about them at all but they would bloom in the spring to my delight and forced me to educate myself about these stunning flowers.  They traveled with me as I made major life transitions to a new town, marriage, new jobs and continue to bless me each year with blooms.

Irises in my flower beds

Audrey Hepburn is credited as once saying, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”.  And each year as I tend to the irises or replant bulbs, it serves as a reminder to look ahead with hope for the days they will bloom and to believe in the beauty of those tomorrows to come. 

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