Old Irises and Old Neighbors

When we first move in we had a neighbor named Patrick Walker with whom I hit it off immediately.  Pat was a WWII veteran who served in the U.S. Navy which, according to him, largely involved getting drunk in foreign ports (the war was winding down by the time he enlisted).  Pat was very friendly and whenever he saw me working in the yard he would come out to chat about anything and everything including our favorite pipe tobaccos, the Red Sox, and either Civil War or WWI history.  Pat was also an inveterate collector of antiques (vintage board games, safety razors, Civil War memorabilia, furniture) as was his wife Bonnie who had died some 15 years before I met him.  I once told him we got along because he liked old things like I did, to which he replied “well, I am an old thing.”  Pat had been a hydrologist with the USGS for many years and was also pleased that a civil engineer (that would be my wife Hilary) moved in next door.  He was in his late 80s when I met him and decided the time had come to move to Maryland to be close to his children.  I was very sorry to see him leave and I miss our conversations.

Pat and his wife had also been gardeners though he claimed his wife Bonnie did most of the planting.  By the time we moved in Pat really wasn’t active in the garden anymore.  Nevertheless, plants are persistent and his back yard was filled with Iris blooms in the Spring from plants that Pat and Bonnie had planted perhaps decades before.  After Pat moved away and my new neighbors moved in they were doing work in the back yard and asked if I’d like to dig up any plants and save them so they were not destroyed.  I took several Iris rhizomes and planted them in my own garden.

These are a bearded Iris.  I am by no means an authority on irises but my best guess is that this is  Iris variegata X Iris sambucina ‘Neglecta.’  It has light purple—almost white—standards, yellow beard, and blue to violet variagted falls. This variety was first hybridized by Jens Wilken Hornemann in 1813.

Pat died in September of 2015 shortly after moving to Maryland.  Whenever I look at the blooms though I think about him. I like that plants can be reminders.


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