The Scent of an Iris
by Julie Carpenter
Today I was surprised by the scent of an iris. Tall and elegant irises don’t attack you with scent, like their slightly tawdrier friends, the gardenias. There aren’t a million perfumes that advertise iris in the scent. They seem too classy to spend a lot of time branding or hiring PR firms, but I would like to note on their behalf that they do have a lovely scent. In fact, if you don’t have irises yourself, your neighbors might. Dash out and give them a sniff. (Most gardeners I know would probably forgive your sneaking into their yards to place your nose in an iris - if you think to compliment them about the garden- but for your safety, please ask first.)
I have an odd notion that scent is one way that flowers talk to us, and I want to apologize to my irises for not listening properly to them. The scent of an iris is perhaps more intellectual than sage, which has a propensity to wear it wisdom on its sleeve and name. (And let’s not even go into the scent of lilacs and their weird nostalgia for “grandma’s common sense”, and doilies on top of the toilet.) The iris has a light floral scent, a sharp sweetness. She might at any moment toss out a bon mot or a well-placed, well-deserved barb, but there’s something more profound than wit and surface intellect. Listening to the scent, I’d credit the iris with something keener than that, some sort of bright discerning calm, a considered judgment, an ability to get straight to the point of some floriated argument. The iris keeps her scent to herself until the judicious gardener gets close enough to listen to it over the cacophony of mowed grass, honeysuckle and herbs.
So, go and have a word with your garden by using your nose, and let me put in a good word for the iris who may not be as flashy as some of the others, but has plenty to say.