If you had asked me the other day if I thought we had “wild” irises growing in the Philippines, I probably would have guessed “no”… And I would have been wrong. (Actually, turns out I may have been right, see postscript below…) I’ve always associated large, voluptuous irises with such iconic impressionist paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. One of his paintings of irises shattered auction records in 1987 at over USD50 million, just after I graduated from college and taken several courses in impressionist art… I just assumed they were a flower that needed cold weather, and have never seen any for sale in local markets. So I was a bit sceptical when I was making my rounds at the plant/garden section of the Centris market last Sunday and spotted these lush, robust and imposing plants that vendors said were “native irises” — without any blooms on them, how could one be sure? But the foliage certainly looked like that of irises…
Intrigued, I ended up bargaining for three huge “clumps” of the plants, hoping to make a humongous indoor live plant arrangement. The vendor said the plant would bloom continuously for up to 4 months or so, and although there was nothing to see that morning, they would come out soon… I certainly hoped they would, and at PHP400-500 for a large plant, soil and all, this was a bit of a gamble.
Back at home, we struggled to find a vessel big enough to hold the plants, and ended up using a giant copper fish poacher (yes, the mother of all fish pans, and it has appeared on this blog before) that held two clumps of irises and was set on a large side table. The greens looked good, but I wondered if they would indeed bloom again. That evening, I noticed some buds rapidly emerging from the plant, they were growing so fast you could almost imagine them moving! The following morning, the buds were nearly fully formed, and as I left for the flower market, they were all still closed. When I returned two hours later, the plants were blooming! The most stunning blue/purple irises had popped open like unexpected presents. There were at least 40 blooms on the three plants, and while a little small, they were utterly stunning!
The downside? The blooms last just 12 hours or so, the fleeting beauties soon wilt, but make room for more blooms the next day… it’s amazing really… At 3-4 feet in height, they make for an imposing indoor arrangement, and the constant new blooms every morning are a joy to watch unfold… We sent one plant to our neighbor, who keeps plying us with all manner of food treats, and I think it’s the first time she will have ever seen Philippine irises as well!
P.S. Turns out they aren’t irises at all, but rather, a kind of day lily… So maybe I wasn’t wrong in thinking we didn’t have any local irises… See this post for more.