8 |^ April 2019
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I was a weird kid. I didn’t realize that at the
time, but looking back, I can imagine my parents
scratching their heads from time to time about
my childhood hobbies, which around the age
of 7 included a keen interest in Greek mythology
and flowers. But don’t worry! Though it may
sound unlikely, I did have friends.
My two hobbies came together in my love of
one humble but glorious plant in a neighbor’s
yard: bearded iris. Ancient Greeks personified
the rainbow as a goddess named Iris—the
daughter of a sea god and a cloud nymph—who
ran messages up and down the rainbow
between Olympus and Earth. My earthbound
obsession was across the street from our house
in West Texas. The retired couple who lived
there had an almost lawnless front yard filled
with hundreds of iris. During their weeks-long
blooming season, I spent hours going from
flower to flower like a towheaded bee in Sears Toughskins comparing all
the scents. “Honey, that strange Orr boy is out in the front yard again,”
I can imagine Mrs. Ramsey saying to her husband from the kitchen window.
My memory of those flowers is wrapped up in both the color and the
fragrance. Like their rainbow namesake, iris come in one of horticulture’s
largest color ranges: The only missing shade is a true scarlet (see page 106).
I was preoccupied with matching the colors and fragrances in a kind
of synesthetic way. I had noticed that the orange ones smelled like orange.
The yellow like lemon custard, brown like root beer, and white like
coconut. (OK, I’ll admit that was a stretch.) My childhood imagination
matched hue and scent as I tried to catalog all the color options.
Those iris remind me that color schemes tap into a visceral response for
many homeowners as well. Each of us probably has different ideas of what
makes a room feel formal, happy, serious, shocking, or surprising. In our
annual color issue we hope our readers will allow themselves the chance to
play and experiment, like a child might,
unencumbered by concerns of what everyone
will think and instead focused on what makes
you and your loved ones happy.
This spring, as the iris bloom in your
neighborhood, take a moment to lean over for
a sniff. I swear the purple iris smell like
grape bubble gum. Let me know if you agree.
PHOTO: (PORTRAIT) KATHRYN GAMBLE, (COVER) HEATHER MILLER
Editor in Chief
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A NEW WAY
Our sister publication
Coastal Living returns
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