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The charm of the iris

Three flowers truly signal the arrival of spring — first the yellow daffodils push up, often through the icy remnants of winter; followed by the bold color of tulips, competing with the flowering branches of cherry and peach blossoms for attention; then, especially in April, we are graced with the most elegant and shapely flower of spring, the mighty iris.

Iris reach tall and straight, a seemingly unimpressive stalk, yet once the color starts to build in the sheath, the stage is set for the energy to burst from the bulb upwards to a dramatic bloom revered by artists, poets and flower lovers for centuries. The classic form of iris has three “falls” and three “standards.”

Irises are admired for their rich blue color as blue is very rare in both plants and food. In the cut flower world, iris is the blue in your color palette. The shape of iris is such a wonderful contrast to other flowers, since so many flowers such as tulips and roses have a round essence, the complement of the iris is quite dramatic.

In spring iris are at their peak. With fresh bulb stock, we are able to explore the colorful essence of iris. Yes, it is known as a blue flower, but the yellow, white, purple and light blue varieties often surprise and delight consumers also.

The charm of iris is that they are farmed across the United States, representing a flower that easily carries the American Grown signifier with pride. With big springtime production in North Carolina, steady year-round growing in California, and a mass of farmers market growers scattered everywhere in between, irises are a very easy flower to appreciate. Additionally, irises have been riding the design wave embodied in the field-to -vase esthetic because they fit perfectly into the idea of fresh, local and sustainable flowers that defines the movement.

The progression of April lends itself to iris as well, as this year we roll through Earth Day, Passover and Administrative Professionals Day all within less than a week. These flower-giving occasions all include an element of springtime cheer and the color blue in their color palette, so irises fit the bill nicely.

The challenge of iris in a mass-market setting is the presentation in a bucket at store level. You’ve seen the bundle of thin green stems lost in a plastic sleeve before, right? Yet, when a blossom is open in an arrangement, consumers “ooh and ahh” over the iris. It is a literally a disconnect between the stem and the flower.

Educating consumers about iris has been a very successful strategy in creating more iris fans, it really only takes one bunch for a person to “get it.” And April is a wonderful time to offer iris and increase the community of people who admire this flower, which is steeped in history, yet remains relevant as designers and consumers clamor for the blue beauties.

Bill Prescott is marketing and communications associate at the Sun Valley Group in Arcata, CA. He can be contacted at