The iris is definitely not one of my favourite flowers. I am partial to a bearded iris, when they come along. However I was a bit intrigued about the history of them, and I have a lovely Japanese ceramic bowl with them on it, so decided to hunt down a bit more about the iris.
The worldwide success story of the iris probably began around 1479 B.C., when King Thutmose III of Egypt had conquered Syria where irises grew in great profusion. Being a gardener as well as a warrior king, Thutmose ensured that irises should be immortalized in sculptures at the Temple of Amon at Karnak, as well as in the gardens of Egypt. - from here
The fleur de lis is a stylised iris, and depending on who you trust, was made popular by one of the French Louies (VI or VII). The French connection continues to America, where the fleur de lis the symbol of New Orleans, and the iris is the state flower of Tennessee. Isn't it interesting how everything connects? I am a nerd.
1| Collection of hand dyed silk ribbons in Iris shades from SilkStudio on Etsy.
2| Japanese Iris stamp, 2005. Found here
3| Wooden kokeshi doll with iris kimono.
4| Ivy Nicholson wearing a floral headdress featuring bearded iris, photographed by Louise Dahl Wolfe for Harpers Bazaar 1958. Found here
5| My favourite Japanese ceramic bowl with watercolour irises. J bought this for me in Kyoto from Pottery Lane, a couple of days after we got engaged.
6| A little illustration of the iris flower fairy from a vintage children's picture book.
7| Emily Blunt as Queen Victoria in The Young Victoria, 2009; she wears a vivid blue gown with an iris headdress and spray on the neckline. Costume designer Sandy Powell won the Oscar for Best Costume for this film. See here for the original costume illustration.
And finally, I'm sure you recognise the Japanese painter Ogata Korin's Iris and bridge screens (there are some in the Met in NYC, and some in the Nezu Museum in Tokyo, where they are classed as National Treasures):
... and here's an actual garden inspired by the artwork, at the Missouri Botanic Gardens.