by Mike Lowe, VA

When you compare the photo of any given iris from your garden with that iris photographed a year later you might suspect a nefarious iris-napper stole your _____ and substituted a ringer. However, age of the flower, time of day, sun or overcast, vigor of clump, angle of light, camera angle, wind or lack of wind, light reflected from a colored wall, misting rain or dry, different brands of film, same brand – different film types, age of film, flash or no flash, excessive heat and different lenses, [and now the vagaries of digital cameras in reproducing color! – MU]; all these factors can radically change the look of an iris photo. What to do? Depend on the ‘invariants’ when comparing two photos of a variety taken at widely differing times. These non-changing guideposts wil proclaim “Yes, despite all, we are the same iris.”

iris morning splendorAn “I’d recognize you anywhere feature,” is typified by the frothy white extension of the beard on Amethyst Flame. Not all flowers have this prominant a discriminator but a sharp and educated eye will usually find something other than color to give a variety a distinctive look. This ‘feature’ can be as subtle as ‘texture veining’ found on many varieties. A black and white photo of Great Lakes in a 1941 catalog displays identical veining found in my photo of Great Lakes taken in our garden in 1995.

[Morning Splendor, from Rainbow Fragments, J. Marion Shull, 1931]

The color of Marion Shull’s ’20s painting of Morning Splendor and the color of your ’90s photo may well have little in common. However, comparing the unusually wide haft markings depicted in Shull’s painting and the corresponding markings in your photo of Morning Splendor leaves you with a comfortable certainty that the artist’s and your flower are the same – seperated only by the gulf of time.

~ Reprinted from ROOTS, Vol 8, Issue 2, Fall 1995.