Planting Iris Bulbs


Today, while I planted iris bulbs given to me by my good friend Linda,


Sophie sat in her swing on the front porch, loving the good weather.

I explained to her what I was doing, how if I plant the bulbs in the fall, they’ll bloom in the spring. I told her by then she’d be a year old. And every spring they’ll bloom, and every spring she’ll be a year older. I love that about perennials. Often my family would buy a live Christmas tree, which we would plant after the holiday. Year after year we’d watch those trees grow. I remember the first time my grandma told me how they planted what, by then, was the tallest evergreen in their yard—and how when they planted it it was only a twig, something one of the children brought home from school. I often wonder about the perennials and trees in our yard—who planted them, when, if they were a gift or bought purposefully, if they were well-tended or neglected.

I believe irises live a long time. Our house is an old, two-bedroom, one-bath Dutch colonial—we won’t live here forever. I imagine driving past the house, with Sophie, after we’ve moved, and, hopefully, pointing out the irises to her. I’ll tell her how I planted them on a warm September day, while she sat in her swing, smiling at the breeze and the leaves. If she’s still a young girl, maybe she’ll be intrigued. If she’s a teenager, maybe she won’t care. If she’s a young woman, maybe she’ll feel a little homesick. And if she’s a new mom, maybe she’ll go home and plant some irises, attempting to explain the cyclical nature of life to her daughter, looking forward to enjoying the blooms and growth, year after year.

“The planting of trees is the least self-centered of all that we can do. It is a purer act of faith than the procreation of children.” —Thornton Wilder