Appearing next to warm orange tulips in our Mandarin Blues spring bouquet is the more elusive, regal bloom of the dark blue iris. The iris symbolises hope, faith and wisdom and was most famously known in history as the emblem of the French royalty, the Fleur-de-Lis. This stylised depiction of the iris has also appeared in numerous flags and coats of arms over the years, and today is used to represent the Spanish monarchy and makes up the flag of the Brussels-Capital Region. It is also the flower the Swiss Municipality of Schlieren, Zürich and the state flower of Tennessee — a popular and potent symbol.
The iris takes its name from the Greek word for rainbow on account of the numerous colours in which it can be found; there are so many varieties that they can be grown naturally all year round. And it's not just ornamental: iris root and blossom are used to give flavour and colour to certain brands of gin, such as Bombay Saphire and Magellan. The root of the bearded iris is known as orris root and has been used in herbal medicines and perfumes for centuries, and the essential oil of the flowers is used in aromatherapy for its calming effect.