Last Sunday, half of Meise seemed to have gone running in the Botanic Garden on the annual jogging day. It was much more crowded than usual, with runners on the main paths and photographers on the sides. We avoided the crowds, at first, sitting on the terrace of the cafeteria by the lake, watching in the distant people struggling to complete the circuit, and later in the closed garden, just behind the same cafeteria.
Iris flowers where at their prime. It is funny that the symbol of Brussels, the indigenous yellow iris, is not more present in the city. This plant reminds us that Brussels was founded on the marshy banks of the Senne river and its tributaries. You could see some of them blossoming by the lake in the Botanic Garden in Meise. Irises are very adaptable; some, like Japanese irises or the local yellow iris, grow in swampy areas; others, like the common iris cannot stand humidity and need very well-drained conditions. They have an incredible array of colours, hence their name (from the Greek word for rainbow).
Since the flowers of the common iris (iris germanica) seem to have a beard, or hairs on its petals, it is grouped in the section of bearded irises together with the iris florentina (the French Fleur-de-Lis and symbol of the Borbon house) and the iris pallida. These flowers don’t smell but one of the most expensive floral fragrances is extracted from their dried roots after three to five years of maturation to finally obtain one of the deepest and most enchanting floral notes.
After a more through consideration, irises definitely seem to me a very well-chosen symbol for Brussels; but not some much because they grow on local swamps but because they encapsulate all the contradictions of our city: a Germanic heart in a French body with no initial flavour but a very persistent enchantment.
Image credits © Ruskin in Brussels