Purple Reign

It’s said the vibrant iris symbolizes faith, valor, and wisdom | Photography by Matthew Lavere
ALL EYES ON IRIS: This Bloomfield Hills property is a true head-turner with swathes of regal irises that capture the eye.

Every spring, hundreds of purple Russian irises glorify the three-quarter-acre Bloomfield Hills property of Dr. Shabbir Khambati and his wife, Shabnam, and it’s a sight to behold. Composed of narrow, sword-shaped leaves and showy blossoms, the flowers were already part of the garden when the couple purchased their residence almost two years ago.

“Because those flowers hadn’t been maintained at all, our landscaper (Jose Castaneda of WB Maintenance in Pontiac) had to do a whole revamp,” Shabbir says. Adds Castaneda: “You need to cut the flowers down every fall so they’ll come back stronger in the spring.”

“While we have a sprinkler system and we fertilize,” Shabbir says, “the flowers mostly just grow naturally. However, they also need a lot of sun — and since there are no trees where ours are located, they get quite a lot of it.”

Although many different iris species and petal colors are available, Ryan Youngblood, president of R. Youngblood & Co. in Rochester, says he’s particularly fond of the purple Siberian variety because it’s very hardy. “It’s our most enjoyed iris and makes an early-season exclamation,” he says. “We like to use them in clumps to accent specimen stones, and also as pockets in the garden. The nice thing is that after the blooms are spent, the leaves will remain a vibrant green color for the rest of the summer.”

It’s said that iris mythology dates back to ancient Greece, when the goddess Iris — who personified the rainbow — acted as a link between heaven and earth. Purple irises were often planted over the graves of women, to summon the goddess Iris to guide them on their journey to heaven.

An additional claim is that the three upright petals found on each iris stem symbolize faith, valor, and wisdom.