Friday, June 29, 2012

Florence and the fleur-de-lis

HJ: During our three trips to Florence, I frequently noticed a floral symbol all throughout public places and art. I learned that it was called the fleur-de-lis, and is the symbol of Florence. I was particularly interested in the fleur-de-lis because it is modeled after the iris, which is my favorite flower. In the DFW area where I grew up, German irises are a perennial, blooming in mid-spring with some rebloomers sending up flowers again in late summer/early fall. When we first came to Castiglion Fiorentino, there were a few pots with blooming German irises in them, which surprised me because the irises back home had been dead for over a month when we left in May.  Sadly, they died within a week of our being here, but I enjoyed them during the short span of time they were still alive.
There are two main types of iris used in the landscape and floral industries, Dutch (Iris x hollandica) and German (Iris x germanica) irises. Dutch irises are primarily used in the floral industry because they have a longer shelf life after being cut and processed. German irises wilt a day or so after being cut, and so aren’t valued in the floral industry, but they make great perennial landscape plants in areas they receive their minimal chilling requirement and will continue blooming for weeks at a time in the spring. I love them in part because of their unusual shape, but also because they are one of the only flowers that naturally occur in all colors of the rainbow. Blue flowers are relatively rare in nature, and irises come in multiple shades of blue along with all other colors. They are resilient, and can withstand being transplanted multiple times, as I learned when my mother would dig up the plants she had since childhood and bring them with us every time we moved. The irises I grew up with also were able to withstand both the drought and heat common to Texas and the attentiveness of my mother, equally formidable foes to the plants in my household.
In that sense, I find the iris to be a worthy and fitting choice of a symbol for Florence, a resilient and strong city with a proud history of democracy, and extremely lucrative and stable banking industry, and conquest of surrounding areas. Although the Medicis essentially took over Florence off and on for two hundred years, the city maintained its desire for freedom and retook governmental power following the wane of Medici influence. Florentines to this day are proud of their heritage and of their impressive history, and the fleur-de-lis embodies this pride in a beautiful manner.

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