On a crisp spring morning, Cliff Elston can stand outside his home south of Lawrence and take in the fragrance of hundreds of iris.
"If the wind is still, it's just a light fragrance all over the entire yard," he said.
You know, the scent of grape soda or root beer, unique perfumery from a unique showy flower.
The peak season for iris is typically near Mother's Day, but a late spring freeze pushed back the full bloom. And Elston's flowers should be in all their glory this weekend at his home business, Iris Place, 1578 N. 962 Road south of Lawrence. It's three miles east of U.S. Highway 59, just off Douglas County Road 458.
"It's a very beautiful sight when they're all in bloom," he said.
Elston's mother was the root of this family business.
"She would stop at places along the road, at a little roadside stand, and buy a lot of flowers, and she would always bring them out and we'd plant them," he said.
But when Elston had to dig up the iris and divide them, he had so many he was "giving them away, I was throwing them away, then people said you should start selling them," he said.
Twenty-nine years have passed, and he's kept busy caring for his 240 varieties of iris and peony plants with his wife Becky, cousin Linda Lash and her husband, Ronald.
"It's very worthwhile for me, just the pleasure of talking to the people, tending to the flowers," he said.
If he could pick just one, his favorite is the Snow Spoon, a white blossom with a yellow center.
Betty Henderson, who has more than 190 different irises in her "secret garden" in Lawrence, selected three varieties from Iris Place.
"You can get so many different colors, and I just like them," she said. "They have a beautiful grapey smell."
Henderson said peak season has passed in her city garden. At Iris Place, Elston suspected the blooms will be over in two weeks.
"Next week it will probably be really beautiful if the weather will cooperate," he said.