The flowers illustrated in these prints bloom during the fourth, fifth, and sixth months of the lunar calendar. Roughly translated, this period is equivalent to the months of May, June, and July in our Gregorian calendar.
Most striking are the images of the iris and peony. The iris blooms in the fifth lunar month and evokes the story of the journey in to exile of the poet Ariwara no Narihira from The Tales of Ise, a tenth-century Japanese literary classic. He stops at a place called Eight Bridges and inspired by the beauty of its irises, composes a poem to lament his separation from his wife. This association is so powerful that any depiction in Japanese art of irises with water or water and a bridge immediately recalls this passage to literate Japanese. The peony, on the other hand, is a symbol of wealth and social standing derived from China while in the Chinese literary tradition, the poeny may also stand for a beautiful woman. The other blossoms depicted here--clematis, azalea, lilies, roses, poppies, and most especially the hydrangea--also carry strong associations of the summer season in Japan.