The Whites of March (2 of 2)

From Sacheverell Sitwell’s “Forward” to Irises: Their Culture and Cultivation by Gwendolyn Anley:

And now, having created the light and stillness that are needed, we will walk further and look for the first signs of the irises….

From Irises: Their Culture and Cultivation by Gwendolyn Anley:

There is no beauty in the world Today but had its birth in Yesterday, its cradle in the lap of Time. The modern iris with its amazing range of colour and its perfection of form is but a development of the primitive flower which graced the earth when the world was young.

There is a touch of romance in the fleeting glimpses we catch of the iris as it makes its occasional appearances in history, art and medicine down the ages. The modern botanist tells us that when we are bidden to ‘consider the lilies’ we should, in point of fact, consider the irises…. If we accept the botanist’s statement — and there is no reason why we should not do so — it is evident that two thousand years ago the iris was recognised as a type of perfection and even considered to transcend in beauty the resplendent trappings of a king….

This is the second of two posts featuring white blossoms from one of my photo-shoots at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens. The first post is The Whites of March (1 of 2).

There are quite a few iris varieties on the property, and while I would have expected to see plenty of unopened iris buds in March, these large whites in full-sized full bloom were a surprise. PlantNet identified this as Iris albicans — also known as a white cemetery iris, so it certainly belonged where I found it!

The dominance of so many white-bloomed flowers this March — pears, spirea, quinces, snowdrops, snowflakes, and early daffodils — prompted me to wonder whether or not white (or yellow) flowers typically bloomed earlier than others, and if so, why. Among my gardening and nature books, the question wasn’t addressed specifically, but I found this article about the phenomenon…

Why are the First Flowers of Spring Often White or Yellow?

… that explains that early seasonal pollinators are mostly flies, flies don’t detect color but do detect brightness and contrast, so many of the first spring flowers get their attention by being … bright white and bright yellow. Or, to adopt an early-bird-catching-worms metaphor: the early (white and yellow) bloom catches the flies!

As I often like to do — and this works especially well with irises because of their large blooms and petals — I used Lightroom’s brushes to remove backgrounds from a few photos of the same flowers.

Select any image to see larger versions in a slideshow (then select View Full Size if you would like to see more detail — definitely worth a look).

Thanks for taking a look!

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The Whites of March (1 of 2)

From Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History by Diana Wells:

Some Asian pears, notably the Bradford pear, were cultivated in the West not for their fruit but as ornamentals. The Bradford pear was so popular it once threatened to dominate American streets, with its pyramid form, lovely fall foliage, and beautiful blossoms. It was planted everywhere, but the upright branches break easily, especially with snow on them, so it isn’t used as much now as it once was. It got the name Bradford from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s director.

From Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology by David Abram:

[Meaningful] speech cannot … be restricted to the audible dimension of sounds and sighs. The animate earth expresses itself in so many other ways. Last night while I lay sleeping [the old tree] in front of the house quietly broke into blossom, and so when, in the morning and still unaware, I stepped outside to stretch my limbs, I was stunned into silence by the sudden resplendence….

The old tree was speaking to the space around it…. The whole yard was listening, transformed by the satin eloquence of the petals.

From Through the Garden Gate by Elizabeth Lawrence:

It has been more than ten years since I stood there and looked down on those white flowers growing gently among the green leaves.

In the first gallery below, I’ve isolated a few individual Bradford Pear blossoms from the hundreds that the tree in front of my house produces each year. Like Elizabeth Lawrence says in the quote above, I, too, have watched this tree for over a decade as it grew from a ten foot spray of a dozen spindly branches to a behemoth that shades half of my front yard. Bradford Pear fragility, however, is noteworthy: on this one, an telephone-pole-sized section of the tree split and slid down the trunk, then jammed against a few branches last summer — and had to be extracted with a crane by city workers. But maybe that’s what it needed; now that new branches have grown in and the short-lived blossoms have been replaced by leaves, you can’t even tell that a chunk of the tree disappeared.

These delightful little creatures are a variety of spirea, featuring delicate white flowers about a quarter inch in diameter, waving on thin branches in a mid-morning breeze.

Select any image to see larger versions in a slideshow (then select View Full Size if you would like to see more detail).

Thanks for taking a look!


Pink, Red, and White Blooms (and One Colorful Camellia), on the First Day of Spring

From Upstream by Mary Oliver:

In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be. Wordsworth studied himself and found the subject astonishing. Actually what he studied was his relationship to the harmonies and also the discords of the natural world. That’s what created the excitement….

One tree is like another tree, but not too much. One tulip is like the next tulip, but not altogether. More or less like people — a general outline, then the stunning individual strokes. Hello Tom, hello Andy. Hello Archibald Violet, and Clarissa Bluebell. Hello Lilian Willow, and Noah, the oak tree I have hugged and kissed every first day of spring for the last thirty years. And in reply its thousands of leaves tremble! What a life is ours!

“Doesn’t anybody in the world anymore want to get up in the middle of the night and sing?

From “The Prelude or, Growth of a Poet’s Mind” in Selected Poetry of William Wordsworth, edited by Mark Van Doren:

I saw the Spring return, and could rejoice….

If I ruled the world

The first day spring would be an international holiday, celebrated outdoors from dawn to dusk … and maybe all night long!


Enjoy the flowers!