Whether cultivated or wild, flowers are enchanting. Form, symmetry, color and scent – these reproductive structures offer an abundance of gifts, gifts that we return to over and over. For me the attraction to flowers is like an addiction – I see one and I’m gone.
Here is a clutch of beauties then, beauties whose bloom fades even as these words zip from your retina to your brain. This very transience is a large part of the appeal. Happily, the magic black box fixes them in time for a little longer. Enjoy.
The cultivated flowers seen above – the orchids and cyclamen – were photographed recently inside conservatories in Seattle and Tacoma. Some flowers here are skating the dangerous border between cultivated and wild; having been planted long ago, they grow in place now without human help. The witch hazel flower (#9) blooms at a botanical garden, well cared for indeed. The gem-purple crocus flowers took root from bulbs someone set into a hollow in an old tree stump, at the edge of a suburban park: a gift to strangers. The sprightly yellow catkins and the pendent cluster of fuchsia-pink flowers are blooming at Juanita Bay Park, while last year’s dried grass stalks still blanket the wetlands, seen below.
Water and soil alike remain cool this time of year, but a sunny March afternoon draws turtles up from their muddy hibernations to bask on a log. In a few months, white water lilies will bloom across the bay’s surface, and a feast of wildflowers will embellish nearby woodlands, fields, roadsides, and gardens. I’ll be ready.
- An orchid at Volunteer Park Conservatory, in Seattle, Washington.
- An orchid at Wright Park Conservatory in Tacoma, Washington.
- A white cyclamen at Volunteer Park Conservatory.
- A blossom on an old, bent cherry plum tree at the edge of a parking lot outside of Seattle. This tree, Prunus cerasifera, is also called Purple-leaved plum and is native to western Asia and the Caucasus. Photographed with a Lensbaby.
- Another blossom from the parking lot trees, neglected but going strong. (Sadly, just down the block, a row of these lovely trees was removed last year because of construction work on a huge retail complex).
- More cherry plum blossoms, at Kruckeberg Botanical Garden in Seattle. This site will walk you through the difference between cherry and plum trees. Both are beautiful, both are celebrated. Cherry trees (Prunus serrulata), are blooming in Tokyo and Kyoto now, but in Washington, DC, peak bloom is not expected until the first week or two in April, due to cold weather. Plum trees (Prunus mume) originated around the Yangtze River in China. Their very early bloom bloom made them an important symbol in oriental art.
- Cherry plum trees bloom in the rain on a suburban street near Seattle. Taken with a phone from inside the car with the rain-strewn window rolled up.
- Yes, it’s a flower. This is a Weeping willow (Salix babylonica) catkin. Willows have male catkins on one tree, females on another, and this is a male catkin, ready and waiting at Juanita Bay Park.
- Witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’) flowers bloom alongside the dark curls of last year’s leaves, Bellevue Botanical Garden.
- A native Red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum), blooms at Juanita Bay Park. Though the fruit isn’t palatable to humans, it’s eaten by animals, and hummingbirds take nectar from the flowers. As early as 1792, collections of this plant were made by Archibald Menzies, the naturalist on George Vancouver’s great global expedition. The explorers Lewis and Clark found R. sanguineum blooming further east, near the Columbia River, on March 27, 1806. Two hundred twelve years later it still blooms in late March, throughout the region. It also blooms in cultivation, thanks to David Douglas, a botanist and explorer who enabled his employer, the Royal Horticultural Society (then called the Horticultural Society of London) to introduce the flowering currant to English horticulture in the mid 1820’s. Here is a Royal Hort description of one of many cultivars available now.
- This charming group of crocus was growing in a huge tree stump at O.O. Denny Park in Kirkland. Someone must have planted them there, where just enough soil stuck to the stump for the little flowers to thrive and bloom.
- The new green shoots of the invasive Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) are rising quickly from the detritus of last year’s decaying growth. Volunteers are slowly removing many of the non-native plants at this popular wetland park. Currently they’re focused on Himalayan blackberry, a prickly, difficult plant to eradicate. I don’t know when they’ll ever get to the Reed canary grass. If they do, it would be a huge challenge to eradicate since much of it grows in very wet places.
- At least a dozen turtles lined up on this log to bask on a warm March afternoon at Juanita bay Park. Today it snowed briefly. Ah, March!