Transient Beauty

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.

 

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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.

 

12.

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.

13.

The photos:

  1. An orchid at Volunteer Park Conservatory, in Seattle, Washington.
  2. An orchid at Wright Park Conservatory in Tacoma, Washington.
  3. A white cyclamen at Volunteer Park Conservatory.
  4. 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.Β  Photographed with a Lensbaby.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’) flowers bloom alongside the dark curls of last year’s leaves, Bellevue Botanical Garden.
  10. 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.Β  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.Β  Here is a Royal Hort description of one of many cultivars available now.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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!

86 comments

  1. Still not easy to pick favorites from all this lovely eye candy! But if I must…
    7- you’ve captured the way the rain makes things look through a rain drenched window. I’m guessing it was software, rather than rain, but still it truly captures that effect so beautifully. (Raining buckets for most of the day here today, but I don’t have no blooming pink to perk up images πŸ˜€ )
    8- I’m infected with a particular love of catkins or pussywillows, but the catkins from our tanoak seem to set off some serious allergies for me
    13- all the elements to thrill me…. sky, clouds, plantlife, water and wildlife. What more could you ask for?

      • πŸ™‚ That was funny! BTW tree pollens are high now, but at least it’s temporary. I hope you’re more comfortable soon. You’d enjoy that little park where the turtles bask – it’s good for birds, and you can often get fairly close, thanks to the boardwalks. I will miss it when we move.

      • Perhaps someday I’ll get to visit it? πŸ˜€
        In the meantime, the latest deluge seems to have dampened the pollen situation.

  2. Beautiful, beautiful. The orchids are amazing, but you’ve also done great with a humble willow catkin. β€œA cellphone picture through a wet car window” wouldn’t sound very promising, but that cherry blossom shot is magic. I also particularly enjoyed #4 and how the fungus on the tree bark, and the light reflecting from leaves in the background, all mimic the flower petals. And #3 has a wonderful porcelain look (it’s a beautiful shot, the petals are pure and graceful, although another part of my brain, the TV rerun-polluted part, sees Sally Fields as the Flying Nun).
    I’ve seen painted turtles and sliders lined up on logs like that, basking, it always makes me smile – sometimes they dive back into the water one by one, like old movies of Billy Rose’s Aquacade. I wonder if those turtles give a thought to the cloud-images floating by in their pond, or enjoy seeing them float by. If there was a tortoise on the bank, he could advise them that clouds are real, but what they see in the water, are just transitory reflections. The turtles might think, man, I wish we had a camera!
    Thank you for the treat, have a great weekend!

    • Thanks Robert, I’m pleased you liked the trees in the rain. And the catkin – thanks to a good macro lens – and the orchids. They’re easier!! Your comments about #4 are wonderful – one thing I love about those old trees is all the moss and lichens on them, but it’s hard to photograph all of that. But spare me your Flying nun!!
      I love your turtle fantasy….sweeeeet! You have a good weekend, too!

  3. The orchid show is on now at the New York Botanical Garden, and I’ve seen photos from a similar orchid show in Atlanta. Orchids are such beautiful flowers, but in a non-traditional way, it seems. Love your captures here too, Lynn. And how about those turtles!

  4. Number 3 , 4 and 7 is my favorites!
    Especialy 7!

    β€žFrom the blind sleep of the dark night
    From where they stayed far from beautiful
    The orchards return home
    In flowered dresses below
    It is spring, spring again!
    At every roadside
    The fingers take out strains
    Of snowdrops, of lilies, of violets…”

    (Primăvara- Tudor Gheorghe)

  5. There’s always joy in flowers. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ I have a mixed bunch of roses and lilies on my hearth right now (in lemon, peach and dark pink πŸ™‚ ) and my eyes often return to them. Have a nice weekend, Lynn!

  6. Beautiful pictures and I admire your botanical knowledge – mine is miniscule! The ones that really strike me are: 2 for its fire- and background; striking; 3 intriguing; 4 excellent out of focus effects; 7 very different, painterly; 11 now Crocus I do know(!) and its one of my favourite flowers along with Snowdrops; 12. Beautiful post. A πŸ™‚

    • For this post, I tried to sort out the cherries and plums a bit – it’s very confusing. My knowledge is quite limited, but it’s fun to research things I’m curious about. I don’t know why the background on #2 worked out that way – lucky! Thanks for your comments, as always, and may the crocuses bloom!

  7. Love nos 2 and 7. I’m not a fan of orchids but this one looks beautiful with its colour-co-ordinated bokeh! No 7 because the rain softens the scene making it look painterly.

  8. Now that’s the way to photograph flowers! Your cyclamen is pure form.Your Lensbaby did the plum tree proud. And rain has never been a better collaborator than in your seventh photograph. You’ve included just enough context for the crocuses to exert their charm in number 11. Too bad (is it?) that the Reed canary grass looks so appealing in photograph number 12. What a beautiful clear day, as you show us, for the turtles to come out. Congratulations on another great post, Lynn.

    • Really? I was afraid these might be too “ordinary” to appeal…but I’m glad you liked the cyclamen (I love those flowers!) and the lensbaby photo. I’m actually hoping for more rain to work on those shots out the window. πŸ˜‰ And the crocus? I was surprised that one worked; so often, images like that don’t “read.” I think it’s the colors. #12 is one I’d expect you to be drawn to…thanks Linda, good to read your thoughts.

  9. Ah, flowers. Spring is on our doorstep, and I fear many of my readers may soon tire of another flood of flower pictures. I suspect you will not be one of them – more likely you’ll continue to set the bar.

  10. Beautiful post Lynn … happy spring! The orchids and cherry plum blossoms are my favorites. Love the rainy window image too … together with the obscured pink trees it really speaks of spring.

      • Nope not yet. Blooms start to happen around May give or take the elevation and area. Wildflower peak up in the mountain basins is the first week of July. Crested Butte has a Wildflower Festival each year.

      • The mountain wildflower peak may be about the same here, but the lowlands are much lower, I suppose, and the climate is moderated by Puget Sound, so things actually begin to bloom in February….but it stays quite cool. I bet the wildflowers around Crested Butte are glorious.

  11. Wonderful post, love the rainy window it is so painterly. Enjoy all your posts Lynn, you put a lot of thought into them and it shows, thank you.

  12. Flower and beauty are like synonyms πŸ™‚ . Observing flowers is knowing the beauty.. beautiful images as always. I don’t know much about plants and flowers but I can feel them. You have provided the nice details. Thanks for that. I like the orchid flowers most, especially the second image. I like the 11th photo also, truely representing the meaning of life.

    • I like the synonym idea. And having a feeling for plants is a truly wonderful thing. With the 11th photo, maybe you’re thinking about the way last year’s dead leaves coexist with this year’s fresh blooms – it’s nice to see that natural look, isn’t it?

    • It’s nice to have you here, and I’m not too surprised – it’s probably known more to people who buy native plants for their gardens. I hope you get up there – you probably saw the website – just be sure to go when they’re open. It’s fun to wander around, and it’ll be really nice for the next 3 or 4 weeks, I think. There’s a great sculpture there, too, down in the lower woods, a wonderful huge wooden piece. Happy Spring!

  13. All wonderful. Makes me yearn for when the wildflowers are growing and it’s beautiful photographic weather outside.

      • sometimes i’m ‘wistful’ to be near a good supply of ;forgiving’ and receptive handmade 300# paper… i always loved painting scientific studies of iris – louisiana, dutch, bearded, etc, and bleed the stem from ‘scientific’ downward until it slowly faded into a stripe of clear water.. from realistic to haunting…

        surely there are good papers, but i’ve never seen any on ‘my side’ of the country, and possibly if i spent a day in the city of quito, i’d find something.. alas, it’s easier to stick with a slightly-different style and use acrylics and the back side of vinyl upholstery material!!!! canvas rots in this ultra humid climate!

      • Ohh, I hear you on painting the irises – how beautifully you just expressed bridging those two worlds, something we both like to do. You can’t order that paper from somewhere, and get it mailed, can you? Maybe it would be way too expensive….there are always pluses and minuses to living in different places, aren’t there?

    • Thank you, I appreciate your comment. Maybe some day you will come to the US, and the Pacific Northwest – so different from where you live! But there are beautiful flowers in both places. πŸ™‚

  14. Your flower images are lyrical, Lynn. Wonderful and thoughtful compositions. The orchid with the bokeh, the cherry blossom, the rainy window, the weeping willow are beautifully inventive. All of the images convey the hope of spring. Terrific work!

  15. Amazing. Portraying the ethereal qualities of flowers is akin to catching lightning in a bottle, and yet you do it again and again. You are so very good with “the magic black box”.

    • Clever! Bewitching, yes. Actually, Wikipedia says this: (I had to look it up):
      The name Witch in witch-hazel has its origins in Middle English wiche, from the Old English wice, meaning “pliant” or “bendable”.
      Thank you for your comment, Sigrun.

    • Thank you John, and the funny thing is, I’ve wanted to work on images like this some more but the rain we’ve had has been very, very light, only enough to mist the window, and not ins a poetic way. πŸ™‚ Just have to wait. I appreciate your comments very much.

  16. They’re all beautiful, in particular ways, but my favorite is the seventh. It reminded me immediately of Ezra Pound’s “In A Station Of The Metro”:

    The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
    Petals on a wet, black bough.

    Your turtles are delightful, and far more presentable than ours. Every one I’ve seen recently has been mud-covered and reticent. And I envy your witch hazel. I swore I was going to find ours this year, but again I was too late. Apparently January is the time to begin searching for it.

    • Believe it or not, I have photos of witch hazel in bloom taken in mid-January. That’s at a garden so it’s cultivated, and probably the cultivar is selected for early bloom, but….I think you’re right, you can’t get out too early to look for it. I wasn’t familiar with the Pound poem – my store of literary knowledge is pretty shallow, and ragged at the edges. πŸ™‚ I went to look for it and found that’s the whole poem, which made me like it even more. Thanks for that! A really interesting, and apt, association. (I especially like it because I’m drawn to the city and to nature, so I appreciate bringing the two together the way Pound did).

  17. Nr. 2 is stunning, 7 and 8, 10, 11 and 13 are my favourites too. Number 7 is fantastic with this crinkle-rain-effect! What would the world be without these beauties!!

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