The weather has just taken a wintery turn here in Chicago. Arctic air has buckled southward, bringing cold and modest snowfall. For the moment there is a blanket of white that covers the ground.
Snow provoked thoughts of white flowers, and how it shouldn’t be too long before they would brighten the garden. Considering white flowers, it occurred to me that I have quite a few blooming in different seasons. I like white flowers best in shade – under the hot sun they can be a bit too dazzling. However, the softer light of spring is kind to white blooms. Let’s take a look at some of my favorite white flowers of spring.
First come the Snowdrops, of course. I enjoy snowdrops, but I am not moved by the subtle differences among the many varieties that bring joy to the hearts of Galanthus fanciers. I have your basic Galanthus nivalis and Galanthus elwesii, and that’s all. What does bring me joy is how the clumps of Snowdrops spread from year to year.
I love Crocuses. In our garden there are only a few that are white, part of a Crocus vernus mix I planted a few years ago. White Crocus flowers seem a bit more dignified than other Crocuses, like the brother who goes into the ministry while all his siblings become salesmen.
There are a few Bloodroot (Sanguineria canadensis), a spring ephemeral, in the back garden. My fond wish is that they will colonize and spread. Their flowers seem almost luminous, reminding us of the association of white with purity.
I don’t plant Narcissi anymore – Judy is prejudiced against them. But of the ones I have, I think I prefer the white to the yellow. I forgot the name of this variety long ago.
Narcissi prefer sun but tolerate some shade. Most of the flowers on this post prefer shady sites, though many bloom before the trees leaf out and the shade asserts itself.
Many shrubs and small trees have white spring flowers. For example, in our garden there are several kinds of Cornus and Viburnum, plus a couple of Crabapples (Malus). However, my favorite spring flower among the woody plants has to be the Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora).
Tulips are less frequently associated with white, but it would be a mistake to overlook the white-blooming varieties and species. The species tulip T. turkestanica is a good example. The yellow centers are an example of how white does best if offset by a touch of another color. Too much purity can be hard to take.
The same point is made by the Single Late Tulips ‘World Expression’.
The flowers of White Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’) are pure white, though. Here they are with some Great Merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora). Do they disprove my point about white needing to be offset by another color? I actually prefer the traditional pink Bleeding Hearts, but the white ones are nice. The whiteness is not too dazzling, perhaps because the flowers dangle daintily from arching stems, rather than forming a big mass.
What are your favorite white flowers of spring?