There’s something about white flowers. The way they capture the light. The way they evoke purity. The way they beguile the gaze. The light in sub-tropical climes is very different to the more temperate regions where I spent my childhood. When I first encountered the sub-tropical light, I thought it made the landscape and all things within, look as if lit from behind. This is never more apparent than the effect of light on white blooms.
The Magnolia grandiflora, Little Gem is an example. When the flower first unfurls from the bud, its suede-like texture seems to ignite the light. Even under shadows thrown by the surrounding glossy green leaves, the bloom appears to glow from within. The petals eventually weather to a lovely ‘old gold’ as the flower ages; losing none of their glow, they still arrest the gaze.
Why I’m drawn to white flowers is a mystery to me. I love the brilliant hues that abound in every form of floral expression. I simply couldn’t do without a riot of colours in my tiny courtyard garden. But the white ones have a special attraction.
Perhaps the appeal lies in the clear contrasts. The white of the magnolia is so perfectly complemented by the shadows its dark leaves cast. I’m captivated by the deep russet underside of the leaves against their glossy oval tops. They seem to spoon white light over the flowers like water. During the recent visit of the super moon, I was enchanted to see magnolias glowing like Chinese lanterns in the dark; bold competition for the only marginally superior moon.
“There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.”
— Charles Dickens
When I ponder this, I think of the parallels in human nature. My own, no less. I’m not speaking of some dichotomy of good and evil. No, it’s more of a known and unknown. Of discovering in one’s mysterious personal shadows, evidence of light – a startling place where some previously hidden aspect of one’s self shines.
Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.