The Science of White Flowers
Of all the colours flowers come in, my favourite is pure white. White of course is not even a colour, but the absence of colour. White sunlight is a mix of red, orange, yellow, green blue indigo and violet ( just like the rainbow). The colour of an object is the reflection of certain parts of this spectrum of white light. Leaves appear green because they attract all the other colours but reflect the green light. An object appears white because its surface reflects all of the light reaching it and absorbs none. Black on the other hand absorbs all the light and reflects none.
Not all white blooms look exactly the same, there are many variable tones. Some white flowers are totally white and others are flushed or patterned with other colours which changes the tone of the white. The tone of a white flower is also influenced by surrounding colours, and the lighting conditions that fall upon them.
Species with white flowers are found more often in the very cold regions of earth such as the subarctic. They are also common in aquatic habitats. Often islands experience genetic isolation and develop specific white forms and even different species than their mainland neighbours.
Why Use White Flowers?
White flowers are refreshing and romantic and pop out in the evening as other colours fade into the darkness. They are also invaluable in the garden as they display other flowers to their best advantage. White flowers look wonderful with white-variegated foliage and bring out the dazzle in bright colours.
I like white flowers so much I keep a section of my garden just for them and made a white flower garden. The most famous white garden is the one created by Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent. A white garden is subtle and gets its strength from shape and form rather than colour. Some of the nicest white flowers are the old-fashioned varieties such as musk mallow, soapwort, phlox and peonies. The list is long for trees with white blossoms, shrubs, vines, white flowering perennials and annuals.
Iris ‘Immortality’ is a tall bearded iris that actually repeats bloom for me in the fall.
Snow drops are one of the first flowers to bloom in spring, popping their heads out of the snow.
Japanese anemones start blooming early in the spring and do a repeat performance in the early fall.
Daylily-Hemerocallis ‘White Hot’ boasts large 6 inch blooms.
White Tree Peony is an outstanding white bloom.
White Dogwood Tree is a lovely small yard tree which blooms in the late spring, early summer.
Shasta Daisy blooms for a long time in the summer. Great border perennial with many different cultivars to choose from.
Hydrangea shrubs are a favourite. Often the large white blooms will change to pink tones as they mature.
Hyacinth is an early blooming spring bulb with fabulous scent.
Echinacea ‘White Swan’ is a very reliable cultivar.
Roses of all types have several choices with pure white blooms.
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(some photos from pixabay) (some links go to my affiliate Amazon account)