All Flowers Keep the Light

“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.”
— Theodore Roethke, from “The Stony Garden” in 
Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke, 1943-63, ed. David Wagoner.


It’s finally spring here in northern New England. I know this because the flowers whose roots have held the light under snow-covered ground all winter are starting to emerge, incandescent, glistening, shimmering.

And none more so than the wild red trilliums (Trillium erectum, also called red wakerobin), just beginning to bloom at Kezar Lake in Sutton, NH today.


The coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), which blooms first and then comes into leaf, shines against the dull oak leaves like scrambled eggs on toast.

coltsfoot, Kezar Lake, Sutton NH, 5 May 2018

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), a member of the poppy family, whose rhizome exudes an orange-red juice when cut, is almost pellucid in petal, its stamens aglow.

bloodroot blooms, some nibbled, my garden, 3 May 2018
bloodroot flower close, my garden, 3 May 2018

Then there’s hellebore, sometimes reflecting light, sometimes seeming to be the source of the light itself .

purple hellebore, probably a hybrid, my garden, 4 May
purple hellebore close, my garden, 3 May
white hellebore (Hellebore foetida), my garden, 3 May

The purples and greens of violets and grape hyacinths (both in my garden) are so welcome after months without these vivid hues.


grape hyacinths, my garden, 3 May

Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) at Kezar Lake today barely contains its chemical flame — “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower,” as Dylan Thomas puts it — within its whitelight-rimmed leaves, the chlorine gas cast of its young flowers.


Ferns (Kezar Lake today) are starting to emerge, furled, their emerald green glossy with reflected sunlight.



And the loons are back — and too far away for a good photo — on Sutton’s Kezar Lake!



  1. That trillium is rad! Our natives look nothing like that. Some people really flip out over them; and I can not figure it out. No one grows them in their home gardens. They just grow wild in the forest. They do not transplant easily.

    1. Are your natives white? We flip out over any trillium of any kind because it’s one of the first plants to bloom in the spring, after a very long winter, and because they are a little hard to notice sometimes, so it’s sort of exciting to see one. I bought one (a yellow one) at a plant sale last year but it hasn’t emerged yet, so I’m thinking the transplant didn’t take. I did have a Jack in the Pulpit, another fun spring ephemeral that emerges later, in the garden for a few years but it didn’t come back last year. So maybe part of the thrill is that you have to go into the woods, or at least a wildflower garden :-), to experience them.

      1. Most of ours are white, but are not very flashy. They are often partly green or ruddy brown. There is one that is brownish red on the inside and reddish brown on the outside. It would be pretty if it were more visible. They are quite diminutive, and they tend to hide under other foliage.

  2. Beautiful pictures. Reminds me sadly of the trials at the farm where we would gather mayflowers every spring. The scent of trailing arbutus is unforgettable.

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