In the midst of teeming life in a summer garden, I’m taking a moment for death. If there’s anything gardening teaches us, it’s that we can’t nourish new life without some kind of death. Heck, we can learn that from the dead, rotting things in our compost, which turn into the best soil you can get.
But death isn’t just beautiful for what it does for the next generation: it can also be beautiful in itself. The last petal of Apricot Beauty, at the top of this page, can still give me a thrill, different in nature from the unfurling buds and full, fleshed-out flowers, but a quiver that goes as deep into my soul.
Even the threat of death can be beautiful. For instance, while we consider scotch broom to be an oily, fire-hazardous, aggressive, crowding-out-natives pest; while I root up scotch broom whenever I find it in soft ground – I still couldn’t ignore its blazing yellow blooms as a backdrop for these on-their-last-legs ‘Annie Schilder’ tulips and late, tiny ‘Hawera’ narcissus.
The pale golden muscari a friend gave me dies in a quieter beauty, softly lit by sun:
This sunflower bract echoes the soft golden muscari yellow, but the grain amaranth around it points it up with fuchsia arabesques.
This dying lily foliage is another yellow, softened by the light-brown oak leaves around it, a brown that echoes the color on the fading leaves.
Lily-flowered tulip ‘Marilyn’ takes the fuchsia from the amaranth and puts it into a swirl; it’s as cheerful and sassy in its old age as I’d like to be.
And then ‘Lady Jane’ reminds us of that final step of all dying plants, the one the leads us back to life:
Bonus: if anyone still needs to be reminded of how death and life are intertwined, try this minute-long video of a tulip’s elegant dance of death: