A garden is no place for ageism

The garden is about every passage of life. Youth, adolescence, old age. Even death. ~ Princess Peggy Abkhazi

Today’s weather has chilled, but the sudden heat of the past two days put a definite frizzle in my long display of tulips. Before the forecast wind and rain (that never came), I went out last night to deadhead the oldest, most fragile of the nearly spent blooms, gathering them into a bouquet as I went. And I fell in love all over again, particularly with my newest crush, the great big Tulipa ‘Apricot Impression’.

Right there, in the middle of my front walk, I sat down and reached for my iPhone. A few raindrops threatened, but didn’t stop me. In decay, the tulips had a wabi-sabi beauty. Here I was, even more smitten at the end of the affair.

Oh, why did I rush to tidy up? I should have left them to grow old gracefully.

A garden isn’t static. It moves through the seasons and the years. In garden design, time matters as much as space or physical attributes, and each day, month, year, or even moment is its own.

I should have known better, as I’ve written before about the choreography of garden design. It comes back to me now, as I celebrate each and every stage of this lovely Darwin hybrid tulip. (As always, cursor over an image to read the caption, and click any image to see the slideshow, where the images are crisper.)

After three weeks, ‘Apricot Impression’ still impressed. The sun-dried petals had a frowsy charm.
Overwhelmed by what I held in my hand, I sat where I stood and pulled out my camera.
Take a bow, ‘Apricot Impression,’ and thank you for your performance!

Speaking of change, if you’d like to compare my 2016/17 tulip additions with the colour palette I’ve been building over time, have a look at this post.

Time can be a forgotten dimension when planning a garden – one reason we end up with “gaps” between seasons. How do you play with time?


    1. Beautiful, Anne. Anemone coronaria is a fabulous flower to begin with. Wish it would grow for me!

    1. Thanks, Janet. This was a new acquaintance, and a delight at every stage. I wonder if they’ll return so mightily next year?

  1. I, too, cherish plants that change colour with age. A tulip that has become a favourite is Shirley, starts white and ages into a beautiful purple. Some unnamed varieties from a trip to Holland last year start yellow then go red. A hydrangea favourite that starts white and goes pink is Vanilla/Strawberry; just lovely.

    In terms of aging, time has marched on when mother-ferns (as I call them) cease to produce leaves that rustle in the wind. Their babies have gone on to create more babies, but the original ones I planted years ago, from an East York Garden Club plant sale, are now silent.

    While some plants fail due to hard winters or dry summers, which are always a shame, it’s the death-by-aging plants that do speak to me. Unavoidable. No amount of watering or protection can stop the aging process. More of my friends (2 legged, 4 legged and rooted) are starting to see their last seasons.

    I’m enjoying all the petals now, in all their states and colours. Thanks for your post, Helen.

    1. And thank you for your thoughtful comment, Veronica. I’ve just ordered one of those colour-changing tulips to plant next fall; one called ‘Daydream’.

  2. I often save and dry some of my tulip petals and place in a wide glass vase, just to extend their beauty.

  3. Such a beautiful and poetic post. You’re so wise to remind us that our gardens are always a journey – sometimes one step forward, two steps back, but always changing. And we should appreciate all the stages of growth, not just that one, perfect moment in time when we feel a plant has achieved the height of its perfection.

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