Nature puts on a spectacular show when at its peak and bursting with life, but it also knows how to bow out gracefully. Many plants can be just as beautiful when they slip into the final stages of their life cycle as they are at the beginning of it. Some do, of course, look scraggy and sorry for themselves – which can be depressing for us to look at – but others take on dramatic, delicate and intriguing qualities. Winter is perhaps the best time to appreciate these qualities as there is often little of more obvious beauty around. Everything seems to hang in an in-between place, waiting for something: for Spring to arrive and the new life it brings to burst into being; or for some more final end to be brought to those scraggy ‘hangers-on’.
I was struck by these lines from the book I am currently reading, and they seem particularly appropriate here:
‘A dead hydrangea is as intricate and lovely as one in bloom. Bleak sky is as seductive as sunshine, miniature orange trees without blossom or fruit are not defective; they are that’.
– Tar Baby by Toni Morrison
For many plants death is simply a stage in the cycle of life, in more than one sense of the word. Dead heads fall and perform one final duty by scattering their seeds as they roll so that life can begin again. But the end also provides a great opportunity to put on one last show.
The Miscanthus above retains the fun, bouncy shape it had when it was green with life and the clear blue sky made a great backdrop.
Here are a few images from last year of some other plants clinging onto the vestiges of their former glory with style: