Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Garden, thy name is ephemeral, or is it?

With a tip of my hat to Garden Walk Garden Talk I contemplated Wednesday’s word, ephemeral. The normal gardener would, of course, think of the fleeting flower, the inching caterpillar evolved into the fluttering butterfly, the puddle from this morning’s rain a mere memory this afternoon. I don’t know why those things didn’t enter my mind. Perhaps dictated by today's mood I had bigger things in my mind.


At a certain age everything seems ephemeral, not only lasting a short time but lasting shorter and shorter times. My impatient waiting for plants to gain some size and presence didn’t last long. You might say, well, that’s because you live in Florida and use composted horse manure by the ton, and you’d be right. Plants do grow fast here, making the ephemerality of this garden even more pronounced. It was a much quicker transition for the garden to become taller and wider in all of its parts than I was expecting. It didn’t take long for the garden to grow out of that ‘so perfect’ phase of orderly plantings and tidy edgings. It doesn’t take long for weeds to overtake a corner of the garden. It never takes long for a climbing rose to reach across a pathway and become a tangled, dangerous mass. Maybe mess would be a better word. It doesn’t take long for the lovely bloom of ‘Le Vesuve’ that I saw this evening while carrying in the groceries in the dimming light to become the drooping flower of the morning, bereft of petals that I'll see running to the car on my way to work.

Ephemeral gets away from me. Ephemeral can be caught out of the corner of my eye while heading the other way… or not at all. Ephemeral is a garden from one year to the next as evidenced in the thousands of photos stored on my computer. Ephemeral is a daily transition, a yearly transformation, a lifetime evolution in the garden and in the gardener. There is a wistfulness about ephemeral in my mind but probably more in my heart, a memory of that perfect morning sunlight streaming through the trees. Perhaps ephemeral in the autumn has a more melancholy tone while ephemeral in the spring strikes chords of joy and celebration. The spaciousness of a springtime garden bed is ephemeral because by midsummer it’s gone, replaced by the clutter of the rambunctious annuals and returning perennials. Climbers are ephemeral, one day too short to be tied up then seemingly overnight in need of trimming back. Garden parts and garden phases are ephemeral but thankfully gardens are eternal…at least in our hearts. Particular moments are gone, yet they will be repeated, not identically but the same nonetheless.

IMG_0067 (3)


  1. Sherry, you are right, the gardens are changing so much ... and we are living moments of ephemeral beauty, surrounded by the plants ...

  2. Beauty is fleeting, and if we blink we might miss it. I had three blooms on my confederate rose that I was going to check on later, but I forgot and they only last a day, so they are gone now. I'm usually taken by surprise when I see them.

    I love that peaceful, lovely garden space of yours.


  3. Yes, the garden changes fast. And we are lucky to be able to stop and notice them. I think it's those changes that make gardening so enjoyable. A true challenge! Great post. You hit the word on many levels.