Dying Well-Fading Faire

Do not dismiss the dying foliage of the perennials as somehow abhorrent, something that should be cleared away because it spoils the view.

There is still great beauty in the leaves as they lose the chlorophyll. Color and texture add interest, as it is nature’s way of everything to its season.

No thing is young and fresh forever, but every stage of life glows from within.

Perhaps a wee bit of squinting is needed to see that past its prime does not equal without value.

Some might even say the interest is even more spectacular.

There is depth of meaning beyond mere mortal comprehension in the process.

Second by second, minutes to hours to days to weeks, the only constant is change.

Those not busy being born, are busy dying. [To paraphrase Bob Dylan’s It’s Allright Ma, (I’m Only Bleeding)]

So open your eyes…

…And see the changes surrounding us for what they are…



Every fall inspires us to wax poetic about the meaning of it all, the beauty of decay and degradation in the garden and elsewhere. The first post can be seen by clicking here-Dying Well. What was written last year can be seen by clicking here-Dying Well-Aging Attractively.

The Photos:

1. Variegated Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum odoratum var. thunbergii
2. Hosta ‘Sunpower’
3. Blackberry Lily, Belamcanda chinensis
4. Daylily, Hemerocallis ‘Pandora’s Box’
5. Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Kopper King’
6. Amsonia hubrichtii
7. Yellow Button Mum, name unknown
8. Balloon Flower, Platycodon grandiflorus
9. Lilium ‘Tango Crossover’
10. Lilium ‘Royal Fantasy’
11. Kitty, master of the Fairegarden


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37 Responses to Dying Well-Fading Faire

  1. I appreciate some things just come into their own in Autumn but it’s always too short lived for me. Virginia creeper and Sumac are looking great over here right now, but I fear tonights frost will accelerate the leaf drop.

    Kitty looks to be on a mission.

    Hi Rob, thanks for visiting. It is short lived, making it all the more treasured. We normally have a nice leisurely fall season before the cold moves in and stays with warm sunny days punctuated by blazing foliage color. The sumacs and creepers are late this year to redden up, but it will happen soon. Even the muhly is late, we are still waiting on the driveway clump to open fully. It might need more water, everything here does need that. Kitty walked into the shot without my realizing it. He does look determined. πŸ™‚

  2. Layanee says:

    My Solomon’s Seal looks much like yours and I took notice of it just yesterday. There is beauty in every stage of life as you have so eloquently pointed out.

    Hi Layanee, thanks. The Solomon’s Seal is having a banner year despite the lack of rain, or maybe because of it. I love that sea of pale yellow under the taller plantings. The beauty is there, in humans as well as plants. It is a matter of perception. πŸ™‚

  3. Randy says:

    Our garden has looked like this for two months now. It needs a well deserved rest. That sure is a plump kitty in the last photo. πŸ™‚

    Hi Randy, thanks for stopping by. We are seeing changes daily as the foliage turns here. We are also very dry, extremely so, but it is still beautiful. Kitty says he prefers the term muscular to plump! πŸ™‚

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    There is a lot of not so graceful demise going on in my garden. Everything is ready to give up looking for moisture. It will be interesting to see what comes back next year…if we ever get out of this drought.

    Hi Lisa, I know what you mean. It is amazing to me how some things still are so pretty in the face of drought.

  5. Cindy, MCOK says:

    I didn’t know lilies would color up so beautifully. I’m working on learning to accept the beauty of aging foliage but it’s hard not to take those yellow leaves off my Louisiana Iris!

    Hi Cindy, thanks. It is a matter of perception I believe, to see beauty in the seasons besides flowers. I don’t leave everything, but do leave enough to have something to look at during winter. Of course it is quite different here than in Texas. πŸ™‚

  6. Gail says:

    Dear Frances, On the whole I love fall and the changes. Solomon’s Seal is one of my favorite fall yellows. It looks perfect with the gentle blue of mist flower in my garden. This year the stems of the mistflower seem more pronounced~lovely aren’t they! If I didn’t already love the lily flowers I would plant them for the fall color! They look wonderful in your garden. Give Kitty a hello scratch under his sweet chin. Happy planting. xxoogail

    Hi Gail, thanks. Kitty says puurrrrr and a big hug to Coal. The Solomon’s Seal seems even more brilliant this year as it has spread so under the Joe Pye. The mistflower is brilliant, also having an especially good year. The lilies are left standing until they are dark brown, and sometimes even then, depending on how much they are leaning over. It is beautiful to these eyes in all phases. πŸ™‚

  7. barbarapc says:

    Now Frances – I’m sure if there was a Dr Oz of plants, he’d know just what was needed – it’s only a matter of plumping those leaves up; some green paint; glue and some dollar store flowers; maybe even freeze drying (if you can freeze fat…..?) Funny how we can accept garden life cycles so easily. Oh that reminds me, I’ve got an early apt. for my colour tomorrow. The polygonatum variegatum is one of my all-time favourites – I can’t decide in which season I like it best. Lovely post.

    HA Barbara, you are funny! Thanks for that! I am a natural type of gal, and really do think the dying foliage is beautiful. We know the plants are still alive inside, and will return next spring, so it is not as sad to see them fade. The Solomon’s Seal gets better every year, it is quite a spreader! πŸ™‚

  8. A plus for Atlanta is that we get a long time to enjoy each season (except a short winter!) The sumac is changing and dogwoods have a nice tint, but fall is approaching slowly. I need to get out with my camera to see what I can find to appreciate. I’m sure there is more than I realize.

    Hi Jill, thanks for stopping by. We are lucky in our zone with the long stroll in fall before that short winter hits us after Christmas. There is much beauty out there right now. πŸ™‚

  9. Steve says:

    Nahhh. They look like crap. πŸ˜‰ OK, OK, I’ll shut up.

    Steve….stop. Now. But to each his own, it is all a matter of perception.

  10. I know it may seem odd, but I like when the garden goes brown. Even though it signals a lot of garden work, I like to see the clean beds after all the fullness of summer. It says it is a time of rest and renewal for the garden and me!

    Hi Donna, thanks for visiting. I think the cleaning up may be more of an imperative where you live. Things are still growing and looking pretty down here in TN for quite some time. We don’t have to prepare for snow cover or frozen ground and can actually garden most of the winter. It really doesn’t go to sleep, but does take cat naps. Me too. πŸ™‚

    • I am surprised you can garden in winter. That means work all year!

      We don’t think of gardening as work at all. We think of it as our passion, and want to do it every single day of the year, as long as possible. πŸ™‚

  11. Eileen says:

    My Solomon’s Seal seemed to change overnight. I still have lots of green though which is unusual for zone 5.


    Hi Eileen, that is wonderful! Glad to hear your colder zone is still showing signs of life. The Solomon’s Seal is a wonder, what a terrific plant. πŸ™‚

  12. Rose says:

    Isn’t it amazing how many lessons can be learned from the garden? Appreciating the beauty of age is certainly one of them. Beautiful photos–I love all the tinges of red on stems and leaves. Kitty appears to be doing his/her job well in keeping a tight security around the garden:)

    Hi Rose, thanks. Mr. Kitty has actually not done a very good job with the voles or squirrels this year, but we love him anyway. Beauty of age, it might be a hard concept for some to swallow, but it happens to us all, even Ringo. πŸ™‚

  13. Kathy says:

    I would appreciate fall a lot more if there weren’t a long winter coming after.

    Hi Kathy, thanks for adding your perspective. When we lived in PA, so long ago, the winters seemed to last forever, much longer than was reasonable to my Oklahoma senses. Tennessee is much more to our liking, with a very long fall that will go to Christmas most years. Even after that, we will have some warm and nice days in January, with crocus and bees even.

  14. Balisha says:

    No thing is young and fresh forever, but every stage of life glows from within.

    This beautiful quote of yours could be for humans as well.

    I love all the colors of fall and let my garden rest, undisturbed, until the freeze gets them.

    Hi Balisha, thanks, that was my intent. I like to thing that life begins at whatever age you happen to be. The colors are amazing in fall, of everything. I am glad you enjoy them too. πŸ™‚

  15. Thank you for showing us the beauty in what I have been referring to as my “garden graveyard.” I really appreciate your perspective, and am off to go wonder in it, trying to see it in this new light. Thank you πŸ™‚

    Hi Melanie, thanks and welcome. This makes me so happy, to think that maybe an attitude about the seasonal change in the garden has been altered. There is much to see in the lower, gentler light. Hope you see lots of beauty in your graveyard garden. πŸ™‚

  16. Sweetbay says:

    Yes, there is beauty in the garden returning to its bare bones, especially if the change is accompanied by color. Unfortunately I think it’s beauty only gardeners appreciate!

    Hi Sweetbay, you may be right. But the millions of folks, the leaf peepers of fall, who come to the Smoky Mountains and over towards Asheville most likely are not all gardeners. It took us a while to see that it was not just the deciduous trees whose leaves became lovely as the chlorophyll fades away. I think it was a patch of hostas that caught the light a certain way to turned on the light bulb for us. Now we look at everything with a new appreciation. πŸ™‚

  17. Joy says:

    Hey there Frances girl !
    Foliage die back is a beautiful thing in its own little world .. I appreciate how that transition makes you look twice. It is an easy thing to look at a pretty plant in its prime but it takes a practiced eye to appreciate the potential future of a plant in such a state ?
    I love Autumn so much that no plant , no matter in what state, is ugly to me ? LOL
    It is all good .. after all .. it will be Halloween soon right ?? LOL
    Joy : )

    Hi Joy, me too! Hallowe’en is wonderful, the colors, the pumpkins, the scary stuff! I love it all, and see great beauty in the fading foliage. I do believe having the right plants that die well helps though. πŸ™‚

  18. Nutty Gnome says:

    Hi Frances. I love your phrase ‘the only constant is change’ – it’s so true at this time of year!
    I do so enjoy Autumn and I think my Acers are going to be spectacular this year. They’re just begining to turn a range of glorious, vibrant reds – stunning! πŸ™‚

    Hi Liz, thanks, so nice to see you here. Your Acers sound superb, love those reds! Ours have not yet begun to change much, but several trees, the dogwoods in particular are quite showy right now.

  19. patientgardener says:

    I did a post the other day about the amazing colour of perennials as they fade. Was planning on doing another one as more slowly decline. I think they are just stunning.

    Hi Helen, thanks for visiting. I agree, many of the perennials give great color to the fall garden. Some years are better than others, and some perennials are better too. This year is looking good so far. I will have to check out your garden! πŸ™‚

  20. Carol says:

    I enjoy the look of the fall garden. It just feels right for the foliage to turn colors and die. I can’t imagine a fall when this didn’t happen!

    One of the best perennials for fall foliage is Amsonia, which turns a golden yellow. Outstanding beauty in the garden…

    Hi Carol, thanks for visiting. I agree, when we lived in Southern California, things did not change, there was no dying back of anything. I was still more of a beginning gardener then, but felt ignorant of what to grow there, having moved from PA. Amsonia is fabulous, we have several types, but that fine leaf one is mighty nice shown in this post. πŸ™‚

  21. joey says:

    Beautifully captured in thoughts/photos, Frances. Thank you for reminding us of the bittersweet cycle of life.

    Hi Joey, thanks so much. I would like to think we can all find beauty in every stage, it makes for a happier existence. πŸ™‚

  22. Jennifer says:

    I agree and find fading, yellow leaves are beautiful.

    Hi Jennifer, thanks. I am glad you can see the beauty too. πŸ™‚

  23. Really beautiful fall foliage . . . fading and lovely. Your photos and prose moving. Change everything must quite true. ;>)

    Thanks Carol. The colors of fall are a favorite here, the grand finale of the garden before it quiets down. It really doesn’t go to sleep here, no blanket of snow to cuddle under for these plants.

  24. The fading perennials is something that must be appreciated here. They won’t be tidied that’s for sure. Come February anything left standing is dropped with hedge clippers.

    But you would have to see the kaleidoscope of color that is the forest floor with all the yellows of hosta and solomons seal, red of the creeper, aster blue, fallen leaves and on and on. It’s beautiful.

    Hi Christopher, I know it is beautiful there, and will be doing my best to come see it! πŸ™‚

  25. Lovely post Frances, and I agree, there is lots of beauty in the dying back process. Though I do find it pays to get out and cut back the foliage once it gets completely blackened and soggy, at least in the main area, revealing the bare bones of the garden. I love this time, when the more flashy plants give way with one last hurrah and the birch bark and evergreens come in to their own. To everything its season!

    Hi Janet, thanks so much. Some things are cut back here, others left until late winter, depending on the interest they give to the garden. We like it kind of messy. I agree, the barks and evergreens become stars later on. Love the peeling River Birch bark! πŸ™‚

  26. Frances, I love this line: “No thing is young and fresh forever, but every stage of life glows from within.” It’s not Bob’s. It’s yours. Beautifully written my friend. Perhaps, the slowing down of the dying season makes us all reflect upon what is left.~~Dee

    Thanks dear Dee. The garden is always food for reflection, perhaps at this time of year the most. πŸ™‚

  27. commonweeder says:

    I have slowly been cleaning up the garden, but I also find loveliness in the shifting colors of foliage as the plants prepare for their sleep.

    Hi Pat, thanks for visiting. I am glad you can see the beauty, it is more subtle than the flowering time, but just as poignant lovely. πŸ™‚

  28. dirtynailz says:

    I really like the way you see things, Frances. After all, it is ALL part of the cycle of life, is it not?
    I find this to be a very relaxing time of year in the garden. It’s as if the plants are finally breathing a sigh of relief, and settling in for a long slumber – or in the case of annuals, a final slumber!

    Cynthia (Digging RI)

    Hi Cynthia, thanks, so nice to see you. It is very natural and the perennials will return in the spring. It is a joyous time as things wind down, filled with beauty. πŸ™‚

  29. Patsi says:

    Even though I so love the summer…autumn changes in the garden are very welcomed.

    Hi Patsi, thanks for visiting. I agree, change in the garden is a good thing. It gives something to look forward to as we tire of each, looking forward to the next. πŸ™‚

  30. Lovely post, Frances, and a beautiful reminder that there is beauty in all stages of life. We need only look for it.

    Hi Meredehuit, thanks. There is beauty everywhere, it makes for a happier life to see it. πŸ™‚

  31. Jenny B says:

    There is such beauty in every season. The trick is to stop long enough to appreciate the moment. I can’t believe October is almost over!

    Hi Jenny, thanks for stopping by. You are so right, we need to step back and just look around us. Don’t let life move too quickly! πŸ™‚

  32. I’m glad of this post, Frances. We’re all too quick sometimes to dismiss dying foliage as being ‘ugly’. One of the most beautiful, and plaintive, photographs I’ve ever seen was made by the great Canadian photographer Freeman Patterson, in his lovely book The Garden a few years ago. There is a photo of dying, faded hosta foliage that is amazing, and the text that goes with it is aching. Here’s an excerpt: “Dying hosta leaves always remind me of my mother in the final days of her life. It may be the beauty of their pallid hues–white, creamy beiges, grays and hits of blue. It may be their weakness. It may be the leafstalks reaching out lke arms, the leaves resting like hands, waiting to be picked up and held…I do know…when my stunning hostas complete their vibrant lives in what seems like serene and quiet death, I feel a pervading sadness…and yet the hostas come back to life in the spring, and my mother too lives on. It is because of her that I have a garden.”

    Thanks Jodi, what a poignant excerpt. The writing is touching and beautiful, as are the fading perennials. Gardening is passed on to offspring with the sweetest of memories. πŸ™‚

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  35. Donna Broda says:

    Just happened upon your site as my husband and I are sitting in our English country garden in Calgary, Canada.
    The photos and quotes moved me to start from the beginning and read out loud all of this blog to my husband.
    In turn, it made us chuckle, smile, appreciate and think deeply. Most of all it helps with personal acceptance of aging and fading beauty. We are never so critical of our plants and flowers as we are of ourselves. I will now forever think of these quotes and accept gracefully what mother nature’ s flora has accepted since the beginning of time. Thank you, Frances.

    Thank you, Donna, for those kind words. I do appreciate your taking the time to read this post, as this topic is something about which I feel very strongly. In people as well as plants.

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