Saturday, September 27, 2008


I have developed a healthy respect for brown.
It was hard won. As a professional gardener, I grappled with perceived expectations. When was a browning plant in my clients gardens “wrong”. There is this need to please, and to please one must see with their clients eyes. But what do they see? And what do they want to see? Do they want to see the freshness of spring even though it is not spring? Do they want summer’s robustness to hang on until the first frost? Or are they, like me, enjoying the slow decline of plants? Rarely have I heard from a client my favorite color is brown. Why is that?
Brown is an indicator.
Of death. Even more than black.
We would all rather not look at death. Whole psychological systems are based on our fear of death. Whole spiritual systems created to prove there is no death. But in the garden there is death and brown is it’s indicator.
I feel an impulse to sweep brown away the moment it appears. Like a criminal, or her cohort, I want to eliminate the evidence that the garden is going down. But then again I like to watch the garden mellow. As brown creeps in yellows get grounded, the greens harden up, even blues bend low to brown. As if all colors know they’re headed that way, at least in the garden.
Brown is not pale or vulgar, though shit is brown and unwashed potatoes. Brown is also evocative like chocolate, or cuddly like a fuzzy kiwi.
Brown in the garden spells the end. The end of flowers, of sex, of play. Is that what we fear? Brown is not lonely, though no bees buzz around browned flower heads. There is a secret to earthy old brown, at least in the garden. It contains the next flush of color. the brown spent flower heads house seeds, tulip bulbs are sheathed in slick brown coats, the brown leaves feed next years growth. Manure is brown.
So is it aesthetics only fueling my plucking? Creating an illusion?
This garden is not going down.
Is a wave more beautiful going up that down?
Why are we afraid of brown?

Sometimes brown is almost red, like in the old flower heads of sedum 'Moerchen"

Do the clusters of boxleafed hebe seedheads distract form the scene?

Dying day lily foliage definitely a downer in the garden.