Wednesday Vignette – the cycle of life

Oddly, this is the time of year when it always snows in my garden. It starts with the Viburnum. The spent flowers rain down until the ground is covered with these perfect little five- or six lobed sepals. They are on the ground, in my hair, in my shoes, in my drink – everywhere!


A close second is the Japanese Snowbell, whose heady and powerful fragrance currently layers itself over the garden. Other than that the flowers are pretty, that fragrance is its only redeeming characteristic. To be honest, it is a plant I struggle to love. Like the Viburnum, it came with the house, and I often lament that I should have taken it out when it was small enough that I still could. But I didn’t, so every spring, the ground around it is littered with Snowbell seedlings. By now “the ground around it” means over half my garden, as it is rather small, and the tree has gotten rather big.


Can you even believe how many seedlings there are? I’m currently in the process of covering the back yard with stone, so hopefully there will be less of this next spring. And those infernal seeds will be easier to sweep up… I hope.

Japanese Snowbell flowers Styrax japonica

The Snowbell flowers (Styrax japonica) constitute my second summer snow fall, and it has just begun.


As it fell, this unfortunate Snowbell flower speared itself on an intruding Juncus. The Juncus had infiltrated a pot of Scirpus zebrinus which happened to be patiently waiting below. It’s waiting for me to try to wrestle the rush out of that stripy goodness before it takes over completely, but all that aside – this little Vignette of Misfortune made me muse how wonderfully well gardening weaves the processes of life and death. There is a time for everything, and once its over, something else begins. And so it goes, on and on into a never ending tapestry of events, that eventually – in some form or other – repeat. And, just as odd as I find my summer snow, I find this cyclical motion of time equally oddly comforting. Nothing lasts forever, which right now feels like a good thing. Maybe the demise of the flowers is a premonition of bigger things to fall? Eventually they will. It’s the cycle of life.


About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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18 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – the cycle of life

  1. bergstromskan says:

    So there is hope, It came with our DNA, Why would we otherwise Agree
    to be born
    Lovely pictures, deep thinking, gentleness, sadness
    Thank you beloved Anna

  2. It is the white season in our hedgerows now – cow parsley, moon daisies etc.

  3. Tina says:

    You address one of the (many) comforting aspects of gardening and nature: the cycles of plant and critter life that we observe and are a part of. We forget (or, at least I do), and then–here it is again, just like last time. It brings solace and sometimes annoyance, but it’s reliable. Nice post and I certainly have experienced the regret of not pulling something out before it got too big. 🙂

    Thanks for hostessing, here’s my vignette:

    • annamadeit says:

      Indeed. Even if I don’t have time to actually DO anything productive, I at least always want to spend a few minutes out there, just taking it all in. The calming properties of being outside are immense, and do wonders for my mental wellbeing. Even if I later curse those darn seedlings!

  4. Kris P says:

    That’s one of the big reasons we find comfort in gardens I think, even if its sometimes accompanied by frustration. Thanks for your post and for hosting this always thought-provoking meme, Anna. Here’s my simple post:

    • annamadeit says:

      It’s the good with the bad, for sure, but even so, I wouldn’t want to live without it. The garden is the great enforcer of my sanity. I know it’s naive to project my own interpretations of that experience onto others, but I wish every single human had a garden. Or, maybe not an actual ‘garden’, but something in their lives that gives them that same calming, restorative effect. It could be music, arts, crafts, or whatever offers that feeling of joy and much needed emotional outlet – even in rocky, scary times. As I write this, I realize how privileged I am. Less than half a mile from here, there are people living in tents along the freeway. Just seeing them makes me want to escape into my little sanctuary. So many broken humans…

  5. Alison says:

    Wow, that is a lot of seedlings! I have a Styrax japonica too, which has a layer of gravel mulch under it, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a seedling. Granted, the area is a mess right now, and needs to be redone, it’s full of other weeds like dandelions so it’s always possible seedlings have too much competition or the seeds never even make it to the ground….who knows? Hopefully covering your area will help. I do get solace from my garden, working out there is so therapeutic. I wonder if the rest of humanity would be nicer if more of them did the same.

    • annamadeit says:

      I heard that Styrax obassia is FAR better behaved and does NOT produce that generous crop of progeny. So, whenever I hear someone wants a Snowbell, I always – solicited or not – offer the advice to go with the obassia. That said, I’m happy to hear that the gravel helps in terms of preventing seedlings. They truly are a pain in the ass, so glad you don’t have to deal with them.

  6. It’s snowing here too. I have two of these horrible trees in my hellstrip. Imagine those marble-like seeds falling on a much-used public sidewalk. I too should have taken them out when we first moved here and they were small. Oh and the seedlings! I told a garden designer friend about them and she said she’d never seen a snow-bell seed around. Ha! I could sell them by the thousands. You struck a cord. I sometimes think I’m the only person who hates these trees.

    Anyway, my WV…

  7. annamadeit says:

    No, I know we are sisters in how we regard those pesky Snowbells. Don’t know about you, but I try my best to educate others. I never did understand why it seems such a popular street tree. I wish the folks at Friends of Trees would realize that it’s not all about size. As for marbles, I have the same thing going on with the exuberant generosity of the Southern Magnolia. Damn, those cones are ankle twisters, for sure. I’m surprised I haven’t gotten sued yet. They are so abundant, they are nearly impossible to keep after.

  8. tonytomeo says:

    A while back, I wrote about the bloom of the formerly vast orchards of the Santa Clara Valley. There were not many left by my time, but the few in our neighborhood were spectacular in bloom. the petals fell onto the road, and made small tornadoes in the turbulence behind cars driving by.

  9. Peter Herpst says:

    The garden teaches us so many valuable life lessons. Hey, you could go into the Snowbell tree production business…

  10. I love the picture of the Snowbell. Most of our “snow” at this time of year comes from the Crabapples.

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