Death plays a significant role in my garden, and in so many ways, it makes the garden more interesting.
Death provides comfort. I don’t routinely snip or snap off dead flower heads, not even the large dahlia blooms that stand on their stems brown and bedraggled for weeks. I like seeing different life stages on the plants all at once — buds, fully opened blossoms, and dead ones. It is thought-provoking and even reassuring to confront their message that life and death are stages in an ever-repeating cycle.
Death promotes diversity. For mulch, I prefer half-rotted leaves with pieces of sticks and pine cones to an unvarying swath of “wood chips” or uniformly sized pebbles. Not only does it add an appealing, earthy aroma to the garden, but that diverse and nutritionally rich mulch also supports diverse soil life.
Death provokes thought. A simple plane of one color/texture (like a lawn or a bagged mulch) does set off the plants better and make a scene easier to “read,” and such a visually simple scene may evoke feelings of serenity. However, the complexity of a diverse scene holds my attention longer and provides more grist for contemplation.
Death increases fascination. Not to say that I celebrate death, but I do find it fascinating. Yesterday I discovered an enormous dead spider on the path. Today its body is being dismantled by ants. I keep visiting to check their progress. A few weeks ago, I was oddly intrigued watching one of my pond fish eat a worm. The worm trailed from the fish’s mouth, getting shorter and shorter very slowly as it was digested over the course of several hours.
Death adds beauty. Yes, dying leaves signal the approaching winter, but I rejoice in their vivid display. Fallen leaves and flowers paint pictures on the garden floor and—like chalk drawings on a sidewalk—their ephemeral nature contributes to their beauty.
Am I alone in my appreciation for death, or does it also enhance your garden?