I’ve been meaning to join in with Donna’s “Word for Wednesday” meme for weeks now, but I never seem to get myself organised. This week’s word, ephemeral, was just too good to miss though. I started out thinking I would talk about the plants in my garden that give ephemeral pleasure. The ones that are only around for a few days, a week or so at most, but which are so delightful that you wouldn’t be without them. I was sure I must have some, because I have valued that concept for years now. Oriental poppies are the flower that spring to mind, here one minute, gone the next, but lighting up the borders while they are around. I don’t have any. I’ve always planned to, but never got around to it. And I started to realise that for years I have selected plants for the garden with a long season – or seasons – of interest. The best I could come up with that meets the criterion of “lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory” was the larger flowered crocuses.

These pop up with slender strap-like leaves from the bare soil with tightly furled, jewel-like petals…

Crocus Buds

… then the flowers open…

Fully Open Crocus

…and you get to enjoy the flowers for a few short days before the petals are strewn across the ground. OK, so often this is because the birds have massacred them, but that counts!

Thinking about it some more, I realised that one of the things I most love about gardening – about the natural world in general – are those fleeting moments that you capture. It could be a favourite plant starting to emerge from the ground in Spring.

Emerging Hellebore Flower

Catching the bluebell woods at their best.


Spotting a tree in a clearing, perfectly lit and with no one in the way.


Light and weather play such a big part in gardening, and can transform a scene from one moment to the next. I love the way that sometimes a photo captures a moment in a way that brings it back when you look at it again, maybe years later. Looking at this photo of one of my Miscanthus catching the winter sun transports me back to the day I glanced out the window on my way to make breakfast and spotted what the light was doing. I rushed out in my pyjamas and spent ages, sometimes taking photographs, sometimes just standing and staring, until my battery ran out and I realised how cold I was!

Miscanthus In MorningLight #1

Another time I spotted a leaf, all frosted up, just lying on the table, made beautiful by light. Definitely ephemeral.

Frosty Leaf

These are the moments when, for me, gardens and plants become truly magical, and it makes it all the more important to be open to those moments, to taking the time to notice the temporary beauty, camera in hand or not. I suppose this is particularly true for me at the moment as I start the process of saying goodbye to my garden. So I will be looking out fortimes like this last year, where the light shimmered on the grasses, since the grasses will be moving to a bed where the light just won’t be the same.


And I will enjoy the memory of the combination of the plants I bought at the Malvern Show this year, because by the time they flower next year the pond irises will be gracing someone else’s water features, the geums and aquilegias will be potted up or planted elsewhere, making different pictures.

New Plants Sing Out

I realise that this suddenly sounds a little melancholy, but it truly isn’t, it is more about celebrating the ephemeral, embracing the transitory nature of so much of the beauty of any garden, and looking forward to making some new memories of ephemeral beauty in a new garden.

Thanks to Donna for hosting, and do pop over to her blog and follow the links to see how other people have interpreted her Word for Wednesday.

57 thoughts on “Word for Wednesday: Ephemeral

  1. I have a picture of the very same tree at Westonbirt – whilst its glory is indeed ephemeral, it’s good to see it happens on an annual basis :)

    1. There is something rather lovely about being able to go back to the same glade and see the same tree, just a little larger, turning similarly beautiful year after year. Made me smile that you recognised it so readily!

      1. I’ve just spotted the same tree in a book I’ve just read. And it sometimes appears on our local weather forecast too! It’s a very popular tree :)

  2. You have some really beautiful photos which capture the meaning of ephemeral, especially your leaf on the table, the tree with autumn tints ( was that photographed at Westonbirt, we were there yesterday and it looks very familiar !) and your Miscanthus – all really beautiful.

    1. Thanks Pauline, and yes, busted – and clearly a very recognisable tree!

  3. Ephemeral, a wonderful, elegant word and those photos illustrate this word so well, fleeting and short lived moments of beauty in the garden :)

  4. I was hoping someone would tackle ephemeral pleasures. You did that and so much more, and so wonderfully I might add. You wove your story anecdotally from thought to thought, photo to photo, including sentiment, mood and empathy. I really got into the spirit of your fleeting moments of joy and discovery, like I could feel the moments like you have experienced – catching the momentary light, the emergence of a flower, and transitory frost. I really enjoyed your look at W4W. Thanks for this look at ephemeral.

    1. Thank you Donna, you gave me a warm glow with such a lovely compliment, I’m glad the narrative worked for you. Thanks for hosting!

    1. Thanks Karin, the tree in the clearing was at Westonbirt Arboretum, the bluebell wood is our local wood.

    1. Hi Nell Jean, I think the wonderful thing is that there are so many other, equally beautiful moments, never caught on camera because hands were too dirty or the moment too fleeting.

  5. I remember feeling the same way when I visited the last time. Each photo is more awesome than the previous one! I went through the photos again. I want to pick the red tree as my favorite. Just incredibly stunning!!!

    1. Just before I took that shot I was laughing at the great mass of people gathered round it, all taking photographs. I wonder how many images of that tree there are out there?! More than of any mortal celebrity?

  6. You know the one good thing about having a blog – you have all those pictures of your garden to take with you wherever you end up. Your photos are wonderful as usual and I particularly like the bluebell wood – I can almost smell the bluebells. I wouldn’t know where to start with ‘ephemeral’ as those posts I have read have just about covered it all. Well done you.

    1. Thanks Elaine, and you are so right about the blog becoming a record of this garden. Not to mention all the photos that never make it to the blog, and which one day I will sort, honest. No, really, I will…

      The bluebell wood was spectacular this year, it was a lovely walk, and as you guessed, scented. If it wasn’t the bluebells it was the wild garlic! And I bet you could come up with a great post about ephemeral too, but I am kind of glad I didn’t read anybody else’s before I did mine.

  7. Hi Janet,

    Lovely post :)

    Life is just so fleeting that I often cannot understand why some don’t take advantage of it. I cannot bear to be inside for long especially if it’s a nice day I feel this need to be outside to relish and enjoy every moment of sun/daylight.
    This feeling is especially fleeting in Winter or spring when you get only glimpses of sun and rarely is it warm enough to noticeably warm us. I think I’m a cat sometimes and like to bask in any sun that can be found :D

    1. Hi Liz, carpe diem and all that, I agree, though I think this time of year turns most people into the kind of cat that prefers to laze by the fire on a nice warm cushion than venture out into the cold!

  8. Your post about ephemeral beauty is gorgeous – the photos truly capture the essence of the word. And I totally agree with Elaine – the best thing about blogging is that we have somewhere to “take” our pictures.

    1. Thanks for visiting Heather, glad you enjoyed the post. I think digital photography has done us all a huge favour, so easy to track what works and what doesn’t in our own or other people’s gardens.

  9. Janet I think you have described beautifully one of the qualities of gardening that keeps so many of us coming back time and again. Each day and each moment brings something new so that we are always looking forward to catching another special sight.

    1. Hi Marguerite, thank you, I agree, it is that promise of the new – or the attempt to capture something new – that keeps us going. And at this time of year it is good to remember that if today is dull, wet and grey maybe tomorrow will have a burst of sunshine that lights up the water droplets on the leaves and turns them all into mini rainbows. Though that sentiment could be the product of a sleepless night!!

  10. What a wonderful post – with gorgeous photos. Thank you! One of my favorite images is the plant valiantly pushing itself out of the ground. And the bluebell woods are breathtaking. As a gardener on the prairies of Kansas, a sight like that is truly mythical for me!

    1. Thank you Gaia Gardener, great that you stopped by and commented. That valiant plant is a hellebore, I love their near-prehistoric look as they emerge. Glad to have given you a glimpse of a bluebell wood, not many of those in Kansas! Mind you, I’d love to see those prairies in the flesh, so to speak, we get so many of our garden plants from them.

  11. I love the photos in this post, as well as those in your previous end of month post! I think gardens teach us not to cling too tightly, but to enjoy the present and to embrace the changes that come. Sometimes it’s hard, but changes can be invigorating and bring us unforeseen blessings. Life is too ephemeral to do otherwise!

    1. Hi Deb, wise words, and being willing to move on and try new things is clearly something you embrace judging by your last post! Someone, I don’t remember who, had a saying they would trot out whenever things looked a little uncertain, “constant change is here to stay”. True of life, true of gardens.

  12. I’ve always admired your photos, and now the crocus which became a favorite the moment I saw it the first time. However, i’ve seen it just once yet in the mountains of Turkey, in the natural habitat! Ephemeral has been used widely but it has been technically used in botany to describe plants which are dormant but suddenly finish growth and reproduction when favorable conditions arise. This cycle is so short, and those crocus are included in spring ephemerals.

    1. Hi Andrea, what a lovely comment, thank you. It must have been amazing to see crocus growing in their natural habitat, I’ve never been that lucky. Thanks for letting me know about spring ephemerals.

  13. Hi Janet, I think your interpretaion of Ephemeral was perfect. A moment when you see something in a certain way – it helps if it feels perfect too! I loved and recognised many of your images too so I felt I really knew your garden. Christina

    1. Hi Christina, thank you, it was lovely going back over my photographs and realising how many moments they represent.

  14. Blogging has opened up my eyes to so much that is transitory and fleeting. Creeping around with my camera to my eye has ensured I’ve seen so much that I would otherwise have missed. Walking about the garden each day for a few minutes just opens up your eyes (and world) tremendously … and builds up a library when you’re looking for that particular crocus or bluebell shot!! (Though if you’re anything like me it took you ages to find them). ‘Fraid to say I thought I recognised dear old Westonbirt as well. I am though, far to polite to mention it.


    1. Hi Dave, I’m the same, I think I look at the world differently and see more things since I started blogging, and therefore taking more photos. In theory they are all beautifully tagged in Picasa so that all I need to do is type in “crocus” to get an array of shots to choose from. In practice I am usually in too much of a hurry, and the much promised “tagging marathon” has yet to happen. I do find it amusing that so many people recognized The Tree! I imagine I have a few other Westonbirt shots that would be just as recongisable. Wonderful place, I am always amazed at the way you can escape the crowds even on a Bank Holiday weekend by heading off to the Silk Wood and picking the smaller paths.

  15. I choose plants for long lasting value too – something ephemeral a few years ago for me was the hoar frost that hung on the trees lining the lane on the way to work. I just had to get out of the car to take a photo. A fairyland that disappeared quickly as the day warmed slightly. You may have seen the photos on my new blog.

    1. I remember your hoar frost photos Sue, I almost put one of mine in, but the post was getting too long (as usual). Hope we get some again this year. There again, so far we haven’t had ANY kind of frost!

  16. oh no Janet, these images make me want to commit the Faustian sin of wishing to hold these moments in perpetuity – is it the ephemeral that makes beauty so poignant? This is a lovely long goodbye post

    1. Hi Laura, that is the curious contradiction that photography gives us isn’t it. And yes, I think it is absolutely the fleeting nature of those moments of beauty that engages the heart so powerfully.

  17. What a lovely post – your frost photo reminded me that the coming season isn’t all dead things and colds… I’ve not come across the Word for Wednesdays, but it’s a great idea!

    1. Hi Kate, I think Donna only started W4W comparatively recently, but I am enjoying it. Join the fun!! I hope we have a good proportion of those wonderful cold clear days that make you glad to be alive even though it is winter. Endless grey dank murkiness does not have the same effect at all!

  18. I love what you say about enjoying the beautiful moments, whether we have camera in hand or not. The sunset was incredible on my way home from work tonight. It lit up most of the sky and the plants looked so dreamy. Thanks for that reminder.

    1. Sounds like the perfect antidote to a day at work, those moments can really boost your spirits.

  19. Hello I seem to have got behind with reading your posts and commenting on them again!
    I’ve just had a quick look over my second cup of tea and will sit down later to have a proper look.
    I thought that birds, especially sparrows, go for yellow crocus and leave the others! xx

    1. Hello Flighty, always good to have a visit from you. Enjoy your cuppa – I am settled in with a large mug of tea to catch up with blogs myself! So I may have maligned the birds? I wonder why those purple crocus keel over so quickly then. Sorry birds!

  20. I think the photos with the light in them capture the word “ephemeral” perfectly. How many of us rush out with a camera when we see a patch of sunlight illuminating a grass? I do it all the time but sometimes find frustratingly that the photo doesn’t live it to what i see with the naked eye. Your photos of the frosty leaf and the miscathus are capturing the moment. I wish I had taken them…

    1. Hi Janet, it can be so tricky to capture light well, can’t it, I have so very many failed photographs, so many moments that exist only in memory because I didn’t get as lucky as I did with those two!

  21. Exquisite photos Janet to accompany a most evocative post. Sometimes pleasure is more intense when acquaintance is brief. I am beginning to feel sad myself that you are moving but I am sure that your new garden is going to be special and that you will love it too but in a different way.

    1. Thank you Anna, I agree, those fleeting moments can be more precious somehow. I do love this garden, but I think I am ready for a new challenge now. I’ll enjoy gardening somewhere where I know I can invest in a long term plan, we’ve been on the verge of moving from here for years now, very unsettling! I’m currently trying to work out how to use the plants in the pond border elsewhere to help sell the house, while still being able to take favorites with us. Thankfully my gardening sister-in-law has offered to play plant nursery for us.

  22. Janet, I think you are entitled to a little melancholy when dealing with the word ephemeral. Miscanthus catching the Winter sun did it for me. alistair

    1. Hi Alistair, I think melancholy can be rather enjoyable, in small doses. This time of year always makes me more reflective, I suppose all the changes ahead just deepen it.

  23. Janet – boy have I been missing the Blogosphere! Your photos are incredible, and I love how Donna’s “Word 4 Wednesday” meme has touched so many of my favorite garden bloggers. Your Miscanthus in morning sunlight is just ethereal!! Wow…

    1. Hi Shyrlene, the blogosphere has missed you! I think Donna’s meme is really interesting, I’m glad I finally got my act together to join in. So glad you enjoyed the post. I love that miscanthus in pretty much any light.

  24. I love your observation about how intersections of light and weather can take something that’s already ephemeral and make it even more so. Capturing that perfect moment can tell you so much about the rest of the time around it. No wonder photographers talk about the “decisive moment,” that some fragments of time captured on film can stand in for a place, a time, a relationship between two people.

    1. Hi James, that puts it so much better than I did, I hadn’t realised that “decisive moment” was a common photographer’s term, but it makes perfect sense. There is a kind of magic in capturing the “right” fragment, even if for me it is a rare event.

  25. Such a beautiful, thoughtful post, Janet! Your photos are stunning and perfectly illustrate the idea of ephemeral. I don’t have any true ephemerals in my garden either, but I agree that so much about the garden is transitory. It’s always changing, which is a good reminder to all of us to stop and enjoy the moment. Glad you were willing to run out into the cold in your pj’s to capture that shot of the grasses–it’s spectacular!

    1. Hi Rose, thank you, glad you enjoyed the post – the pyjama photography is a bit of a habit, I’m glad we are well screened, I can still look my neighbours in the eye!

Comments are closed.

Back To Top