Friday, October 8, 2010

Color in the Garden: Rust

Rust is not a word most gardeners like: for rust is a fungus more unsightly than lethal, a scourge that turns viridescent leaves a spotty mess, a vile assault on your gardening prowess by denuding stems. 

Rust is not a word that automobile owners like either: it is testament to the corrosive effects of time, let alone the insufficient efforts of our care.

But the rust I refer to is that quintessential color of autumn, that magical color that plays upon orange and red and yellow. Rust: a composite of hues, a symbol of the passing of life in one season and the emergence of life in another.

Rust is the color of memory and nostalgia.  Rust evokes a past, reminds us of that which was, and blends so perfectly those senses of mourning and happiness: rust is the color of wabi-sabi.

I experience rust as bright, energetic, and alive. It is a dance, an odd movement of the body, a celebration of form and substance, color and symbol, life and death. Yet in this dance and in the midst of frenetic movement, I do not advance; I remain situated, stationary. The movement is internal.

I ask myself: am I supposed to move or remain here? Supposed to release myself, to lose inhibitions? Is there a destination? But the destination has yet to announce itself. If ethereal white forces you out of yourself, and provocative yellow thrashes you about, then rust embeds and envelops. Rust seems to announce itself as the unfolding layers of life, an exposition of time, a metamorphosis, a becoming.

And as such, rust in the garden cannot be set by itself. It needs the company of others, for it is through contrast and complement that rust obtains its aesthetic prominence and its impact. The rubicund undertones of my rust colored chrysanthemum are accentuated by placement next to the burgundy chrysanthemum. The hue of this Autumn Fern frond, just beginning to turn its brilliant rust, is accentuated by the rosy overtones of the one vibrant Nikko Blue Hydrangea. And the panicles of Northern Sea Oats Grass have passed beyond their reddening vibrancy and settled into a burnt bronze autumnal finish. 

Metamorphoses, it seems, only become apparent in the company of others.

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