This can’t be the sort of bloom Carol of May Dream Gardens had in mind when she started the Green Thumb Sunday flower posts, but surely she’ll let this one go, given my most excellent excuse: after my garden, flowers and vegetables all, was taken down and out by hail a couple of weeks ago, a bean blossom—precursor of a bean—is a welcome sight indeed. It helps, of course, that they have practically no competition, as the hail stripped my delphinium, decimated my echinacea, and –but enough is enough.
And really, they are lovely things, bean blossoms: the purest white when young,
yellow to cantelope orange later,
intricate and precise like all legumes.
These beans survived because they’re NOT in my garden. Most of my peas and beans grow on the alley, facing west, where they took the full brunt of the storm. These are in the yard next door, a rental where the five young guys in residence have granted me continuing gardening privileges in the big sunny plot in their back yard. Unlike my plot, it’s got a fence on the west which largely protected the plants closest to it. The netting these beans climbed was ripped from the pole above, and many of the beans lost their highest, main climbing stem, but they were far enough along to survive, put out branching stems, and—oh glory of glories!—blossom.
So though this isn’t what most people post or expect to see, to my eye, right now, there’s no lovelier sight.
Anyone with a philosophical bent has no doubt already galloped off with the bait (or, refusing it altogether, has reined in his horse and stopped reading) and is ready to propose an answer to the age-old aesthetic question: what is the nature of beauty? CAN something utilitarian, like a bean blossom or egg-beater, be beautiful? Oscar Wilde, proponent of art for art’s sake, would no doubt be skeptical if not downright scornful, but many artists since him have argued and demonstrated otherwise.
But gardens aren’t exactly hot-spots for modern or post-modern artistic sensibilities, so perhaps this rather tired issue seems relevant again in the gardener’s context. And in that context, the “utilitarian” argument for beauty I gave above seems, well, a sort of cheating, as though I’m twisting “beauty” to my own, no doubt twisted, ends. A flower is beautiful in itself, not because it will later provide something I want or even need. And yet…and yet…I know I treasure these small blooms not only for themselves, but for what they represent, what they will bring to pass in the natural order of things–if nature just co-operates by keeping hailstorms at a distance for the next few weeks.
So I ask you, what makes a flower beautiful? And to complicate the question, what makes a photograph of a flower beautiful? If it’s a simple presentation of the flower, is the photograph beautiful, or just the flower?