To everything there is a season

And a time to every purpose under heaven

Familiar words.

And true.

I’ve come to realize over the years that some people seem to time their deaths.

I first realized this when a man named Bill Frass died.

Bill was a kind, gentle and happy soul.

He was also an Iris fanatic.

A plant your backyard full of Iris kind of fanatic.

I first encountered Bill when my neighbor Geraldine shared some of his iris.

After that he was my guide during the annual iris rhizome sale each July.

But the thing is Iris only bloom for a few short weeks each spring.

Somehow Bill managed to die while they were blooming.

His fellow Iris fanatics cut their precious children for his funeral.

The room was filled with Iris.

Full of the scent and aura that was Bill.

What a send off.

I’ve also read about Henry Mitchell.

For years he was the garden writer for the Washington Post.

He died after an afternoon of plating Daffodils with a friend.


Leaving this world with dirt under your fingernails

Having planted the hope of spring.

I like this plan.

But for me the most poignant is the story of when my father died.

It was two years ago this week.

My father was many things.

Most of all he was a farmer. 

His life would take him to meet world leaders

Their conversation would more often than not be about farming.

But there came a time in his late 80’s to stop his active involvement in farming.

It’s a gut wrenching decision echoed by families all through the farm belt.

His decision was made in typical Henry style.

Get the facts – make the decision – don’t look back.

So it was that spring that he came to his last harvest.

Elliott came home to be a part of his own history.

The wheat was cut.

It was a record crop.

All through that summer Daddy came three times a week to my home for lunch.

That had been his pattern for several years.

He could no longer stroll through my garden.

Instead we would sit in the breakfast room and watch the garden grow and change.

We would talk gardening, farming and politics.

I had a sense something was changing but didn’t know what.

He was winding down.

I think I’ve mentioned his theory on color in the garden.


Only Red!!!

Then there is my theory.

Everything but red.

Except in late summer

When the cockscomb takes over.

It’s the only red flower I grow.

It blooms wildly

Actually out of control this time of year.

There is one non red flower that Daddy liked.

Maxmillian Sunflower.

A late summer blanket on the prairie.

And so it was to be.

His last days came when his beloved country side was covered in Maximillian Sunflowers.

And cockscomb filled my garden.

The Wednesday before his Saturday services

Elliott and I drove through the countryside and cut sunflowers, cattails and maize.

Actually we stole the maize from the field of an old friend.

Along the way we laughed and cried a little and remembered.

We basked in the glory of the sunshine and a life well lived.

We took it all to the florist who filled two urns with fabulous arrangements.

They flanked Daddy as friends came from across the state

To say goodbye.

To tell stories to his grandsons.

To celebrate his life.

At the same time I asked my local florist Ryan to go to my garden

Cut everything he needed to make the casket flowers.

Make it red.

He did.

It is true.

To everything there is a season.

Even for giant spiders.  Sloan and Cassidy just came by on their nightly spider check.  It’s gone….till next season.


Thanks Elliott & Debra letting me use some of your pictures.


Filed under Cattails, cockscomb, Daffodils, Gardening, HELIANTHUS, Iris, late summer garden, Maximillian Sunflower, Orb Spider, Sunflowers, Uncategorized


  1. A lovely story, Gail, and wonderful memories of your father.

  2. Amy

    Your dad was an amazing man and I only knew him in the public spectrum. What a great tribute to have your garden on his casket. This post made me smile. I am reminded of different loved ones each year when certain flowers come into bloom. Right now it is the sunflower….the huge ones. Those remind me of my mother’s father, Papa. Now that you mention it….he died in August. Geraniums remind me of Grandma Brown and of course the yellow rose is my mom and her mom, Nanny. What a gift it is to have the changing seasons to remember the people before us. By the way….I love the cockscomb and it is the lone surviver in my garden this year.

  3. Linda Hicks

    Beautiful, Gail. Have been thinking about your dad (and all of you) this week. He died the same week as Alan’s mom, an equally beautiful human being. The world seems less colorful without them.

  4. Torry

    Beautiful post!

  5. Splendid post, my favorite ever. YOUR pictures are wonderful.

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