Ageing Beauties

I am infinitely more at ease with the way I look in my forties compared with my teens, twenties or thirties.  I have heard women complain that they feel invisible as they age, but maybe I felt too visible when I was younger.  Or visible for the wrong reasons.  I was judged on what I looked like, not what I did or said or created.

The pressure to conform to a narrow definition of beauty has most definitely been thrown off.  High heels, push-up bras, waxing – what was I thinking?  Far better to work with what nature intended and celebrate the shape we were given.  This lived-in body does rather a good job of holding me up and moving my muscles.  My frown-lines and laughter-lines do an excellent job in supporting my mouth to express my genuine thoughts and feelings.  I am me.

As the tulips have been going over, I can’t help reflecting on the changes I see in them from youth to maturity and ripe old age.  It’s about time we celebrate the ageing process.

(You may have seen my previous post Unripe Tulips.  You can see some of the tulips below in their first flush of youth, all fresh-faced and naive, and perhaps a little green.  You can also see them looking radiant in On this day a year ago… and Opening to the Sun!).

Here is ‘Ballerina’.  She has thickened around the middle (who hasn’t?) and looks a little rumpled, but the magenta striations have given her a warmth and a depth, and are endlessly fascinating.  Those lines tell you she has a story to tell.  She is a survivor.  She has felt the heat, been lashed by wind and rain, been out in the cold and dark.  She has opened to the sun.  And here she is, still standing.  A wise and proud woman.


I’m not sure which variety this one is, as it was a lucky inheritance.  I utterly love the streaks of silver, like shot-silk.  Helped along by beautiful posture.  She oozes confidence.


This next one is also inherited.  Between you and me, this tulip was a bit awkward in her youth.  She wore too much makeup and had a predilection for fluorescence.  All the time this flim-flam was masking true grit.  Do you see the steely determination in her metallic sheen?  She no longer needs to shout.  She can hold her own in a serious debate.  She merely curls her lip if you offend her.


Tulips work together better as they get older.  They realise that there is strength in number, and in diversity.  Whatever colour, shape or size, we all have the same basic inner workings.  We can intermingle.  Contrast brings definition.  We glow from one anothers’ flames.

Our friends will always stand by us.  We like one another all the more for our little flaws and imperfections.  We laugh at ourselves, and each other, and sometimes we snort a bit.

It is good to be outward-looking, not to become too insular, or pot-bound.  There are always new directions of travel.  We are endlessly curious.

Sometimes, when tulips get really old, they no longer give a fig for appearances.  Some might even run naked.

Tulipa ‘Brown Sugar’. Naked.

For others, this is metaphorical: a stripping away of all that is pretentious, or false, or unnecessary.  The true essence of who we are will remain, to flare up and light the way for future generations.  Did you ever notice that a tulip has such deep tones of purple and grey and turquoise?  No?  Look again.  See the gold and green lobes at the tip of the stigma? The radiating anthers?  They were there all along, you just didn’t notice.  Because you were distracted by the surface stuff.

Aging beauty deserves our respect.

How about you?  Do you embrace experience, wisdom and wrinkles?  Or are you still finding your feet on your wobbly Bambi legs? Do you have a favourite flower for aging beauty?

My aim on this site is to share the sense of wonder I get from gardening and being outdoors. 

If you would like to join the joy, click on the ‘Follow’ button at the end of this post. You will receive an email each time I post a little pop of wonder. 

55 Comments Add yours

  1. Island Time says:

    Love this post Ali! Love the metaphor….nearing the end of my fifties, I have to agree with your thoughts on aging! Perhaps we have to get to this point to understand this? 40, 50, 60 and beyond; all so much better than the alternative! Love your tulips; I think I shall have to try growing them again, but perhaps in a pot is a better idea, as they might be less likely to be eaten by the deer, stolen by the squirrels, or just plain lost in the general chaos of my garden. Happy Spring to you.

    1. Ali says:

      That is so lovely and inspiring to hear, thank you! Yes, I think pots are the answer to most challenging situations, be it heavy or wet soil, cost, labour intensity or pests and predators!

  2. bcparkison says:

    Aren’t you smart to compare us to the advancing life of flowers. I am pretty content with my age of 73 fast approaching the next year. Our creator knows what is best for all his creation.

    1. Ali says:

      Lovely to hear that I’ on the up and up! Thank you!

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    There is great beauty in aging and as we get there ourselves, we are better able to see it. Compassion expands with age!

    1. Ali says:

      That is a fantastic point, Eliza. We think we know it all when we are young, and are far more likely to strongly identify with particular cultural groups, and our own age-group. With life we learn that sometimes things happen that we can’t control, that we have to do the best we can, that we got a few people wrong, that we can make connections with those that on the surface seem very different… I love that – ‘Compassion expands with age’. Thank you.

  4. Susan Beard. says:

    Very nicely observed..enjoyed this.

  5. Ali, your writing is always such a treat to read. I love everything about this post. This was my first year to grow tulips, and watching them age beautifully was a bonus I didn’t even know to expect. They are a perfect metaphor for us humans.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Terri, I really appreciate this. It warms my heart. So much of what happens in the garden gives me food for thought, and I love having conversations with people who get it. x

  6. Rupali says:

    I love this post. The pictures and the words. It was like we are having one to one conversation.

    1. Ali says:

      I’m so glad Rupali. That is how I like to think of my posts. Like a conversation with a like-minded friend. Thank you for being here.

  7. Julieanne says:

    Lovely post. Like that pink tulip, I’m enjoying seeing the silver strands in my hair as my 50’s get on the way. I love T. Ballerina – it does indeed age well.

    1. Ali says:

      I found a little sprig of three or four silver hairs in my calf-lick (do you have that expression? The place at the front of your head where you hair decides to swirl off in another direction) a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve felt rather proud of them. Like a little star-burst. It deels like I’ve got to this stage, and not only survived but am thriving, and now I have the star to show for it!

  8. Love the post! And all so true! There is something new and wondrous to discover with each passing decade, but I loved my 40s and even though the body is slowing down a tad in my early 50s, I wouldn’t trade the self-knowledge, assuredness and determination to be true to myself that I have now reached for anything.

    1. Ali says:

      That is how I feel so far. Each decade has been building on the last, and I wouldn’t be who I am now without a few disasters along the way. I do feel like I have a fabulous new group of leading lights in the blogging community. Thank you for showing me the way!

  9. Heyjude says:

    I adore the conversations you have with your plants and the characters that emerge. I only wish I WAS in my forties, sadly those years have been and gone and the middle has expanded and the joints have stiffened – why did no-one ever tell me about this ageing process? But the mind is still mid-twenties so I shall continue to think I can do all the things I could do then! And frequently fail!

    1. Ali says:

      Your garden and your photos are testament to your ongoing vitality and creativity! We need role models like you!

  10. pommepal says:

    What a delightful comparison you make with your tulips and life. I will never just look at a tulip again and think “what a pretty flower” you have given them such characters. Yes I agree all stages of life are as they are, and should be appreciated and lived to the full. For me the older I get the more I appreciate life in all it’s forms.

    1. Ali says:

      You too are one of my wise women, who I look up to. Always approaching life with curiosity and fascination. Thank you.

      1. pommepal says:

        What a lovely thing to say, thank you Ali

  11. Robyn Haynes says:

    What a fun and thoughtful post. I am an old woman and liberated by the fact. I no longer feel the need to conform to fashion fads, nor do I feel invisible (unless it suits me to be so). Like you said, I think the ‘look at me!’ stage of my life was exhausting and never truly allowed me to find out who I was. Still not sure who I am on any given day but at least I feel free to choose. Thanks for a great post.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Robyn. I think it is important to have women to look up to as a model of how to age without fear. There is a stigma even to using the word ‘old’, when it should be approached with respect, I think. It means a lot that wise women like you like the post. And yes, I love that ‘free to choose’ thread. It is exactly that for me: I didn’t feel free to choose when I was younger, and now I most definitely do. We are complex and multi-faceted and still exploring. Thank you.

  12. janesmudgeegarden says:

    Not quite as plumptious as they were, but a still a force to be reckoned with! What a great post. I love the metaphor. Growing old is really hard and the best we can do is to be thankful for what we still have and do the ageing thing as gracefully as we can.

    1. Ali says:

      I like that – ‘still a force to be reckoned with’!

  13. Stevie says:

    Do you have any boy-tulips?😁

    1. Ali says:

      I’m still waiting for ‘Bruine Wimpel’, but he is late!!

      1. Stevie says:

        Wouldn’t that be a brown wimple?

  14. Claudette says:

    Loved the way you structured this post Ali,

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Claudette! I am glad you enjoyed it.

  15. Emma Cownie says:

    I glad am the tulips aren’t bothered by aging – there are advantages to being an “invisible” mature lady…when you travel alone you are not a target for silly men who think friendliness is some sort of come on!

    1. Ali says:

      That is exactly the sort of thing I mean, Emma. It is a shame that we have to think like that, and I would hope that finally things might be changing for young women. We live in hope!

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        Slowly. Too slowly, some times, but slowly.

  16. Clare Pooley says:

    Wonderful, insightful post, Ali.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Clare, I am glad you enjoyed it.

  17. Sheryl says:

    Lovely post,

    I would have to say embrace wrinkles, it’s the only way to have inner peace. I love the flowers in my garden. As for ageing beauty, I would Limonum sea lavender. Its soft colour is elegant with its small flowers. It draws the green bottle flies like jewels as it ages and the flowers fade softly but stay put long after their prime. From bloom to late fall it holds it’s beauty.

  18. This meditation is so helpful to me. I really identify with your feeling of being invisible when you were younger and now feeling a type of powerful visibility as you get older. I have had that same experience, too. I love your line at the end that “aging beauty has the ability to astonish.” Thank you so much, Friend!

  19. What a beautiful and inspiring post – your words, pictures and perspectives!! I too feel I was invisible when younger, did not fee my beauty and now so much easier to feel and be myself.

    1. Ali says:

      That is lovely. Sometimes we take time to grow into ourselves and feel our own beauty.

  20. *did not feel my beauty

  21. Beautiful post Ali! I love the way you wove your life experience into the life of a tulip! It’s always a treat to see one of your posts in my reader! 🌷

    1. Ali says:

      That is such a lovely comment. Thank you so much. (glowing!)

      1. You are very welcome! Growing older is an interesting journey and I’m enjoying every moment of it. Your take on this adventure is spot on! Tulips and all! Cheers! 🌷

  22. Evelyn Flint says:

    I love how roses age – they are one flower that always look gorgeous at every stage of their life. As I’ve got older I’ve realized that the things I worried and fretted over in my 20’s are now completely unimportant and I’m much more relaxed and happy (I’m now 53). I think your tulips have aged beautifully…

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Evelyn. Yes, roses do age beautifully. They also are often more interesting once they take on different tones. Even the shape becomes more interesting with reflexed petals, and the textures more velvety.

  23. We can learn so much from nature and the garden! I love the blowsiness and fullness of ageing flowers! Beautiful photos and lovely post!

  24. What a beautiful and inspiring post Ali. We are all beautiful no matter what our shape, age…

    1. Ali says:

      Exactly. Thank you for your lovely comment.

  25. Sam says:

    Haha, brilliant. And beautiful tulips.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Sam.

  26. Design+Grow says:

    Love your thoughts here! Absolutely life is getting better with age, and I love your connection with the tulips, some of mine really have been beautiful and more complex as they’ve gone over. Dahlia’s are particularly good for this too I find.

    1. Ali says:

      I’m glad this resonated with you. Yes, dahlias are another flower that age beautifully.

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