A penny dropping.
I’m not sure why I originally wanted to make a garden. I started with a need to grow things, which grew and grew until I needed to leave London to find more garden space in the country. I was lucky enough to find two empty (as I thought) fields around an affordable house. I dragged Charles after me and started garden making. The fields were not, of course, empty, they are ancient pasture: I would now suggest to anyone in the position I was in to conserve rather more of them, but I was ignorant.
And one day – just from reading about gardens, I came across Little Sparta https://www.littlesparta.org.uk/ and a penny dropped.
I had discovered that a garden can be more than plants, more than food, more than decorative or even beautiful – it can be a means of expression.
And so it began
And on the heels of that thought I realized I could say something about the history of this place I am living in, along with many people before me, in the garden itself.
I made a gate.
We made a seat – and I added several of the versions of the spelling of our settlement’s name which I have found in documents, with their dates.
This grew to a desire to say more – in the garden and in articles and books. And that is why I was flat on the ground this morning in considerable discomfort painting some words on carved stone.
This particular effort emerged from the joy I felt in the discovery of Wabi sabi https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi.
This is a potential in gardens which is not much discussed.
Our visitors tend not to mention it, rather as if it’s an embarrassment. People who have written about Veddw also tend to ignore this aspect on the whole.
If you live in the UK, you may think that gardens with additional communication get done to death at garden shows and festivals – but they rarely if ever have the personal touch I am thinking of. Mostly the content is dedicated to praising their sponsors.
There are a good many people who add sculpture to their gardens, and in the UK we have sculpture gardens where the sculpture is for sale and is the main point. But sculpture sometimes is intended to communicate something about the garden. Though when it is, as at Trentham Gardens, someone waving someone else’s head around, you do wonder what on earth.
It’s perhaps happier when the sculpture is created by the garden maker. I came across fellow Ranter Marianne doing just that, with circles. (and nests too ..)
And my favourite additions are words. Preferably not ‘A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!’
At some point I came across the wonderful work Patterson Webster has made in her garden in Canada, and she wrote me a post about words in her and other gardens.
Her garden is an art work in itself and she says of it: ‘Sight, Site and Insight. This is what art, landscape and design are based on: looking at what surrounds you, observing the lay of the land, the spirit of the place, the conditions that govern it, and then using those observations purposefully to create a space that engages the mind and the emotions.’
Why don’t we celebrate and create more such gardens?
Why is it that we don’t celebrate and enjoy this aspect of garden making more? Marianne wrote recently about how non gardeners find it hard to engage with gardens – and if all that gardens have to offer is a plant zoo then perhaps this is not surprising.
But what if a garden offers beauty, intellectual stimulation, thoughtfulness, an aesthetic beyond plants, humour and surprise?
Some gardens which do:
Glen Villa Art Garden – here
Il Bosco della Ragnaia – here
Garden of Cosmic Speculation – here
Little Sparta – here
And (of course) Veddw – here