Happy Christmas everyone!!! Though I am so sorry to hear about your weather. 

Now:

Gardens take a long time to make. And most people’s garden are probably inherited, because we mustn’t deliberately kill a live plant, however much we loathe it, must we??? Unless, of course, it’s a carrot. 

Is this sufficient explanation for the fact that our gardens seem to be resolutely old fashioned?

I was part of a garden lover’s discussion recently about garden things. Gnomes crept in. There’s a common assumption that gnomes are ironic, but that assumption definitely dates back to the 20th century.

The Deckchair Gardener book cover

I was very depressed (still am) with this dated image and title wished on me by the publishers. Does anyone even know what a deckchair is anymore?!

And most of our garden thoughts seem to inhabit the same era. When Christopher Lloyd popped up with a rogue mention of Sissinghurst in our discussion I realised we were lost in another time.

Which had me wondering why we are always looking over our shoulders when we make our gardens? Why do replicas of Greek and Roman statues, denuded, sadly, of their gaudy colours, appear in new 21st century gardens: as you may remember from my earlier post ?

 Though sometimes they do make you giggle:

Garden Statue copyright Charles Hawes

The poor daft things are almost always naked and must be freezing in the British climate.

Too often they look dreadfully twee:

 

Garden cliches – 

We were not immune from this at all at the Veddw. Perhaps was because most of the gardens we visited were old, (do gardens actually hang around too long?) so I sort of absorbed images and an aesthetic which informed our choices. We couldn’t afford much by way of ornament (that very word has an antiquated feel) so I got into the habit of making our own. But my model was, inevitably, antiquity. This was the kind of thing we were encountering:

Garden Vase copyright Charles Hawes

With the inevitable rather depressing plant filling…

So I created this, on plywood:

Faux urn at Veddw Garden copyright Anne Wareham

Sorry about the quality of the pic – it was a very long time ago. It looked a bit better than this too!

And when we could buy, we bought in the same mode:

You can see what our cat thought of it…..at least this repro statue had clothes on.

We have been struggling our way out of these banalities and clichés since that time. Those ideas about ornament vanished  in a puff of wow when I realised that a garden could be so much more than decorative, with similar thoughts at a similar time to Patterson Webster, as I said in a previous post.

It’s not always easy. We have a random self seeded yew on our terrace, which we couldn’t allow to grow to full size. Topiary was clearly the answer. We asked a visiting expert for some ideas and oh, blimey, were they boring and sooo familiar.  (Maybe a bit like Charles’s beloved egg cups?!) We waited, and thought, and looked around and eventually came up with this instead:

Parrot in Yew Tree at Veddw Garden copyright Anne Wareham

A parrot in a yew tree. Which is at least a little unusual.

 Part of the hanging on to the past in the UK is definitely nostalgia for a non existent world of our supposed past. People are still asking designers for a ‘cottage garden’, by which they do not mean a miserable patch where parsnips and mangelwurzels grow. 

And perhaps we lack enough 21st century models for contemporary gardens? There are some wonderful examples of modern planting (not so much, perhaps, design?), like  Piet Oudolf’s High Line in New York. But these tend to be public projects, not readily adapted to the smaller domestic garden. It seemed for a while as if the Conceptual Garden would have us all planting plastic doughnuts and Tim Richardson wrote a book bouncing us all into this exciting future:

Avant Gardeners Tim Richardson

But these days Tim seems to be back to writing about gardens of the past and the Conceptual Garden has joined the history of garden design. New perennials are discussed a lot but as Noel Kingsbury says ‘we have the new perennials but where are the perennial gardens?’ Well, plants aren’t gardens.

We may well ask – do gardens actually have a future, or simply a past?