Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Plant By Plant
This past weekend we went to a Garden Conservancy event here in town, to see the garden of some local friends.
It's a beautiful and well designed place, with deep, layered gardens full of interesting plants and wonderful structures -- a rustic pergola, a big barn, huge rocks, stone paths and patios, a bridge. It's a busy space, but the hardscape and structures help tame it.
They built it all themselves and it evolved over 15 years. It's a very personal garden.
We actually visited twice, once in the middle of the day during the tour hours, and then again for the after party in the early evening when the tour was over. Seeing it in two completely different lights was a great contrast. Touring it at first trying to see everything was very different than wandering around in it with a glass of wine at the end of the day, chatting with people.
It got me thinking about how we experience a garden and how we typically tour a garden.
"Come see my garden" usually means I take you around my yard to look at each plant.
I garden that way -- plant by plant, tending each, noting how each one does, and it is natural that I want to show you each one. Each has a story, each one was chosen, planted, moved, moved again, and admired by me. I'll even point out where the problem plants are and where all the ones I killed were.
I do step back when I am in my own garden to see how the whole effect works, and I love to sit on the patio and view it all, but mostly I spend time looking at plants individually or how they are grouped.
The tendency is to tour another garden that way too, looking down, checking out each plant sequentially, making sure to get to all the areas to see each growing thing. It takes some discipline to stop doing that and just sit on a bench while other visitors walk by, or stand on a path in the middle for a long time and look around while everyone else squeezes past.
A garden is made plant by plant, but it is really enjoyed as a whole experience of sounds, the heat of the air, the feel of the breeze, often the fragrances, the sight of forms and colors all meshed together, the punctuation of structures, and the surprise of an odd bit here and there.
When I visit anyone's garden I have to remember to see and feel and smell and hear it that way, and not look at it as a curated list of individual things that grow or bloom. And when you come to my garden I have to stand back and let you do the same, rather than guide you around to see each plant.
Just follow the path, wander away, and enjoy.