Garden as Process

Garden as Process

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Large wooden praying mantis at Cheekwood Art & Gardens. Temporary art installations are part of the evolving artistry of many public gardens.

Is a particular plant a weed? Is a garden a work of art? And who gets to decide? If you’ve read our recent rantings, you’ve likely noticed these questions do not have simple answers. The answers vary, depending on the gardener.

Many gardeners (like me) learn their land slowly. At first, they may plant one of everything, and see which thrive, and spread those around. Or they may start with tried-and-true passalongs or familiar friends, then gradually add unfamiliar plants here and there. With knowledge and experience, they might make better guesses. With ample money, time, and labor, they might build better bones.

Whatever their approach, for these gardeners, creating a garden is a process. It is not a remodel that will beautify the neighborhood while the gardener kicks back and enjoys having finished. It may very well beautify the neighborhood, but it will never be finished — which is really the point.

And those plants in the garden? They may be place-holding pioneers, filling ground that will later be given to longer-lived (and perhaps fussier) treasures. A certain plant could be a reminder, anchoring beloved memories of a person or place. It might be a weed the gardener hasn’t dealt with yet. Or it could just be there because a curious gardener is getting to know it better.

This type of evolving garden—a living laboratory, an ongoing conversation between person and place—is different from landscapes installed (by professionals or do-it-yourselfers) as a route to decreasing yardwork, much like low-care siding is installed on a home to decrease painting. The steward of a low-care landscape may welcome expert opinions about such things, but I would not presume to tell an avid gardener what is and is not a weed, what is or isn’t art.

Posted by

Evelyn Hadden
on July 2, 2014 at 3:09 am, in the category But is it Art?, Everybody’s a Critic, Real Gardens.

    • Sarina
    • 1st January 1970

    Praying mantis as in prayer

    • Evelyn Hadden
    • 7th February 2005

    Thanks, Sarina! Fixed it in the post.

    • admin
    • 17th August 2013

    “Garden” as verb.

    • Evelyn Hadden
    • 6th August 2017

    Exactly, Xris!

    • Tibs
    • 30th August 2017

    Garden as a process. You have described my gardening style perfectly. The next time my husband asks me when am I going to be done, I will show him this.

    • admin
    • 10th September 2017

    Well said. My garden isn’t an “outdoor room” of my house, to be decorated and flaunted, it’s my medium that I work in/with.

    • Deborah
    • 11th September 2017

    Exactly. Tibs, i’m with you. I will show the article and comments to my husband now.

    • Stan Stansbury
    • 11th September 2017

    I don’t think we just learn our land slowly, what flourishes, what fails. I think we learn ourselves slowly too, what pleases us and what doesn’t. We test preconceived notions against the reality of the land.

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