Thursday, February 01, 2007

Gardeners? Artists?

Kim over at A Study in Contrasts is wondering how we gardeners view ourselves and whether one possibility is as artists. My thought is that it all depends on your interpretation of the word gardener...and my take on it would be that gardeners are artists, with the caveat that many people who work in their yards are not gardeners. Gardeners need to garden, they have a passion and compulsion for it, it eases their soul, it creates joy. These characteristics are true of artists in any genre. People who find satisfaction simply in getting the grass cut and the leaves raked and being done with "the yard work" are not gardeners, although they make better neighbors than some other types. Typically, a yard being maintained is static. It might be full of live materials but it isn't alive. It doesn't draw you in, make you want to venture further, see what's down the path (which is at best probably the front door). Gardens and good art involve the viewer, touching the heart and well as originating there! And they operate on many levels so that they can appeal to a variety of viewers and draw those viewers back again and again.
At the same time, not all art and not all gardens are appealing to everyone at all times. Just as we appreciate different paintings or music at different times in our lives we can appreciate different gardens, or on a smaller scale, different plants as we grow along with our gardens. (Personally, I've started introducing some yellow into my garden...I wonder if red can be far behind??) So where does that leave the static garden? I think those yard owners don't even really see what is in that space surrounding their homes...because, for them, it doesn't really matter. They just aren't gardeners.
I think there is an immense creative factor involved when a gardener begins a garden...thought is given to who will use the space, how it will be viewed, how it will age, what feelings one hopes to evoke. Do you want to feel energized by the space? calmed? welcomed? protected? connected to nature in a larger sense? A few shrub borders and an expanse of lawn isn't going to do much for any of these. Or maybe that creative factor comes into play slowly, as the garden evolves and the gardener/artist becomes aware of the never-ending choices the garden offers. (Too late to turn back now!)
So now I'm wondering, what is it that works for you? What is directing your gardening...your head? your heart? When your heart falls in love with a new plant does your head step in and try to talk you out of it? Or when your head says no to the borderline hardy perennial (shifting hardiness zones aside) does your heart tell you to go for it? Which one usually wins?
What do you want to feel when you're sitting in your garden at the end of a satisfying day? What do you want visitors to feel?
Have you changed what you appreciate or strive for in a garden?
And when did it hit you, that like so many other truly important things in life, gardening is all about the journey and not at all the arrival!


MrBrownThumb said...

Hmm you posed some interesting questions. I'm not sure I have a particular feeling I want to feel other than a sense of satisfaction of growing something I like.

Similarly I don't know if there's a feeling I necessarily want visitors to feel other than an understanding that the plants they see were chosen because I really loved them.

CoastalCAGardener said...

A very thought provoking post! I guess I do equate gardening with art, mostly because that's where I feel creative. I love making color combinations or taste/scent combinations.

Also, because I love vegetable gardening, what I strive for is plants that look good and provide tasty things to eat. I'm inspired by French "potagers" where both body and soul are fed. So I plant not in rows, but in drifts. I am learning again and again how to make the garden look good and provide a meal. Sometimes, I am too enamored with a plant to harvest it - currently, cabbages are my downfall. They are simply too beautiful to pluck up.

But I'm also evolving to now planning and planting some perennial beds. Tucking herbs in those spaces instead of the veggie beds. I'm also realizing my soul needs more flowers to set on the table with the fresh salads. So you're right, it is a journey, with many turns and stops along the way.

Unknown said...

What a great post, Leslie! I like the idea of gardener/artists drawing people in, loving the dynamic nature of a planting... I had a visit from another gardener this past spring. She's the mother of a friend of mine, and we spent about 40 minutes going through my yard, talking about plantings and plans. She could "see" where things were heading in my yard even though I've only lived here since late 2004 and the garden is far from looking mature. It's that vision... that seeing of possibility... that I love in fellow gardeners.

I'll have to think about the rest of your questions and maybe address them in a separate post. I am after all notoriously long-winded. lol.

Annie in Austin said...

When our kids were younger, any artistic ideas took second place to a large family's needs for outside spaces. But soon after we moved to house # 3, I was able to turn the entire front yard into an expression of my idea of beauty, leaving the back for vegetables and family land.

We're in house # 5, with only adults now, where Philo & I can play with design ideas, plants, shapes and colors, and we're really enjoying the chance to make a few artistic statements together. As you are, we're trying to draw in the visitor, revealing and controlling the views.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Greg C said...

I have varied tastes and may want one place in my garden very neat and orderly and other places overgrown with too many plants. I consider myself a plant artist but art is so subjective that what I like, may turn someone else off. My ideal garden would have a small waterfall and stream ending up in a little pond full of goldfish. I would want a quiet place to sit with lots of flowers that attract butterflys. I want a bird feeder too because I love the sound of birds.