Enthralling complexity and the imagination

Whilst it has rained relentlessly I have been stuck indoors looking at the garden being battered through the framed windows. Our house is an old hay barn and milking parlour and all its doors and windows look south across the garden to the view beyond, framing the garden and making it into a series of pictures. This has got me thinking about gardening as a form of art.

The gardens that I think work best are the ones that I can lose myself in. Not just literally, but, also ‘let go’ of the material and everyday and imagine. Just as in a good book, I read unconscious of the author’s voice, so, in a garden, there is a constant process of imagining, responding and being surprised and delighted by the unexpected and the ‘art’ of nature.

All successful gardens hold a sense of place – both of the landscape and architecture they sit within, and of the minds that created them. Added to this is the special dynamic between garden and visitor – for viewing a garden is not a passive occupation.

For me, the most exciting gardens play with this dynamic: the eyes can wander where the feet can’t; spaces flow into each other, but, you decide upon the journey; combinations of plants and spaces evoke memories and archetypes.

Detail is central to a good read and the most enthralling element of gardens is their innate complexity. For in gardens, as with art, the idiom that divides the well conceived from the mediocre is “the more you look the more you see”.

Gardens are like delightful Russian nesting dolls: layers of design and planting that can be appreciated and imagined and responded to at each and every level.

And everyday, and every time of day, and every season, brings a new complexity. It is not art: it is nature considered and appreciated.