HE SAID: I have a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting. As an art student, I was taught that all areas of the canvas are equally important. As a gardener, I believe that principle still applies.
I feel very fortunate that I found a life partner and gardening partner whose degrees are also in art — art education and textile design. Without a shared aesthetic vision, we would never have been able to collaborate on our gardens for the last twenty years.
SHE SAID: Which is not to say it's all been smooth sailing. It seems we never stop discussing, negotiating, explaining, arguing and, yes, occasionally fighting over, what should or shouldn't go into the garden.
HE: That's an important point. What doesn't, or shouldn't go into a garden is often the thing that makes the difference in whether or not it is successful.
We visited a garden recently that had a nicely built small water feature near the deck at the back of the house. It was decently proportioned, had a pleasant sounding waterfall, good rock work — but it was overwhelmed with tchotchkes. To make matters worse, they were not consistent in theme or scale. A miniature maritime figurine sat right below a nearly life-size ceramic mountain goat. I'm sorry to disappoint, but I didn't have the heart to photograph it.
SHE: Mark drove home that day determined to remove anything man-made from our garden.
HE: But during a survey of our garden that evening, I decided that the line between natural and man-made is not all that distinct. And that there is a lot more involved in creating a successful garden than whether or not it includes a ceramic mountain goat.
SHE: We've been talking together about where "My Garden Odyssey" should go from here; now that we've brought you pretty much up to date with the construction process.
HE: Of course, we'll be continuing work on the Tea House and doing other projects which we'll document for you here.
SHE: But we thought it would be helpful for us...
HE: And maybe entertaining for you...
SHE: If we explored some of the thinking that brought us to the present state of affairs in our yard. It's easy to forget all the steps, all the missteps, all the trial and error along the way. So we thought it might be a good idea to review our odyssey from the point of view of our aesthetic decisions.
HE: As I said at the beginning, everything is important; each element added, left out or removed contributes in some way to the totality.
People sometimes ask me if I'm still making art. My answer is unequivocal. Of course I am; I'm making a garden.
Every element I used to employ in creating a painting — color, texture, balance, scale, rhythm — have all gone into making our garden. But it's infinitely more complex in that a garden adds a third, forth and, possibly, a fifth dimension. It's not flat, after all. And it changes with the seasons, cyclical time. But it also changes continuously in linear time. Plants grow larger, mature and die, affecting the plants around them in turn.
SHE: You're waxing a bit philosophical there, Sparky. How about coming back down to earth — no pun intended.
HE: OK. I think we should start again, at the beginning.
SHE: Which beginning?
HE: I know, it's tough to narrow down. At first I thought that we'd talk about man-made objects: art in the garden. But I soon began to realize that, conceptually, the difference between a sheared hedge and a marble statue, between a chair and rock, is not that great. The distinction between "natural" and "man-made" dissolves in a garden since the garden itself is a product of man.
SHE: I was thinking this would be a two part post.
HE: And I'm thinking we should just see where it leads.
SHE: Maybe we should give this whole concept some more thought.
HE: I think you're right. And next week, we can add some pictures. This is going to be great!