Author Topic: Private Passion and National Indifference  (Read 2922 times)

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Offline greenfinger

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Private Passion and National Indifference
« on: January 07, 2006, 05:38:18 PM »
I?m back, at last. What a hectic life and guess: no Gardens Answers to find, nowhere! The import gets more and more irregular. Times are changing and not for the better, believe me. I?ve understood our dear Administrator is still pulling upside down his furniture in order to find his scanning machine. I?m afraid this can take a long, long time and in the mean time I?m so free to propose another article (which needs no visualisation). I admit its content is a little bit explosive, but as long as George keeps searching he won?t be disturbed by it.
Take The Garden from December 2005, p. 843 and be prepared for some shocking news, involving the outcome of October?s RHS Debate: ?Private Passion or National Indifference: Is gardening still core to the British way of life?? The writer had to conclude: ?What is surprising, however, is the narrow margin by which it won ? a mere 10 percent of votes separated the final decision. The tally was 161 ?for? the motion, 134 ?against??
?No one is arguing that British people are passionate about gardening, but it being ?core? is a different thing?, said James (Hitchmough). Seconding him was garden designer Andrew Wilson, who said, ?Gardeners are a passionate minority with an increasingly indifferent majority?

Now, where do we stand with an opinion like that last one? Yes, right on a landslide. An avalanche of shifting ideas about what was ? and for me still is- our national proud.

And attention, please, this was not yet all: we continue on page 849, where Gordon Taylor and Guy Cooper give their opinion: ?Just in case the 55 percent of the audience at the RHS debate who voted for plants seemed unaware of hard landscaping, here are our thoughts. Hard landscaping must come first in the design and installation process; plants come second. (?) In every period in history, gardens reflected the time in which they were created, and all materials considered basically contemporary were used for hard and architectural landscaping.  Great gardens of the past would not exist for us without strong design and hard landscaping. No historical garden exists solely on a design of just plant material: plants are but one important element.? 

OK, OK , this said I shall not speak further. The debate is up to you.



Offline Pixydish

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Re: Private Passion and National Indifference
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2006, 05:53:12 PM »
Back from a long hiatus from the computer, I read your post with chagrin. If the Brits are losing their focus on gardening as 'core', what are Americans to do?  Long have we competed with the British in terms of 'garden style'. We count on the British to give us focus, to give us the competitive edge, to give us someone to look up to and point the way. Should British garden style become less of a national identity mark, we are in trouble! Already much of American gardening is seen as a product rather than a process, with the joy of watching a plant come from seed and mature over the years being felt by a slim number. 'Instant' gardens are everywhere. (It goes along with our 'instant' buildings, instant soup, instant love, instant everything).
That competition we have with the Brits keeps everything moving forward in a stable way. Without this stablizing focus, I fear American gardening will mirror the end of the cold war and chaos will prevail. Say it isn't so!!

Offline greenfinger

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Re: Private Passion and National Indifference
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2006, 08:05:18 PM »
The General Manager of this Forum has just chased me out of my bed to answer your last message. Head up, good girl. I know I'm somewhat grumpy (a fine characteristic I hope I will never loose) and such polls are nice sticks for an old dog like me to put his last teeth in. The discussion in itself is already a good thing. Our life patterns are changing and speed seems a goal on itself. I can try to speed up my plants but I'm afraid they will learn me nature goes its own way. And this I find a very reassuring idea if you don't want to run away and being busy, busy...  Do you know the book "Inner Gardening. Four Seasons of Cultivating the Soil and the Spirit" by Diane Dreher? That lady hits, in my eyes at least, the real core. The title can insinuate this is a superficial nepphilosophical book nrXXX, but that's not the case, not at all. "What we cultivate around us, we also cultivate within", writes Diane with her two feet in her Californian compost while pruning her shrubs.
Another point of light: I think we don't to have to limit us to the example of Great Britain. Indeed, when I have the occasion I'll go and visit the gardens there with much pleasure, but very interesting things are happening in Germany for instance. How do they manage their public places, how much time do they spend in studying their ecological plantcommunities to learn from them and to applicate them in their gardens?
I think in gardening we know an evolution more and more from quantity to quality.
More reading? Try the book "Planting Design: Gardens in Time and Space" by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury. I find it a good one. The customersrate at Amazon is not high, but I think the reason is it treats some general visions for a future gardening and gardeners, I assume, still prefer very practical books about very specific species. I think it pays to study from time to time the larger canvass.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2006, 09:08:31 PM by greenfinger »

Offline Pixydish

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Re: Private Passion and National Indifference
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2006, 11:44:18 AM »
Points all well taken. I've read the Piet Oudolf/kingsbury book. I love all of their books. Have heard good things about the Diane Dreher book, but have not read that one. I'll have to look for it. Interesting her point about cultivating within what we cultivate without. I always think of that in the opposite direction: what we cultivate within is reflected in the cultivation of our surroundings - that is - we leave our mark on our surroundings and hope that in turn it leaves its mark on us. I often reflect on why I spend such an enormous amount of time in the garden when it is certain that whomever lives in this house after I am gone will not tend it accordingly. It will not be 'theirs' the way it is mine. I reflect on this especially at the end of a good day of gardening when I can barely move because I am too sore!  I can only believe that it is the process of it that I enjoy - the actual tending and watching and waiting and being rewarded with good things - the trial and error of it, and even the disappointment of losing plants over the winter, or the irritation of losing something because I forgot it was there and it got shaded out. (Ideas Genie has helped with this, I can tell you.) The textures, sounds, smells, colors, insect life, and the cycles of the seasons are all part of this.

I 've got to tell you, I don't have television, nor do I spend much time watching anything on video or DVD. Therefore, my attention span has not been trained to accept 'sound bites' as useful pieces of information. I find the cadence of television and movies to be jangling to my nerves and I cannot help but believe that the generations of people who are being reared with a constant barrage of chatter from one instrument of torture or another are growing brains that are incapable of appreciating the slow and regular rhythm of something such as tending a garden. I recently read in Time magazine that many college freshmen have never read an entire book. This is a tragedy of enormous proportions. The good professors are rising to this challenge by failing to assign entire books to be read, thereby reinforcing this character defect. I fear I begin to sound very old here, but I cannot see how moving further and further away from the natural rhythms of life can be a healthy thing.  I, myself, take regular long breaks from spending too much time at the computer because of information overload. My plants require less of me.  But I seriously digress...

Back to your post. True it is that many countries give us good examples of gardening excellence, the Dutch and the Germans but two,  but the American psyche is caught in its emancipation from the Brits. As a country, we are but young adolescents, as it obvious from the way our politicians act like they know everything and should be telling everyone else how to live their lives. (Does this not smack of adolescence? What parent has not wanted to shout, "Quick! Move into your own place while you still know everything!)  Like a good parent, the British gardening establishment has given us good role models from which to emancipate actively while we find our own way and our own 'American' style. It is sad to hear that the British are becoming a bit more 'American' by their indifference to the process of gardening. And to think: they are supposed to be older and wiser. Sad. Very, very sad. I wonder if you can buy 'instant' gardens in England like you can in the U.S. I can never understand the attraction in buying a complete, pre-selected group of plants that are guarenteed to look good together. What fun is that? Where is the excitement in it? Where is the creativity? Is this what gardening is going to come to in England? I truely hope NOT!

Now as to the importance of hardscaping over plants, that's just a crock of 'you know what'. Sounds to me like masters Taylor and Cooper are just a bit too uppity and self-important for their own good.  It's a 'chicken or egg' question to which there is never a specific answer that suits all instances. Naturally hardscaping is important in terms of structure. definition of space and style,  and containment for plantings, as well as being beautiful in its own right.  But hardscaping without plants is no garden. Plants without hardscaping is, however, a garden. Personally, I like for these things to evolve together. If I had to follow some kind of ridiculous rule about doing one first and then the other, I'd probably never get around to gardening at all.

You are exactly right about  the evolution from quantity to quality. I believe it's a pattern any serious gardener can see in the development of their gardening style. I am moving quickly from the 'plant collector' stage where I want to grow every interesting plant I see and I somehow figure out a way to make them all work together. I see myself continuing to have my head turned by a pretty face, but more able to say 'no, you don't need that one. you have no place for it at this time'. I'm becoming more interested in being thoughtful about what I put where and why, and doing all the underplanting, etc. etc. and that is reflected in my satisfaction in the results. I think it's a natural progression.

I always get opinionated late at night.