Real gardens;

Robt R Pries
Thu, 24 Jan 2008 08:09:32 PST
These posts struck a cord with me.

Jim mentioned how gardens today are tied to the house.
Some years back i had my garden on display and a
friend encouraged a photographer from Better Homes and
Gardens to come photograph. My garden was laid out in
a series of garden rooms that were laid into the
natural landscape so their inspiration was by the
contours of the land and a sense of place. The season
was spring and my extensive collection of standard
dwarf iris, dogwoods, and a plethora of wildflowers
were all in bloom. The photographers were delighted.
Later I found out that the pictures would never be
used because they could not tie the house to the

Since I grow lots of Iris I know that most collectors
grow these in rows like corn. This is the easieat way
to care for a large collection and I have have part of
the yard with corn rows. But I have never considered
that a garden. I separate these by speaking of my
collection and my garden. It is fun having both. I
certainly consider the garden to be the higher art
form whereas the collection is more of a science.

I am anticipating a move this spring to North Carolina
where I am building a house on 14 acres. The house
will eventually have garden views tied to the house
but there with also be garden rooms completely
disjunct from the house. Much will remain semi-wild. I
say semi because I do not believe there is really
wilderness anywhere today since everywhere feels man's
touch and therefore everywhere is now a garden of
sorts for which man has some responsibility. 

Bob Pries
currently in the cold Ozark Mountains of Missouri or
should I say misery.

--- Jim McKenney <> wrote:

> Roger Whitlock wrote: "there's a great deal more to
> a garden than the plants
> in it... the plants *alone* do not make the
> garden... It's fun to attempt
> growing "difficult" plants, but sometimes I think we
> plant nuts, of whatever
> stripe, get so caught up in the plants that we
> forget to look at the garden"
> Roger, it might come as a surprise to you to
> discover just how much I agree
> with what you seem to be saying. 
> If my recent posts to the PBS list seem to go on and
> on about my protected
> cold frame and its progressively more obscure
> contents, that's only because
> that's where the excitement is for me right now. Ten
> years ago I never
> thought I would be growing most of the plants in
> that cold frame. If nothing
> else, that cold frame provides me with the
> opportunity to get those plants
> out of my system.
> And if there is anyone reading this who is not
> tempted by the likes of
> Tecophilaea, Calochortus, Fritillaria, the south
> African and other
> Californian and Chilean floral elements - well, all
> I can say is "what are
> you doing here?"
> You might never guess it from my postings to the PBS
> list, but growing
> "rare" or "difficult" plants is only a minor aspect
> of my gardening
> activities. But two circumstances give it
> disproportionate importance: for
> one, during the winter the outdoor garden provides
> no other source of
> flowery interest in our climate. And for another,
> it's a chance to grow
> plants which in the recent past I assumed were
> outside my reach. But here's
> how to put it into perspective: the lot on which I
> garden is of
> approximately a quarter of an acre in area. The
> protected cold frame I've
> been describing has an area of exactly two square
> yards. That two square
> yards is the hot spot in the garden from October
> until sometime in late
> winter or early spring when clement conditions
> return. 
> The rest of the garden is given over to my other
> horticultural interests.
> And since garden design is my paramount interest, my
> garden is a real
> garden. You can't imagine how many times I've been
> taken to see the garden
> of some "great gardener" and found myself wandering
> around some backyard
> plant factory. If they're a dahlia specialist, there
> are neat rows of
> dahlias. If they're a (fill in the blank)
> specialist, there neat rows or
> paddocks of whatever their specialty is. I've seen
> whole lots given over to
> this sort of thing. To my mind, these are not
> gardens: they are exercises in
> urban agriculture. And that describes the well
> organized ones. They seem to
> be inspired by ever dimmer recollections of farming
> practice. Has the family
> really come up in the world because they now plant
> "gladiolas" instead of
> cabbages? The disorganized ones are simply an
> exercise in hoarding. 
> In my view, it isn't the type of plant grown which
> separates the sheep from
> the goats. It's how the plants are grown. All those
> "gardens" managed with
> an emphasis on productivity and the demands of the
> show bench - those are
> not gardens in my book. 
> In our time, the word garden has come to mean
> anything one wants it to mean.
> As real gardens have largely disappeared, the word
> now usually refers to
> flower beds or borders - in the same way real
> landscape has come to be
> supplanted by what is ludicrously called
> "landscaping". To each his own; I
> just want to be sure you understand that it's not
> for me. 
> Anyone who knows the etymology of the word garden
> will share my sense of
> perplexity to see the word applied to a bed of
> annuals (or if you prefer,
> orchids). Some of us would insist that there must be
> some sense of
> enclosure. Some will retort that the enclosure may
> be metaphorical. I'm not
> trying to convert anyone else to my point of view; I
> know I'm in the
> minority. But as in so many areas of life, just
> because we use the same
> words does not mean that we are saying the same
> thing. 
> To my point of view, most American gardens are
> turned inside-out. The house
> becomes the centerpiece in an elaborate and
> expensive attempt at outdoor
> decorating, the resident's primary investment
> surrounded by his cattle or
> gold jewelry or whatever it is which says status. I
> know I'm not the only
> one who has seen an expensive automobile parked on
> the front lawn - while
> space on the street goes begging. And I would not be
> surprised to hear that
> someone out there is replacing the plant labels (the
> ones which identify the
> plant) with large print price tags. 
> Real gardens can be achieved with a minimum of plant
> material. Plant people
> are apt to poke fun at those professional landscape
> architects who design
> gardens using the same repertoire of ten or twenty
> plants. But those
> landscape architects are on to something. An
> abundance of plant material
> only makes it that much less likely that a real
> garden will ever emerge. 
> I'll end on one final thought: Roger, if you could
> see my garden in full,
> you would immediately recognize its Persian
> influence.    
> Now that's what I call a rant!
> Jim McKenney
> Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where
> a Hippeastrum in full
> leaf in my cold frame shows no sign of cold damage. 
> My Virtual Maryland Garden
> Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
> Editor PVC Bulletin 
> Webmaster Potomac Lily Society
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