Friday, March 26, 2010
I wrote this post a while back about the virtues of keeping garden design subjective. If you missed it, hopefully you'll go back to it and agree that it can be unfair to be too judgemental about a garden when as visitors, we don't always know the full story.
A couple of coincidental things have happened since that post - the photo above is my favorite fall beauty of 2009. And just after I found my love for this ornamental kale, and fall planters using them, I read something in a magazine describing my new fave as "common" (the biggest insult in my lexicon) and sarcastically poking fun at people who own them. Soon thereafter, I wrote this post about how I found a garden just like my new, brilliantly designed garden in the pages of a magazine!! Only...it was the "before" photo in a garden makeover.
I do generally consider myself a person of good taste. I can flip thorough a magazine or book and after a cursory look, instinctively tell you what's beautiful and what's more...common. I can definitely tell you what does NOT look so great - and on a good day, can point out ways to improve the design.
Here's the problem: in my garden, I'm a little more confused - maybe because it's so much more personal. I'm a little less confident. I hesitate. I'm proud of what I've done one moment, and embarrassed the next. Sometimes when I'm working in the perennial garden and a neighbor walks by, I think they're thinking, "Tsk, tsk, tsk, that woman sure is working hard on that f-ugly looking garden". But then I try to be more positive about it. The truth is, I am only a landscape architect in my dreams. I have a day job and I'm good at it. It took me a long time to learn it. Similarly, even in my dreams, I've been a landscape architect for only about 4 years. It takes time to learn how to work with plants, to design something that works at a real house with its real obstacles. There is simply no way around it. I will have to gain experience, and that just comes with time.
Last night, Joel Lerner, a specialist in landscape and environmental design came to speak at my Master Gardener class. I loved learning about some of the most important design principles such as balance, contrast, sequence, repetition, and proportion. I enjoyed viewing his "drive by" photos and critiquing them - I'm happy to know that my idea of good design matches the fundamental principles of good design. I'm happy to know that the improvements I would suggest are the improvements our expert would suggest. I loved that the successful expert was open-minded enough to invite critiques of his own work in order to encourage us to think about what has been done. What I loved most, was Joel Lerner's message about design that he repeated several times throughout his lecture:
Landscape design is an ongoing process...
As he put it, you'll try something seven or eight times, and then say A-ha! That's it!
What I don't quite understand, is how some people I've encountered in life and on the web can be so critical of the designs of other people, such that they'll laugh, make fun of, or shake their heads. Perhaps I'm being too Pollyanna, but as I heard from an expert, landscape design IS an ongoing process. I'm typically not lucky enough to get things done perfectly on the first try. Even if I did, I sure as hell hope I wouldn't be too judgmental towards people who don't. If I ever look at some one's garden design and laugh out loud, or shake my head, may Mother Nature herself strike my perfectly placed plants down.