Monday, 17 January 2011

Artistic Gardener's

Can Gardener's be Considered Artists?

Routine maintenance of a garden can I believe cloud the artistry that is actually being carried out as a garden matures - & whilst I don’t have anyone in mind while I type this, I do think many gardeners are artists in disguise! Good practitioners often make it look easy, in any work discipline.
 Even in their basic form, gardens can & very often are considered beautiful, & sometimes can appropriately be referred to as works of art, but can their gardener, other than a labeled garden designer, ever be referred to as an artist, other than in a light hearted, almost mocking kind of way?

Larger gardens, especially those open to the public most often attract professional gardeners who naturally wish to tend & 'grow' the garden in a professional way, yet shouldn't almost every action or task that is carried out; nurturing, growing, pruning plants, blowing a path etc, be considered the work of an artist, even though it is practiced repeatedly & over extended periods - sometimes decades!

I tend to think that in professionally tended gardens, the natural occurrence of targets, job descriptions, over-loading etc, all common place in a busy workplace, can quite often mask & tie up the creativity that exists within a gardener or team of gardeners. I feel it is here that the more artistic gardener can find themselves suppressed maybe, & if an outlet isn’t found, then quite often they get on with the tasks in front of them. In these ‘cases’, the gardener occasionally surprises people with a neatly trimmed lawn edge, a tightly clipped & level hedge, or a nicely drawn border edge; all standard practice for a professional gardener. A more responsive gardener can, even then, play down a compliment that is offered.

Good Gardeners… develop the ability to really 'see' a garden, or an area of a garden even before they’ve planted it. This ability is developed whilst learning about the plants, the habit & form etc, & it’s also learned through knowledge of the site itself; its frost pockets, its exposure to the sun etc. Having said this, I know this knowledge can be acquired in a relatively short period, by a good designer with a good quality survey. However it is the way that the information is interpreted, the way any new design is executed & maintained; that will result in an average or outstanding garden.

Whilst the hard materials, their use of, are vital elements in most new gardens, I believe the planting, or more accurately the gardener's use of planting, is where the artistry comes into play. An accurate visualisation of how one wants a flower border, a shrubbery, or a tree plantation to mature, is vital to the success of any project. In most cases it must be said that after planting that border or woodland area, after the empty pots have been cleared away, & after sweeping to tidy the footpath; only then can the gardener’s canvas begin to develop.

The watering, weeding, nurturing, pruning, staking, protecting & nourishing - it is all vital but for what purpose? The purpose I think, is to produce an outcome that moves & affects people, be it good, bad or indifferent, (& some gardens can achieve all three!) If real feelings are stirred, especially when people enjoy seeing & experiencing the result, then the gardener as a craftsperson, is successful in their work. Yet being this successful takes not only horticultural education, but an artistic eye, a delicate hand, & an ability to imagine growth & progress over time. If a person can acquire all these qualities, & become good at creating & maintaining gardens, then surely gardening can't remain the simple job it’s often mistaken for. Gardening in itself I believe, needs to be recognised as the artform that it has become over time, & needs more often to be valued by the garden owner or visitor. Maybe a compliment given to an owner for a beautiful garden, could be followed up by questions about the artist's who created & maintains it?

OK, soapbox finished with for today. My request of respect for gardeners has been stated. If nothing else, let’s hope I’ve opened a few tired eyes to the woes of any frustrated gardeners. Who knows, you may be one!!!


Helen/patientgardener said...

Oh dear you are entering into a debate that has been rumbling along for some time. Just pop over to the thinkingardens website for more.

Personally I think that many gardens can be considered art and therefore their creators artists. For me a garden has to cause an emotional response in me to be in this league. Strangely I was thinking about this on the way home today and it is interesting just how many of the senses are affected by a garden whereas a painting or a piece of music say only really affect the single sense.

The debate will rumble on but great post

Gardener Gary said...

Thanks for the comment. I guess that 'Folk Art', something that I've become aware of only recently, can apply to some gardens that aesthetically work well, & have been layed out by a novice. But where a gardener has received training, & is working for a living, i don't think they could be called a Folk Artist. Maybe we need to think of a new title for arty gardeners!

MrsRuthieWebb said...

Very interesting post. I enjoyed reading!

SimonM-Isaacs said...

I have always thought that gardening was an art form, it's not a recent innovation either. My own heroine is Gertrude Jekyll - tell me she wasn't a true artist - and just think about French and Dutch gardeners from the 17th century. I love what Frank Crisp did at Friar Park too, lovingly restored by George Harrison (who once said in answer to the question, "What would you like to be remembered as?" George replied, "A gardener!") The gardens at Friar Park are pure art.

And then we move on to our own magnificent landscapers over the centuries. So many were more than capable painters in their own right.

Yes, artisans for sure, but artists too indeed!

Excellent article Gary...