Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Problem with Gardening Books

I have been reading with avid interest the discussions at a design and landscaping forum. One thought is bubbling to the surface: would you rather have a beautiful, lovely garden with a house plunked down in it--or would you rather have a house with a lovely garden?

Most of the books focus on the former. Gardens are entities in and of themselves. They should "relate" to the house, no doubt, but no one, not even when discussing the front yard says "the house is the focal point" of the landscape. And yet, isn't it? At least when you view it from outside.

The house has volume and space, it has forms and lines. Should that volume be reduced or enhanced by your design? Should the lines be softened or emphasised? It all depends, of course, on the type of house.

One concept that has ignited my enthusiasm is the idea of "enframing" the house. When garden books talk about "framing" they are talking about framing a view, or a focal point and almost never the house itself. The concept is instantly clear in this photo (which I stole from one of the threads at the Garden Forum.)

I have been advised that my plan is too boxy and that I need curves, that I am too inexperienced with gardening and plants to worry about design issues at this stage, and that I ought not to fight the "just off" symmetry of the house, but go with something asymmetrical, like a deciduous tree with perennial underplantings and a shrub or two on the left side of the house.

No matter. I am going to persist with the planning until I'm confident enough in the design to begin planting.


drwende said...

Well, the role of the house is a good point and worth thinking about... you're right that garden books seem to blink and hope the house will go away.

As far as being too inexperienced a gardener to plan -- how silly. Wasting years on "learning to garden" (weeding? annuals? mowing?) in a yard you hate will surely make you not want to bother with gardening. You're a planner; that's how you do things.

Alana in Canada said...

Imagine someone who has never lived wityh furniture, or carpet or drapes, or anything we put in a room. Imagine they came to you and said--how should I arrange my furniture? Is this a good plan--and they had everything lined up against the walls, because they thought the point was to have as much room in the center of the room as possible.
What advice would you give?
Buy some furniture and sit in it, use it, see how it works.
I think that's all that was intended.
But I am a planner--I just haven't been designing things from the persepctive of experiencing the "garden"--and so now the focus shifts from theoretical, architectural arrangements to considerations of light and shade, high and low, and shelter and openness. It's the "Pattern Language" approach--design by prepositions.

lorijo said...

I too think that the advice was intented to get you thinking about living with the plants- seeing how they grow, the changes that they themselves make- and how you like them.
One of the biggest decisions you need to make also is how much time you wish to put into upkeep. Some of these planned gardens require a tremendous amount of work- watering, wedding, pruning etc.... how much time are you willing to spend out there- especially since you have kids and homeschool (and summer is short!)

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