A Garden is You

>> Monday, April 28, 2008

You can tell a lot about a person’s outlook on life by looking at the company they keep, in their garden. I have always had this notion that a perennial garden, with its extreme diversity of color, size, shape and texture is an open window into the gardeners soul. Much like a painting or a sculpture affords the artist the opportunity to express to the world 'I am here and this is what I make of life'.

Some gardens are orderly and formal, others are, well, less formal and less organized. An overcrowded garden may indicate the designer wants to experience a little bit of everything that life has to offer and refuses to be limited by available space or existing boundaries.
Without trying to be judgmental or jumping to conclusions, here’s my view on how a garden can reflect the designers personality:
Vegetable garden – frugal and demands better quality food;
Herb garden – health conscious and mindful of our interaction with nature;
mono color – uncluttered and simple;
theme garden – playful, doesn’t take life too seriously;
small, low lying garden – uncertain and reserved;
bold colors and free-flowing plants – flamboyant, expressive;
mixed colors, shapes and sizes – non committal and unwilling to follow rules;
trimmed and formal – organized and perhaps a bit rigid;
Some gardens have lots of hardscape incorporated into them, such as benches, gazing balls, sundials, sculptures and other items that don’t actually go to support the growth of the garden flora but adds another dimension that further defines the designers character.
Then, of course there is signage that, in case you missed the point, just outright tells you what they think.
Gardening is something that, I think, should be experienced by everyone. Partly for selfish reasons and partly for an altruistic reason. If more of my neighbors had gardens it makes sense that there would be a greater opportunity to exchange seeds for plants I haven’t tried yet. :) Also, more people raising more gardens means more people in tune with nature, which could possibly help slow down our destruction of it.
I would like to say that gardening is becoming more popular, there is much discussion and no hard facts to prove one way or the other. The explosion in the number of garden blogs and websites might show that our population of gardeners is booming but I suspect this only reflects the proliferation of the internet to already existing gardeners. Sure, there are a few new gardeners coming onto the scene and maybe increasing food prices just might push more homeowners into the yard to grow their own food, but the jury is still out on that.
Expressing yourself through your garden is very therapeutic and personal. It becomes a place where we can escape the nine-to-five world where expectations of ourselves are not always our own. Some of us are more willing to share with the world what we have created. Some of us may not want to subject ourselves to anticipated criticism. Personally, I have found garden bloggers to be very supportive and if they do have a harsh opinion are willing to at least not acknowledge it in a blog.
If this post reaches someone who is not yet a gardener and is maybe thinking of starting your own plot, my advice is to just go for it. The satisfaction I get from pushing a shovel into the ground for the first time, knowing that I am about to create a fresh palette for my latest expression of myself, is priceless. Seeing plants ‘wake-up’ after a long winter of freezing temperatures brings a level of joy I haven’t found anywhere else. And the thrill of bringing wildlife to my yard knowing I am helping in their survival is beyond words.
The expression ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ comes to mind when I view a garden and I may not see it in the same way the designer intended. To me it may be more beautiful because I am seeing it from a less interactive way than they do for they have invested time, effort and money in getting their garden to look the way it does. Whereas, I am merely a passive observer and therefore have nothing invested in the interpretation of the design. Which reminds me, the true beauty of gardening is that you do it for yourself.


Benjamin Vogt April 28, 2008 at 8:04 PM  

Nice post, except that according to your list I am not committed to things. Hmmm. Maybe, but I don't know. What if someone had elements of several styles? Would that make them crazy, insane, complicated? Just throwing things back at you. I'm enjoying my visit here.

Greg W April 29, 2008 at 9:45 AM  

Benjamin, Thanks for commenting. I think we are all committable to some degree. Oh wait, that may not be the same thing.

Visited your blog, Deep Middle, and really enjoyed your thoughts on the varied gardening topics. Will visit again, for clinical reasons, you see, to try to get a clearer picture of whether my ideas of how a gardeners design style matches their personality actually pan out. :)

Jim/ArtofGardening April 30, 2008 at 6:05 AM  

I have a vegetable garden with herbs, a theme garden,
bold colors and free-flowing plants,
mixed colors, shapes and sizes and trimmed and formal plantings. I guess it means I have multiple personalities.

What is a swamp cooler?

Greg W April 30, 2008 at 7:41 AM  

Jim, It also means you're a very complicated guy and you are never alone. :)

A swamp cooler is a poor man's substitute for an air conditioner. It is also called an evaporative cooler. Water drips over filters on all four sides while a fan on the inside of the unit blows cool moist air into the house.

It works great as long as the temperature stays below 90. After that all bets are off.

Kate April 30, 2008 at 1:53 PM  

Hang on a minute Greg!I am generous, enthusiastic, energetic and out-spoken but also shy. I grow vegetables - masses of them and give lots away and spend time helpeing people with growing theirs and I love flowers and trees and wildlife and wish my garden was neat but its not. I am rebellious and horrid but kind and gentle too. So, dear therapist, how does frugal fit in to this? I don't waste money buying more stuff because I care about the environment not because I am frugal.I am also complicated but I love being alone!You work it out.

Evaporative air-conditioning (which we have) is NOT the poor man's air-conditioner! Where has your green side gone? It is perfect in a dry climate like ours here in South Australia - up to any temperature, even our heatwve of 15 days around 40C (about 110F). It is high humidity, not temperature that effects it. It is very eco-friendly as it is really only a fan blowing water through a wet pad and very, very effective.
So, people don't always keep their sharpness off other people's blogs. I hope you don't mind. Feel free not to publish this if you don't like it!Be sharp on my blog anytime!

Greg W May 1, 2008 at 8:05 AM  

I guess my attempt to see how garden design matches up with personality wasn’t very well thought out. For one thing I failed to take into account how a combination of these styles, which many of us incorporate into our gardens, indicates a well-rounded and balanced outlook of life. The whole matter is far more complicated than my clumsy attempt shows.

I share many of the traits you admit to, frugality was not meant to equal cheap but to indicate well-practiced consideration when choosing how to smartly spend money as well as time.

Evaporative coolers are greener than air conditioners, I merely meant that they are less expensive than central air conditioning units that too many people seem to prefer. Personally, I prefer an open window and a fan.

I welcome all comments, sharp or not. Thank-you, Kate, as always.

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