Conceptualism and eliteism



Dear reader,



There is currently a debate taking place over on thinkingardens.co.uk regarding the 'New' Perennial Planting 'Elite' and whether us mere mortals with small 'domestic' gardens have been influenced by them or indeed have tried to replicate them.


Mixed perennials - calamagrostis bought at Noel's garden




I have to take issue with Noel Kingsbury and his attitude to conceptual art in his blogpost - there is far more to the work of Tracey Emin than her bed. There is a need it seems for us humans to create some kind of hierarchy - we find it so so difficult to accommodate the vast range of tastes displayed by our fellow humans. I have to admit that I struggle to find beauty in some gardens, but I try. In much the same way I try to understand and appreciate the art of both amateur and professional artists. But inevitably there will always be elitism because whole industries depend upon our insecurities and need to fit in.




Dense planting - as dense as the planter


The disappearing 'lawn'

I have been influenced by NP gardens mainly because I have had the privilege to visit the gardens of the 'Elite' and have at times stuck my ignorant head out and joined in the debates about gardens and garden making. I'm not a great fan of Piet Oudolf's Hauser&Wirth garden in Somerset. It is all a bit one dimensional in terms of height - but I did like the beauty of the decaying stems and heads of the perennials (I preferred the work of conceptual artist and late friend of Emin - Louise Bourgeois that was on magnificent display within the gallery at the time of my visit.) I have visited Noel's last garden in Herefordshire which I found helpful in that it clarified what I was trying to achieve in my small cloistered garden on the side of a hill near the Brecon Beacons. My garden has wet areas and small 'wild' areas influenced by the wet areas of his garden. I'm trying to encourage biodiversity in a small way.

Marc Owen marcsgardens.blogspot.com suggests in his blog that the ordinary garden maker has not taken up the ideas of perennial planting- perhaps there are more of us out there experimenting with perennials than either he or Noel realises ?

The ecological view of planting has mainly focused on bees and pollinators - and I agree with Noel that a garden has to do much more than just support the pollinators but it is a welcome start.

There is an interesting project under way at the National Botanic Garden of Wales called Growing the Future - they aim to encourage ordinary folk to garden in more ecologically friendly ways - find out more at botanicgarden.wales/science/growing-the-future


National Botanic Garden of Wales trial pollinator seed mix beds


I wish I was more articulate !


Paul.

Comments

  1. With Cape Town's drought we gardeners are certainly focused on perennials. But then I have always preferred shrubs, trees. Anything but fiddly fussy annuals.

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  2. Au contraire, you are very articulate. I think it's a matter of, in a way, extremes. In art, at one end of the line you have the Emins and others who seek to convey something in their art which is often appreciated only by those who are themselves artists whilst others "ooh and aah" without really appreciating anything other than the visual image they are looking at; at the other end, there are those who paint things which we ordinary people like to look at again and again, appreciating the view of a garden or the detail of a butterfly, for example.

    In gardening (or horticulture) we have the same two ends. The style of Piet or Noel needs space to be really effective and there are those who can appreciate that style whilst others (you know, the type who a mutual friend refers to as the "hoi polloi" go ooh and aah at without necessarily appreciating what's behind the planting. Meanwhile we, in our smaller gardens, cannot hope to achieve the same effect; rather we work with the space we have and make it our own. We, perhaps, appreciate more the beauty of a single plant in "close up" rather than the impact of a large drift of the same stuff.

    I get far more from visiting a small garden open for the NGS, with its intimacy, than from visiting large estates. So I guess I would prefer the garden of a Steer to that of an Oudolf. One being made with love and the other with money and clinical precision.

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  3. Hear, hear!
    "I get far more from visiting a small garden open for the NGS, with its intimacy, than from visiting large estates. So I guess I would prefer the garden of a Steer to that of an Oudolf. One being made with love and the other with money and clinical precision."
    All hail Margery Fish!
    William Billy Martin. (primal_distraction) Kampuchea.

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