Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Art of Gardening

Gardening means "to cultivate a plot of land." And in the case of my perennial garden, which takes up most of my gardening effort, I would like to refine the definition to say: "To cultivate a plot of land for beauty and enjoyment."

Art means " The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty."

Do you think that perennial gardening is an art? I certainly do. Gardening is a creative means of self-expression. The type of garden you create makes a statement about who you are and what you enjoy. Your garden provides visual stimulation with its colors and forms. It can also provide aural and scent stimulation. The multi-sense experience available in the garden certainly affects one's "sense of beauty."

Every year around this time, museums all over the country host "Art in Bloom" events. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts event will take place April 26-29. If you have never had the pleasure of viewing an "Art in Bloom" exhibit, I encourage you to attend one. Flower arrangers are invited into fine art museums to choose a painting and base an arrangement on the artwork. The flower arrangement is then set alongside for visitors to enjoy. Obviously, the arrangements only last a short time. The arrangement mimics the original artists sensibility, but the ability to duplicate the original emotional expression of the fine artist is an art in itself. Not everyone can create such beautiful arrangements. For the arranger to be able to apply this skill to interpreting what the original artist had to say is miraculous to me.

Locally, in my area, I read that a gentleman recently wrote a book about gardens inspired by art. Unfortunately I misplaced the ad for the talk he is going to give at a local museum and I am unable to find reference to it online. But I am intrigued by the idea of this book. Imagine creating a whole garden to mimic one of the great fine artists. You could create the obvious gardens in Monet's work, based on his own personal gardens in Giverny. (Monet was actually an avid gardener who saw his own gardens as works of art and used them to inspire his paintings.) You can create fields of iris inspired by Van Gogh's iris. Or you can reach beyond flowers and just be inspired by vivid colors in pictures to create your own interpretations. Maybe Degas' dancers put you in the mood for tiny pink blossoms? This kind of gardening would be "Art in Bloom" on a grand scale!

I have never tried to create a garden based on the artists. Perhaps that can be a side project this year? What I do consciously accomplish in my own garden is a harmony of colors. My front garden is made up of primarily oranges and yellows. Purples overlap with yellow early in the season, creating a contrast of opposite colors on the color wheel. In my backyard garden I focus on pinks and purples with splashes of other colors. This color harmony stimulates me. I feel calm when I look at a garden with flowing waves of color. I like my two dimensional art work very much the same way. I also appreciate tight compositions that allow the eye to flow from one element to another.

For those of you who have never thought of yourselves as artists, try thinking about your garden in this way. What patterns do you see? What colors attract you? What elements do you appreciate in a garden? How do you decide where to place things? Then, take a look at a history of art book. (I recommend H.W. Jansen's History of Art if you can get your hands on a copy of his book. He provides a diverse range of works to get you fully acquainted with the art world through time.) Determine what attracts you to certain pictures. Are they the same elements that attract you to a particular gardening style?

1 comment:

Marion Jacobi said...

It was nice to read about the Art in Bloom taking place in Boston, but there is a similar program here in Manchester called Petals 2 Paint. This year the 5th annual show will take place on Saturday April 19, 12-7pm and Sunday April 20, 12- 4pm, at East Colony Fine Art , 55 South Commercial St, Manchester. 621 7400
Its a grand time and if you have the time it is worth going. Admission is free!

Marion Jacobi
The Divine Gardener