Gardens can be awe-inspiring, beautiful and full of color, places of quiet relaxation and meditation or just plain working areas for food production.
I have seen all of these in my past 35 years as a landscape contractor but there is also something else that makes a garden unique.
Plants will speak to you no matter what your persuasion. The placement of plants will also strike a chord within you whether you are a naturalist enjoying the placing of plants where they belong in terms of the environment or if you are an iconoclast, using color and specie differentiation without hesitation paying no heed to the ecology or micro climate needs, concentrating on texture rather than function.
There are so many avenues to travel when designing a garden, but there is one aspect of gardening that is rarely focused upon by most beginners when deliberating on what to do. Often this aspect of garden design doesn’t even incorporate plants.
It incorporates art created by man, art that provides interest and beauty where we often find something lacking in our gardens.
Gardens and the history of designing gardens go back to before Babylonian and Assyrian times. Even then, they understood the importance of incorporating water as an art form in the garden. Fountains, reflection ponds and waterfalls serve a multitude of purposes in the garden.
Water, the mixer elixir that provides plants with life in a thirsty environ cools the air surrounding it and the landscape. Water and wind moving lively through the garden can be such a subtle art form yet it is literally music to the ears of the passerby and in a mysterious way it calms the spirit while piquing the curiosity of the listener. What’s over there?
A flat reflecting pond, calm except for the lazy movements of giant multi colored koi and the up and down movements of the brilliant, floating, water lilies; shimmers in the early morning sun of spring. Here and there the bouncing shadows of darkness and light can play across the faces of delighted visitors and children as they feed the hungry fish swimming in the darkness of the pool.
The Japanese understood all this centuries ago and focused on the chi or ki energy of nature. Each art form in the Japanese garden represents this energy as a physical aspect of nature. Sand drawings with large stones set in the sand represent islands in the sea surrounding Japan and the lines drawn around and between them are the ever-incessant waves of energy moving through the sea.
Stone carved in the form of Japanese lanterns emulate the earth reflecting light and the flame of the molten core energies found deep within the bowels of our volcanic planet. Even the bridges found spanning the ponds and water features in a Japanese garden have meaning, always being gently curved or arched representing a return of purposeful energies to the earth from which their original intent once sprang.
Even more interesting than static art in the garden, is garden art than moves or kinetic art. Kinetic art is unique in that it moves seemingly by itself. In reality, the artist’s imagination and creativity utilizes eat, cold, wind, water and even stored energy to move his sculptures about.
These pieces of art are some of the most intriguing in that many require balancing and machining coupled with ball bearing precision in order to move quietly in the slightest breeze. Some kinetic sculptures will catch falling water from a stream in a wheel of water, moving in a circle only to return again to its true source of energy and drive.
In fact, the ancient Egyptians living near the Nile river created many such water pumps that would move the water of the river up and deposit this life source on the higher river banks thereby quenching the thirst of the nearby crops above the river.
I love all these forms of garden art, but I have a special place in my heart for sculptures of copper, steel and stone. Mosaic is also a beautiful way to compliment a garden, while reflecting on the images of our lives with natural materials from the earth.