Friday, November 07, 2008

What's the story?

The sun broke through the roof of cloud near sunset, striking the tops of the trees with a brilliant red light. A transient phenomenon, an opportunity to grab the camera and take a few photos.

But it can be more; it can evoke the narrative of the garden. This is a story about the past - ghosts, memories, of native people, adventurers, settlers - and about physical process and geological time. About what to value - what was here, and what is here now.

Red was a holy color to the Lenni Lenape, who hunted and fished these hills; it was also a color worn for war. Eighteenth century settlers would have seen this sunset as a sign of their god's presence. Would each have looked on it with awe, fear, a sense of beauty?

So how does this story inform a garden? If I could afford it, I'd erect stone monuments throughout. Different styles, different sizes and shapes, almost like a cemetery. Not depressing at all, at least not to me; the cemetery was my first experience of a "gardened" landscape.

My new garden may be unsettling to some, may make them uncomfortable, may make them wonder what's wrong. But I hope it will be a journey into the nature of this place.


  1. Oh, what a lovely question you left us with!

  2. Kate,
    You've given me an idea for a new post. Thank you.

  3. James,

    I've been wanting to thank you (very much) for what you're doing here with your blog and for sharing the process of your experiments in the Federal Twist garden. I'm also an obsessive gardener who was floored and transformed by discovering Oudolf and the 'New Perennial' movement a few years back and I can relate to your taste and philosophical bent very very much. It's nicely reassuring to find such a voice here in dubious blogland, in amongst the folks patting each other on the back because they've found a plant that's 'really neat' and/or chatting endlessly about their cats.

    You're doing beautiful things, James!

    Thanks Again,

    Peter Holt

  4. Thanks for your kind words and solidarity, Peter. I do wish more of blogland would address gardening as an, at least sometimes, serious endeavor. It's easy to take pretty pictures of flowers; we have far too much of that. It's much more interesting to address the whole garden as a concept. Wouldn't it be exciting to find bloggers who offer critical comments, even outright criticism?



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