When I was at music college we talked a lot about inspiration. I tried harder and harder to find ever more obscure things to say I was inspired by, often after the fact – a Miro mural here, a Ginsberg poem there…. looking back I think that, for me, it was less about inspiration than intellectual points-scoring. There were a few brave souls who didn’t subscribe to all that nonsense. They liked what they liked and wrote honest music which said something about them and their interests. Not surprisingly, their music found audiences who wanted to listen. If you’re interested, there are a few links at the bottom of this page.
A garden should do the same I think. It should be an honest expression of the thoughts, needs and likes of the people that create it, whether that be a lawn with two goals or a woodland retreat. That’s why I find other people’s gardens fascinating. There’s always something to learn, either about the plants themselves or the people that created it.
The gardens that hooked me were at Heligan not just because of their beauty but also because of the tenacity of those involved. They gave me confidence to undertake our overgrown plot, and to try out landscaping and building structures as well as planting. Tim Smit’s book on the garden’s reconstruction is well worth a read, and put our efforts into perspective. The gardens at Arundel also made a big impression, as did those at Bodnant.
My dad’s and father in law Barrie’s gardens are smaller admittedly, but inspiring too in the way that they shape the garden to reflect their personalities and interests. They are very different, but full of ideas. I love the rustic feel of Barrie’s constructions, and the memories they evoke of past travels and experiences.
Da’s garden is very different, more formal, but I remember the vibrant plantings all the way through from childhood to now.
As I’ve mentioned on previous posts, Dan Barber’s book The Third Plate is influencing the way I think about the ecosystem of the garden as a whole, from the way insects sense which plants to attack and which to leave alone to the way you can use weeds as an indicator of the quality of the soil. It’s also making me think more about how we eat from the garden, and how there can be a connection between the garden and the house.
Most of all I’m influenced by the wild spaces that we encounter, some well known like Snowden or Formby Beach, other less so, like the wonderful Fairy Glen which we only discovered a few years back despite living a few miles away. There’s a blurring of the edges in natural environments like this, like you don’t know where the painting stops and the frame begins, that have changed the way I think about the layout of a space.