Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cultivating an Eccentric Garden

I collect more than just plants. I gather lots of discards, a.ka. junk for my garden. I assemble various art pieces from the found objects. I especially like broken pottery.

I’m fascinated with tornados even though we don’t get them here. I’ve use cylinders of wire to both keep deer away from the newly-planted tree and as an armature for my own little eccentricities. (See the photo to the left of a cylinder around a newly-planted Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo).

Everyone has the seed of an eccentric garden deep inside waiting to bloom. Here are ten ways to cultivate your own:

10. Think differently. Disregard all gardening magazines, books, catalogs, and newspaper columns, and create a unique, personal style. Think about what moves you.

9. Get to know your yard. Take time to sit and walk in the space where the garden will grow; even wait through a year to gather seasonal inspiration.

8. Embellish personal eccentricities. Take pride in what makes you a bit odd. So-called peculiar traits or thoughts can be the springboard for creative thinking. If you hate pruning, for example, consider growing a “wilderness,” with hidden pathways and artistically tangled mixtures of foliage and blossom.

7. Go all out. If you enjoy a certain kind of plant or object, then go whole hog. Plant every possible variety of rose or grow hundreds of varieties of flowering plants with just shades of yellow. Collect not dozens of colorful bottles, but thousands. Display your entire collection of lobster traps among the perennials.

6. Combine unrelated thoughts to form a new idea. One eclectic gardener mixed an old toilet, potting soil, and sweet peas to create his own private horticultural joke.

5. Get inspired by “unrelated” things to synthesize new garden ideas. A childhood love of glassy-black Indian bird points (tiny arrowheads) led me to incorporate visible and hidden chunks of raw obsidian (each waiting to reveal the arrowhead inside) into my own garden.

4. Put aside normal social guidelines. Vegetables and perennials planted in the soil between a curb and a sidewalk violates the norm in many neighborhoods, but makes for a festive, unique patch you—and the neighbors—will enjoy.

3. Follow your passion. Inspired by Axel Erlandson, Richard Reames, of Aborsmith Studios in Williams, Oregon, has begun to grow a living house. About two years old, the walls are being formed by 77 Red Alder trees planted 11 inches apart in a 22 foot diameter circle—the trunks are expected to fuse together into one tree. Reames is planning to install windows and a door. Such commitment over time is best driven by resolute devotion.

2. Collect what you love, the garden will follow. Sculptor Marcia Donahue of Berkeley, California loves to collect old bowling balls. She’s massed dozens of them in her garden, tucking curious plants in and around them for a unique and striking effect.

1. Ignore all rules (even the previous nine).

Eccentric gardens open the eyes to unique vistas, free the spirit to soar to new places, and “grow” original thoughts. Nurture the soul as well as the soil with your own eccentric garden.

Please post a comment - I want to know what you think.

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2008

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Anonymous said...

I love it! All heed Picasso's warning: "taste is the enemy of creativity". Many thanks, TCG

Peggy Payne said...

Great set of "rules." Very inspiring. I blogged about this site yesterday: Peggy Payne's Boldness Blog www.peggypayne.blogspot.com/2008/06/eccentricgardens.html.

Mark Kane said...

Great blog, Robert. Marcia Donahue's bowling balls have cropped up in gardens nationwide. Probably airborne seeds.