Something old - Something new
or not? And what is Modern?! The ongoing debate for today’s
gardeners is answered by Stephen Anderton.
Do you hanker
after doing something really new in your garden? Do
you fancy redesigning it from scratch in a modern, up-to-the-minute
style? Do you belong to the species Makeover Man, or
do you secretly think all this modern nonsense will
blow over, and that you'll soon be respectable again
with traditional English gardening? Is it all just a
fad? The late Sir James Goldsmith, one of the survivors
of the last great stock market crash, memorably said
"When you see a band wagon - it's too late." And there
are many gardeners who feel that way about modern gardening.
When they see terracotta-coloured concrete and glass
and steel, and the inevitable blue paint, they say "Well,
it'll all blow over. Back to our eco-Cotswoldiana."
These gardeners are wrong. This trend is not a bandwagon.
It is the long-delayed flowering of modernism in gardens,
which we should have had 50 years ago when modernism
was developing in architecture.
Well, let's not grieve
for it. Gardening has always, by its very nature, been
a conservative business. We are always trying to control
the uproariousness of nature and say "Hang on, just
look that way for a season or two, will you! Can't you
stand still, damn it!" Fifty years has not been too
long a wait. And if we have missed out on modernism
in the interim, well at least we have had a productive
substitute. We have had Arts and Crafts gardening in
the great Sissinghurst
tradition. It suits us Brits to the ground. It gives
us strong architectural bones, a good matrix of sensible,
reasonable lawns and paths and walls, around which we
can indulge our obsession with growing hundreds of different
kinds of plants. The strength of the structure makes
up for the diversity and fussiness of the planting,
and the combination works a treat. It's a foolproof
recipe. We love it. And the world loves to come here
to see it, since we have done it so well.
The down side is
that it gave a whole generation of gardeners the idea
that you had to know about plants before you could begin
to garden seriously. To be 'a plantsman' was everything.
In reality, plants are only half the business of garden
making. Space making - design - is the rest. The miracle
of the makeovers is that they have suddenly made people
realize they are allowed to think about designing their
gardens without knowing all about plants first.
Imaginations have been freed. And suddenly, as a consequence,
modernism is popular at last. Hasn't this got to be
right? Doesn't it make sense to design our gardens in
the idiom of our times, and not an Arts and Crafts idiom
which began in the late 19th century? Say what you like
about the quality of telly garden makeovers, they have
been a liberation.
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reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com