As I look enviously at pictures of different gardens online, I am thinking quite a lot lately about garden aesthetics. It seems the most elegant gardens have a blend of utility and beauty. For example, I love the permaculture recommendation that herbs be grown close to the kitchen so it's efficient to use them. But I also love the concept of the French Potager where flowers and vegetables have grown side-by-side. Gorgeous!
How do you find ways to balance function with form in your garden or farm?
In this pic: swiss chard side by side with Dahlias.
Some common themes I think about:
1) Clear paths and defined edges make people feel good and, I think, help people feel relaxed.
2) Garden 'rooms' help create privacy and areas of interest. I think about which plants can help add 'walls' in order to make more rooms. From a permie perspective, those rooms can also be suntraps, windbreaks, and create the dappled shade we so strive for in forest gardens.
3) Benches. too few permie gardens have them. what are we? all work and no play?
4) Enough evergreen screens. So in winter time the garden still feels protective. If not conifers, than bamboo, or thicket-y areas, etc.
5) Many things from the book 'Pattern Language'. curved paths, walk to a good view, levels of intimacy, archways, etc.
Aesthetics is very important in our edge with a 'mainstream' society. If people feel overwhelmed by a confusing garden they may spend less time there. If they feel good in an edible landscape, even if they're new to learning its many functions, then they'll spend more time there. That's what we want.
I like the Japanese aesthetics of 'wabi sabi.' Nothing should be too even, or too perfect. Wabi sabi- the perfection of imperfection.
And I nearly cry when I see gardens that are manicured to 'perfection.' Not a weed in sight. Why do we hate Nature so?
Finally, I really can't stand the army of little perfect annuals in perfect rows. White petunia, red petunia, white petunia, red petunia, white petunia..... So sad to see such an unnatural version of 'Nature.'
My vote for most beautiful, romantic garden!!! Ninfa, Italia. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGEjoVlCj6A
As mentioned above I like to have lots of places for seating so I can just sit and observe. I'm finding that with permaculture there is less to do anyway so more time to sit and enjoy it.
I just started a 'natural' area this spring and I simply keep a mowed curved path to encourage walking through the area to observe and enjoy.
There are lots of 'illusions of order' in my gardens; people who see them often say they want to do what I'm doing but I can't, for the LIFE of me get them to understand the part about not weeding and tilling everything up. I show them, give them demonstrations, and yet they still want to haul in topsoil, buy new garden gadgets, pull weeds and plant a monocrop lawn.
I needed this reminder, right about now, of the reason I love the garden in the first place. I have been ignoring the aesthetics a bit -- I have three self seeded rudbeckia sitting in a cart outside my kitchen window right now. They need to be re-planted in a spot that shows them off instead of just stuck in a corner somewhere.
Unfortunately, in my life there is only time for utilitarian gardening with only a little touch of things planted just for beauty. I love them and would have such a garden if it were feasible, practical and didn't absorb much of my time to get it there. I love wattle fencing, willows grown to form a tunnel, fruit trees trained into heart shapes, water features that soothe the soul and wild, rambling roses, meadows of wildflowers and secret benches under scented bowers...but it takes more time than I have to make it happen.
For now the veggie garden and a small patch of herbs will have to do. I've taken the time to intersperse the veggies with flowers this year and even reserved two whole rows for assorted flowers as well..but it's all too structured for true beauty.
I hear you. Years ago a coworker asked me what I'd do if I was just given $50,000. Enough to change your life with but maybe not have a completely different 'lifestyle of the rich and famous.' Well, I said that I'd like a new garden.
I, too, dreamt of those movie set dream gardens. "Stealing Beauty" set in Tuscany. A quaint British, cottage garden like "A Room with a View." A mossy, quiet, contemplative Japanese garden. A funky, urban rooftop garden in Paris. A quiet Greek Isle where I can live on my tomatoes, greek cheese, breads and fresh caught fish.
I hope your dreams come true.
My own dream garden here is a lot messier and harder to achieve than the dream ones. Work and family obligations are getting in the way somewhat. I think those dream gardens do actually take a lifetime to achieve. Gambatte, kudasai!!
I have vegetables in with my flowers, flowers in with my vegetables, letting herbs like oregano and mint take over large swatches of grass.
I have been also integrating "tropicalesque" plants like bamboo, banana plants, citrus, palms, figs, kiwi vines, etc. to make it look exotic.
I've converted about 80% of my lawn into wildflowers, tall grass, scrubby random growth with winding paths. Oddly enough, letting my lawn go wild has reduced my yard work so much that I have more time to take care of fruits, vegetables, etc.
Peony Jay wrote:@ Cris.
Pics, please. I'd love to see the results.
I have this short video from last fall:
It is focused more on the "tropicalesque" and cold hardy exotic type stuff I have, rather than "permaculture".
I really need to re do this as things have changed a bit since last fall.
Jeanine Gurley wrote:Cris, thanks for posting the names of your bananas. The Musa Basjoo - Japanese fiber banana and Musa Sikkimensis - Himalayan banana. I should be able to grow those here. I just love the energy from banana plants. I have a few but have not given them good spots to grow so they have been just hanging on.
I love em! With the mild winter we had this year, mine are as tall right now in mid Spring as they were last fall in that video.
With this much of a head start they might even fruit this year. Of course Musa Basjoo is not really edible, but still it would be cool.
I've seen a few places where Musa Sikkimensis fruit is described as "edible, if you eat around the big black seeds".
I think you should be able to grow these fine in that zone, last year I didn't even protect some of my basjoos at all, and they came right back from the stumps in the ground.
Peony Jay wrote: @ Cris
Yeah, my place looks all nice and green and lush too. By late July it looks way drier and dead here.
I may find a video or pic of my place but this is my general backyard.
I hope you like my home and native land.
I am fortunate to live near some spectacular wildflower areas. When I am out hiking I will try to remember to look for natural "gardens" which might provide some inspiration. I'll take some photos and post them to this album:
Perhaps others can do the same? I am always looking for inspiration from natural areas which require no work from humans.
I'm not dead! I feel happy! I'd like to go for a walk! I'll even read a tiny ad:
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