A Garden Defined

During a recent vacation to Banff, Canada to do some
hiking, I found myself awe-inspired by the views of lakes, mountains,
waterfalls, glaciers and open meadows. The experience made me stop and think
about gardens in a new way. I wondered whether Mother Nature’s masterpieces
would be considered ‘gardens’ by modern definition.

According to dictionary.com, a garden is defined as

1.  a plot of ground, usually near a house, where
flowers, shrubs, vegetables or herbs are cultivated.

2.  a piece of ground or other space, commonly with ornamental plants, trees, etc., used as
a park or other public recreation area:  a public garden. 

a fertile and delightful spot or region.

 I would put the Banff landscape in the category of
‘delightful spots’ for sure. In fact, I think Mother Nature did a great job
with the native landscape in Canada. She evoked a positive response in me
and enabled me to connect to each space I visited in a unique way. As I
captured scene after scene with my camera, I realized that certain patterns
were emerging. Natural patterns that were further explored in W. Gary
Smith’s book ‘From Art to Landscape’. Gary believes we find patterns all around us in the native
landscape that provide repetition of color, texture or
form and help to unify a space. These different patterns include mosaics,
naturalistic drifts and serpentines, among others. As I reviewed the images I
captured on my camera, I realized my photos represented nearly all of these
concepts and natural designs.

A drift near Lake Louise
A mosaic of wildflowers in Sunshine Meadows
A serpentine river at Bow Glacier

Oudolf, an influential Dutch garden designer, nurseryman and author has become
popular world-wide due to his naturalistic approach to gardening. In his
book ‘Designing with Plants’, Piet said, “My biggest inspiration is nature. I do
not want to copy it but to recreate the emotion. What I try to do is build an
image of nature.” 
observed that beauty can be seen in nature on every single day of the
year. If Mother Nature can accomplish
this, we can too. I believe we simply
have to focus on naturally occurring patterns and the cycles of life. Piet points out that birth equals spring,
life equals summer, and death equals fall/winter. By using these guidelines, we can
effectively combine color, texture and form in a way that looks natural, inviting and interesting throughout the year.

Hydrangea in spring (birth)
Hydrangea in summer (life)
Hydrangea in winter (death)

The next time you visit a nursery, think about how the plant will look
during each season and plan your gardens around these seasons of interest. The
next time you travel, look at the naturally occurring patterns in Mother Nature’s
‘gardens’ and consider replicating their impression. By incorporating form and
pattern, you can bring nature into your own landscape and build a closer
relationship with wild spaces. And who doesn’t want that?

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