The Meadow Garden at Tokachi Millennium Forest in Hokkaido, Japan.
Violante Visconte, the former owner of the ancient Torrecchia estate near Rome, asked the designer Dan Pearson to make a garden that looked as if it were growing out of the ruins and as if it were on the brink of being overwhelmed by nature.
In his recent lecture (I referred to it a few days ago) the garden designer talked about having grown up in a cottage that had been overwhelmed by ivy and that he often tried to play with that edge of loosing control over nature in his design work. It’s something I’d like to try too.
Dan Pearson’s childhood experiences are familiar to me too. In one of the houses I grew up in, a flimsy pre-fab bungalow, the rampaging Trumpet Vine Campsis radicans slowly but surely made it’s way through a crack in the window frame and covered the glass of a sky light. We left it to do it’s thing. Clearing the leaves off the record player was a small price to pay for such a beautiful house guest.
I went to the SGD conference this weekend at Imperial College. It was entitled “What are gardens for?” and I was particularly inspired by 3 of the speakers: Bernard Trainor and Dan Pearson both talked about the essential thorough observation of the natural and cultural history of a place and respect for the spirit and language of a landscape. It is the ONLY way I can imagine approaching garden design.
Wendy Titman delivered a rallying cry for us to urgently re-invent our approach to young children’s play and their interaction with nature. A frightening proportion of very young children are ‘protected’ from the rigours of the elements, their activities outdoors being so tightly controlled and prescribed, that we are in danger of alienating an entire generation (or more) from the natural world and in turn from their own nature.
I left the conference thinking about the significance of boundaries to the garden. For me, the wider landscape and it’s ecology, the memories of a place, even the past experiences of the inhabitants are just as important as what is within the immediate confines of the garden. A feeling of seamless connection with those external elements is something to strive for in landscape design. The same could be said of children’s ‘play’grounds and a tarmac rectangle, obviously, just isn’t going to cut it.
The School Without Walls:Philadelphia’s Parkway Program by John Bremer
Henk Gerritsen - Essays on gardening.