Friday, August 1, 2008

It's Modern, But Is It a Garden?

Last June, during my holiday in my own country The Netherlands, I visited Appeltern, a park where they have over 190 model gardens. Many of those model gardens are on the same scale as the average Dutch garden, which is about 60 to 80 m2, and they are meant to serve as an inspiration for people who want to create their own garden.
There are all kinds of gardens there from the romantic to the very modern. In this post you'll see some examples of the latter.
garden 1

Here are rows of blue pots filled with Agaves. It's fine if you like Agaves I suppose, but is it really a garden? You can put rows of potted plants on your windowsill but that doesn't make it a garden, does it?
garden 2

Another modern take on gardening where the main ingredients are concrete, steel, glass, and oh yes, some greenery.
garden 3

Just suppose for a minute that this is your garden. How happy would it make you? There's gravel, a concrete table and benches, a fence and two types of planting: trees (all the same kind) and grasses (again with the same). Have you noticed how humongous that table actually is in this relatively small garden? And what if you'd like the sit in the shade and that table is in full sun? It would be impossible to move, unless you hire a crane every time you want to sit in a different spot in your garden. And what would you actually do in this garden if you're a gardener? Rake the gravel? Anything else? Well, no! So, is this a garden or a snorefest?
garden 4

And how about this one? Where the lawn ends is where the garden ends too. So what we have here is a garden with a fence on 3 sides and crammed in the middle some platform thingy made of wood. Is this a garden? Discuss! ;-)
garden 5

How about this one then. There's more plants in it and space to move around but what is that giant pointy headed snake doing there? The flat bit at the end you could use as a (non mobile) seating area but what about the front part of the snake? Children could use it to climb I suppose but what would granny and grandpa make of it? And it does take up rather a lot of space in what is once again a not very big garden.
garden 6

Next door we find this garden with quite of lot of huge planters and 2 flower beds. But isn't there something missing? Where's the seating area? Where would you put the barbecue? Where would the children or pets play? Where is the bit of shade you need on a hot summer's day? Not the most practical of gardens, is it? It's fine to look at but not much else.
garden 7

Now we come to our last garden. Is this a garden? Does it work? There are lots of plants about and flowers too. The theme is yellow (in case it escaped your notice) and personally I like it. It looks great, it has a nice (and mobile) seating area, it provides some necessary shade, there's ample walking or running around space if you're a kid and for a gardener there is actually something to do and enjoy. But is it modern? Sure the chairs and table are modern and so is the awning and metal screen. But do you really turn a garden into a modern one by bunging some modern things in? In other words: it's a garden but is it modern? Discuss!

copyright 2008 Y.E.W. Heuzen

Gardens are all about anxiety and irritation and struggle. You can't build anything out of pacifism.
Jamaica Kincaid


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Seeing all this modern gardening in one place just reinforces my dislike for any of it. I think it is all a waste of garden space. I know there are people out there that like this type of garden but not me. It is interesting to see different types of gardens. However Not In My Garden.

A wildlife gardener said...

I'm afraid these are all the kinds of so-called gardens I really dislike :(

I much prefer those which are alive to all the wildlife and have a touch of soul and romance...such as the garden at Bliss :)

I need a quiet corner where my soul can contemplate the beauty of the garden, an area to grow veggies and fruits to nourish my body, and a multitude of plants -trees, shrubs and nectar borders - to welcome the wildlife, so that my garden will come to life, and become a sensory experience for all who like to share it with me :)

Jim/ArtofGardening said...

Much like the annual International Garden Festival in Chaumont, France, these are more akin to art instillations, with plants. For practical ideas for one's own yard, I think a neighborhood garden tour would be more practical.

Ewa said...

Good that you pointed this isuue, because I was wondering seeing on the pictures this kind of 'gardens' what is the meaning?
People do many meaningless things - this is one of them. Many things are done without understanding what for.
Gretings from hot Poland,

Gail said...

YE, They remind me of modern installations at the Contemporary Art Museum...I like mid-century design in homes, but these are interpretations of something I don't get. My husband and I joke that we must be too plebian to 'get this or that"! You raise good points on what actually constitutes a garden! My question is this: Where any of these installations created and designed by real gardeners?

Lis said...

Ach du liebe Güte, da gefällt mir ja gar nichts und das würde ich mir auch nie in meinen Garten holen. Aber die Geschmäcker sind ja zum Glück verschieden und es gibt bestimmt viele Leute denen das gefällt!
Schönes Wochenende
LG Lis

marga said...

Ik ben er dus ook geweest maar ik vind veel van de modeltuinen daar niet mooi, mij te modern.
Fijn weekend.

Cheryl said...

Well Yolanda if I am totally honest....I didn't like any of me they hold little interest and I hate these gigantic structures in gardens.....

where are billowing flowers......borders full of colour.....fruit trees.....and meadows.....

Each to their own, and we are all different and that is good.....but its a thumbs down for me.....

Annie in Austin said...

What fun, Yolanda - thanks for sharing!

These installations may be interesting as statements on our relationship with "being outside", and if they provoke us into thinking about what we actually want to do within our own space they might have value, but who could live with one?

Even if the aesthetics didn't bother you (that "snake" looks kind of like a gigantic animal used the garden as a litter box), can you imagine trying to maintain a lawn under a wooden deck? Three fallen leaves would spoil the lines of any of these spaces, and once a couple of the agaves decide to grow more rapidly than the others the proportions of the wall will be ruined.

A static space doesn't seem like a garden to me, and all these spaces look as if they're putting all their effort into being static.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Karin A said...

Well, what can I say! :) It's not the kind of garden a prefer my self but I'm very open to what a garden can be. It's really hard to define...and I like how they challenge my mind. I think that people have to choose themselves what a garden is but I guess me - and much people with me - would not like this kind of garden. When I went to see Gardens of Gothenburg it was the same kind of design garden. I'll have to make a post about them. Enjoy August my friend! I'm off to Germany. :)

Kram Karin

Pam/Digging said...

I like your thought-provoking questions and images, YE. And yes, I'll bite. I do think these are gardens, with the exception of #4, which looks merely like a collapsed deck. But they are not gardens for gardeners, and few of us who love plants would be content with them.

They are about design, and about providing a stylized form of nature to look at. As for not having a place to sit or plants to tend, think of the austere (to Western eyes) raked-gravel gardens in Japan that are meant to be contemplated but never trod on. Those are highly stylized gardens too.

I actually quite like #3 for its Zen-like simplicity. If I weren't a gardener but wanted a serene place to enjoy a meal or a crossword outdoors, I can imagine being quite happy with this low-maintenance garden.

However, neither of us is that kind of a person, are we? :-)

Chookie said...

I tend to think of a lot of these as "municipal" gardens: the local council buys a huge number of each of three species and plants them everywhere. It looks OK but becomes boring if you have to live with it. Only the last one enables effective normal use of the garden.

Katarina i Kullavik said...

I guess it all depends on how you define the word garden. Personally, I'm a practical old romantic who prefers a garden to be alive and constantly changing... But i guess these 'gardens' are meant to inspire you - like a fine piece of art - they are not meant to be...gardens...? Are they?

Brimstone said...

Dit zijn eigenlijk geen tuinen, maar inrichtingen van de buitenruimte's. Veel mensen houden niet van tuinieren of hebben er geen tijd voor en op deze manier doen ze toch wat met de ruimte achter hun huis. Het is in ieder geval mooier dan gewoon betegelen.

De laatste, die gele, vind ik wel een tuin. Niet echt mijn smaak, maar toch leuk gecombineerd, de beplanting en de meubeltjes.

Elke said...

No, these gardens are not the kind of garden I would prefer, these are show-rooms, installations, art-work but no gardens. But I think, there will be people who like them. We all are different but for me - I like it green and "cosy".
LG - Elke

Rhonda said...

Well I suppose everyone has their own idea of what a garden is for them. None of this is my style, however, I can see a sense of serenity in much of it. It reminds me very much of Zen gardening. From a practical isn't a place i would want to spend a lot of time in because as you pointed out..there isn't practical in any of the gardens. Thing is...I would actually not call those gardens..I would call it an modern art exhibit.

het lieveheersbeestje said...

Omdat je onze mening vraagt, nee, ik vindt het meer een tentoonstelling van buitenkunst. Ik, als romantische oude ziel, houdt meer van oude engelse cottage tuinen. Maar ieder zijn eigen tuintje hoor! Dat is nu het leuke van je tuin; je kunt het inrichten naar je eigen smaak...

nikkipolani said...

I realize there are people in the world who want a bit of green to look at but don't enjoy watching things grow or caring or tending plants. They want as low-maintenance greenery as possible. I suppose the first four gardens you show fit the bill. And perhaps it's for people who just look at their garden from the house.

ladyluz said...

An interesting theme, Yolanda. None of these is to my taste although I can imagine a lovely corner with No. 3 minus the monstrosity of the table/benches. The contrast of greens, leaves, textures is right up my street. Very Zen.

They're all low maintenance, aren't they, and a kind of extension of the house for busy people who don't want to get their hands in the dirt.

Horses for courses, but not my scene.

Marian said...

Voor mij is een tuin een verlengstuk van de natuur, de laatste komt een eind in de goede richting, maar de rest. . . .
Zo'n enorme witte keutel in je tuin, hahaha, dat ziet er toch niet uit!
Een gruwel vindt ik het, die zogenaamde moderne "tuinen"!

Libbys Blog said...

They are exactly what they are built to be 'show gardens'. Totally impractical in a 'real' garden situation. You would have only to live with them for awhile to realise this.
I like the higgledy piggletyness of 'real' gardens thats what makes them. Even in a well designed, used garden you will find a shed for tools, or a wheelbarrow even a pile of plantpots. Make it real thats what I say!!

Salix Tree said...

I like the wildness and chaos of nature. All these gardens look too tamed and regimented for my taste.
If I would inherit a garden like these, it would soon enough have reds, pinks, yellows and whites, and roses and vines and crops everywhere. The "snake" could carry some honeysuckle. The blue pots would come down, and the awful spikey plants given away. The platform could be dis-assembled and reformed into a cool treehouse.
And so on.
In a year or three, the "garden" would look totally different, and possibly have become a real garden.

Cabs said...

Not my style definitely -- but if one likes contemporary art and sees one's garden as a place to display one's large them I suppose it is a "garden." Great pictures and excellent questions!
Tonight I am just back from touring 4 historical private gardens in Stockbridge and Lenox, Massachusetts -- summer mansions of the rich and famous -- wealthy NY'ers for the most part. Places full of inspiration... for next year! Very different from these pictures that is for SURE!
Carol in Massachusetts

weeder1 said...

Garden #7 looks inviting. The others all remind me of "landscaping" for fairs. Had to laugh at the "snake" which reminded me of a ginormous white doggie doodie.

Rinkly Rimes said...

I trawl through blogs looking for ideas for poetry! Your photos of 'gardens' inspired me to write some. If you'd let me reproduce your photos on my Blog with the poetry, I'd be grateful. Otherwise, just enjoy


Garden One

They stand to attention like soldiers neatly,
Not a thought of smelling sweetly!
Their green plumes wave scentless in the breeze,
Not a sign of the bumble bees!
Rigid, unyielding, though smart, they grow.
But is this really a garden? No!

Garden Two

Lines and curves and a look of metal
Where is a stamen and where a petal?
Spikes and rectangles, shelf-like ledges,
Strict and uniform cut-back hedges.
The pathway has a certain flow,
But is this really a garden? No!

Garden Three

A prison-block, set amid some trees,
Where criminals may take their ease.
A concrete table, coffin-shaped,
And spiky grasses, loosely draped.
Leaves above and pebbles below,
But is this really a garden? No!

Garden Four

There's been an earthquake! Leaning posts
Move to each other like old grey ghosts!
Stunted trees, push through the gaps,
Preventing an even worse collapse!
Each post falls like a domino!
But is this really a garden? No!

Garden Five

This snail died many years ago;
Now it's bleached as white as snow!
See how it once reached to the sky
Knowing, perhaps, it was going to die!
A few little plants put on a show,
But is this really a garden? No!

Garden Six

Broken boxes with lilac tint,
Sharply pointed and hard as flint.
Not a single curve in view
Not a hint of a red or blue.
No doubt there's work for a rake and hoe
But is this really a garden? No!

Garden 7

Finally, here is a pleasant find;
Something yellow to cheer the mind.
Even on cloudy days this spot
Would make one feel that the sun was hot.
But the yellow paint's sure to lose it's glow
So is this really a garden? No!


Riotous clutter and broken edges,
Half-filled buckets and untrimmed hedges,
Fallen petals in wild profusion,
Butterflies flying in mad confusion,
Each flower wearing a colourful dress.
Now is this really a garden? YES!

Brenda (Alias Rinkly)

SchneiderHein said...

Zu modernen Wohngebäuden mag sicherlich der ein oder andere dieser Gärten passen. Aber ob man dann darin wirklich lebt - sich also gern mehrere Stunden dort aufhält? Im letzten Garten ist das wohl möglich. Alle anderen erscheinen auch mir mehr wie eine inszenierte Gartenausstellung, in der der Mensch mit seinen Lebensutensilien eher wie ein Störfaktor erscheint. Auch vermute ich, dass es einigen Aufwand erfordert solche Gärten in dieser formalen Strenge dauerhaft zu erhalten.
Die meisten dieser Inszenierungen würden sich doch eher für Grünanlagen in städtischen Betonwüsten eignen. Allerdings würde sich die Mehrzahl der Städter wohl auch lieber in einem normaleren Stückchen Park mit etwas Wasser aufhalten.

Lori said...

Thanks for such a thought-provoking post! I'd have to say that I think all of these are gardens, just not gardens for gardeners. (I'm defining a garden as a place to retreat into nature.) Some of these are good options for challenging conditions (the agaves) or people who don't have much time to spend outdoors.

Personally, I LOVE garden #3. Just looking at your picture of it makes my blood pressure drop. It feels very private to me without being walled off. I imagine that it would be a good, calming place to think. You could sit at the table with tea or a book, or lie down on top of the table and watch the clouds move and listen to the wind in the grasses.

The rest of the gardens aren't to my personal taste, especially that one with the weird deck, although I imagine kids might like to climb around on it to look at things from weird angles. :)

Tracy said...

hhhmmm...very interesting, to say the least! Personally, I would have none of this in my own garden. While I can appreciate this, for me, most of what is in these photo I could not live with in my garden. It's like a mordern art taking over an established garden--LOL! I suppose my tastes run too classic or traditional where gardening is concerned, but I can appreicate the thought and work that went into all of there modern garden spaces. Happy Day, Yolanda ((HUGS))

marl1 said...

Geen tuinen, maar ingevulde buitenruimtes.....en die leveren tòch weer stof tot poëzie...;-)))
Was er een paar jaar geleden en vond het weinig inspirerend, maar toch nog beter dan die kattenbaktuinen (sorry Blissteam;-)) van alleen maar grind en een buxusbol...!

Ruth Welter said...

Hi Yolanda, thanks for showing your trip from last year...I think those garden vignettes are amazing. I think the modern look, in scupture and design are not for everyone. I think I prefer a more cottage style garden for myself but that doesn't matter, I truly appreciate seeing different garden design, plants and hardscapes. Just gives you more to appreciate.


Naturegirl said...

Well Yolanda as much as these modern designs suit some folks I prefer a cottage or English type garden myself.Thank you for sharing!

Kylee said...

I enjoyed seeing these 'gardens' and while they're not typical of the type we have, I do appreciate the creative artistic flair that each of them has. They're more like architectural gardens to me. Fun to visit but not the kind of garden that I want to have for my own and be an active part of.

Matron said...

I very much like the Agaves display, they are all beautifully designed 'outdoor spaces' but where are the veggies?

Flighty said...

I couldn't relax or feel at peace in any of those. I much prefer natural ones that work with nature. xx

tina said...

Garden 3 is lovely!!!

Reflection Through The Seasons said...

Hello Yolanda.....


I like blue pots and I like Agaves and I have both teamed together standing on a grey gravel patch along side our drive...... This patch is about as modern as my garden gets. My passion is for the ‘English’ garden where a plant spills over into its neighbour’s space, where there is room for the odd lettuce or two and rhubarb and chard are an attractive feature and yet provide food for the plate and where sweet peas and runner beans climb the same canes. Marion

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Interesting post, and interesting comments, too.

Like a few others, I rather appreciate #3. I could imagine having a little place like that within the context of a larger garden. I can also see, in the garden with the raised beds, where that might be good for someone--say an older person--with limitations that would prevent them from doing too much gardening in the ground, but who still want to have and maintain plants.

I really think that there is "gardening" and then there is "landscaping"... where the latter is done once (mostly) and then never again, the former is more of an ongoing process. With that definition, I could see all of these qualifying as gardens. Maybe with the exception of what Annie refers to quite correctly as the "collapsing deck."

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Birgit said...

Reisen bildet, auch im eigenen Land. Auch wenn diese Art Kunstobjekte in meinem Garten nichts zu suchen hätten, ist es doch sehr interessant, auch mal andere Richtungen zu entdecken. Man stellt dann sofort den eigenen Stil gesichert fest.
LG, Birgit

Hanneles paradis said...

I like it!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Gardens for people who don't like to garden? A collection of containers planted in an interesting arrangement with consideration for form, color & texture, grouped together is a garden. Plants lined up on shelves is more like a sculpture collection. "Garden" #4 is the idiot's dream - how do you mow the grass? Is it cut with hand shears? Definitely not low maintenance. I do have to agree with those who like Garden #3, the only thing I'd change is to replace the table with some comforable chairs & a hammock.

The Garden Faerie said...

Actually I like almost all of the spaces, but I think of them as outdoor rooms, not gardens. Gardens have plants, lots of plants, and in every which way.
~ Monica

Anonymous said...

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess... the garden with the giant white turd in it really sums it up! :D

I prefer a different kind of garden myself, i.e. the kind which attracts lots of insects and other urgan wildlife. Neatly trimmed, classical gardens or monotonous green lawns are simply not my thing.

On the other hand, I do appreciate the serenity of a Japanese Zen garden. We have to remember that all gardens are man-made creations.

Benjamin Vogt said...

These are gardens. Gardens are enclosed spaces, right, with plants in them? And surely, they have elements of gardens, and surely they have things I'd like in portions of mine (modern scultpure, more simple corners and edges and mass plantings for areas of calm and for resting the eye). Too often our most common idea of a garden is a hodge podge of crap tossed in with little to no thought of design or funtinoality--and I think to truly enjoy a space, a garden space, you must THINK. Thought has clearly been put into these interpretations. That's my two cents, or a euro or two.