You never stop designing a garden, by Anne Wareham

by AnneWareham on October 2, 2014

“First you need to learn your plants and have an eye for placing them. You also need to see what’s wrong and edit it. I visit my gardens every two years and still there are mistakes.” Piet Oudolf.

This piece was published in The Garden and addresses something that concerns me a lot = which is, what do you actually get when you pay someone to design a garden for you?

You never stop designing a garden by Anne Wareham, Veddw

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Abbie Jury October 2, 2014 at 9:13 pm

I see we are on the same page on this issue, Anne! But then we shared the same discussion here, didn’t we? Though I would add plantsmanship as an equal partner to designer and gardener in terms of achieving high level gardening.

AnneWareham October 2, 2014 at 10:38 pm

That was a good meeting! Hope we manage another soon.

Abbie Jury October 2, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Love to. Was it a bit tempted this week when I saw return flights down to $1500 (about 750 pounds). But waiting to see where my offspring may be next year as may have two in Europe/Scandinavia and that would influence travel plans.

AnneWareham October 2, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Hope offspring get sudden urge to rush over to Wales!

Tom Mannion November 2, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Hi Anne! Your wonderful question for us landscape designers: “How do you keep a garden static?” Do we need to try? Gardens evolve and change just as you describe so eloquently. An outstanding work of art need not be static. And many of the gardens I have designed and built have morphed into messes, including my own. Avid, skilled, masterful gardeners complain constantly about the condition of their own gardens.

The implication that a garden is outstanding only when the designer is the gardener because garden design is gardening is curious. Every artist imagines herself at some time as a fraud, an impostor, and feels that the solution must be in having more control? Or perhaps in having more input, through daily access to the space? Or in having better clients? Or in having more skill as a gardener? Surely you do design gardens for others? Design it, celebrate it, photograph it and let it go?

I love, love, love that one of your passions is garden criticism. Our art form needs the voice of passionate, informed critics. Is it not true that the impressionist painters blasted the formal, elite portrait painters and then cubist painters blasted the impressionists? Painting evolved and the artists generated more debate and more controversy as to what exactly painters are allowed to paint and why this was important to sort out. So sustainable garden designers complain about the sweep of lawns so common in the States, and “The New German Planting Style” might feel like a call to arms. I think these passions are stimulating.

Yet even static paintings gather soot and mold eventually. Then they are cleaned, restored, and celebrated anew. Or they are lost. All of our gardens will decay in time. And each can still be art and be outstanding in its own moment, however brief that moment might be. I design and build gardens because I love it and therefore I must do it; the doing of it is transcendent, joyful. I pooh pooh gardens I see at Garden Shows equating them to temporary floral arrangements, not really gardens! And then I study photos of them trying to understand why one image is so compelling and beautiful to me and how can I recreate that feeling in my next garden. A brilliant show garden can leave me feeling entirely inadequate and yet judgmental, and seeing the photos of Veddw can do the same. Could I create a garden resembling even a tiny portion of Veddw? Perhaps if I could become a younger man and trim all the hedges myself? I cannot. My gardens have no hedges at all and suffer for it in my opinion. But I love creating them anyway. That is the thing: the transcendence. Please forgive us for creating gardens that decay so quickly as our clients cope with only the annual attention we can afford to offer. We still love it and the clients love it and it is all good. And Veddw will win our hearts easily over any of our own designs. Tom Mannion.

AnneWareham November 3, 2014 at 9:58 am

Thanks, Tom.

AnneWareham January 7, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Thank you for this, Tom – no idea why it has taken me so long to reply. No, I don’t design other gardens, only consult for friends. I understand your various and painful reactions to show gardens and Veddw – it’s an emotional and demanding game! Xx