How do we define ‘gardeners’? by Anne Wareham

by AnneWareham on January 7, 2015

This piece was originally published in ‘The Garden’ in May 2013. I struggled for a long time to accurately define what I think I am (this is not an invitation to enlighten me, thanks…) and I think this nails it. For me, and presumably for many other people?

How do we define 'gardeners'? by Anne Wareham

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Maggie January 7, 2015 at 7:17 pm

Anne, you and Charles are ‘garden makers’ supreme, I would have thought almost unique, so I would love you tell me how many others there are out there like you? (you can email me!)

AnneWareham January 7, 2015 at 7:31 pm

What makes us almost unique, Maggie? I need to know that in order to approach any answer to your question!

Maggie January 7, 2015 at 11:00 pm

‘Cos you seem to despise the pleasures of the down-to-earth hands-on gardening that most of us confessed ‘gardeners’ enjoy and live for. I don’t understand how you do it (or don’t) and still create what you have created #confusedx

AnneWareham January 7, 2015 at 11:22 pm

Despise? I am horrid! But then I know people who loathe knitting and love some knitted things, or love eating wonderful food without a wish to cook it. Then you have to find ways and means to get what you like without getting lumbered with the boring bits!

Jane Stevens January 7, 2015 at 9:26 pm

I too call myself a garden maker. Though I also make other people’s (tiny) gardens. As you say it has something to do with working with the garden over time and making the design aspect sound more ongoing and responsive rather than imposed. Easier perhaps, less impactful, incremental rather than major changes. In my mind, anyway. It’s also a way of simply not inviting hubris of course. And maybe none of that is what you mean, I can see it looks as though I just mean timid, and that would not be you I think. I’m sure you’re right – the key is the sensitivity, the deep level of involvement over time and the unswerving focus on the particular place.

AnneWareham January 7, 2015 at 11:00 pm

I love your last sentence, Jane, and emphatically say yes to that.

Paul Steer January 7, 2015 at 10:52 pm

Garden maker is a good description. I identify with that label. Perhaps your uniqueness is that you admit to your dislike of the prescribed ways to ‘garden’ . The trouble starts when we try to emulate the experts. Experts are part of the industry surrounding gardening – which then ties us to livelihood – and it all gets so complicated. You’re unique because you don’t do what you’re supposed to do – yet you’ve ended up with a garden that has soul. You’re free!

AnneWareham January 7, 2015 at 11:01 pm

Thank you. Paul. And I hope you’re freeing yourself despite having a hero….

Paul Steer January 8, 2015 at 7:11 am

Ha! Well he has to do it right for the camera and the industry – but Sarah and Monty have also made a garden for reasons beyond design and horticultural excellence?

AnneWareham January 8, 2015 at 10:04 am

I wouldn’t know about that Paul – I’ll take your word for it. Xxx

Stephen Grover January 10, 2015 at 7:48 pm

From my point of view, making a garden is a collaborative process. Thomas Churchs’ book is called ‘Gardens For People’ and I was struck by the simplicity of the title, it is a simple fact that I have held on to for over 2 decades of work. I have always called myself a garden maker because that is what I do. I meet, I talk, I listen. Then I design, and if they like it I build it, and finally I plant it. I do think hard about it, and try as much as I can to create a sense of ‘place’. What other term is really applicable – creator? sounds a bit pretentious, and the client does have a part to play. I guess one day I’ll be too creaky to do the building but it’s not easy to let go. I enjoy being involved at all stages. However, what I can’t do is help to look after the gardens once they are made. They are handed over.
I sometimes go back for one reason or another and the way they are when I do is variable – I am sometimes a little heartbroken, but also sometimes very happy that my clients have taken ownership of their new garden with some enthusiasm (or money for maintenance!) of their own. Part of what I strive for is for my clients to do just this, and in which case their lives are slightly changed and improved I think. I like the notion of tending a garden too, and true gardeners can do a wonderful job of ‘making’ a garden in this way – for me, that would close the circle wouldn’t it? but I can’t maintain the gardens I make, I simply don’t have the time, so that is the point at which I have to let go.

AnneWareham January 10, 2015 at 10:24 pm

I’m fortunate to design and garden my own garden, which makes it an ongoing process. You may have sympathy for the views of Michael McCoy – ?

It does seem to me though, that it is those people, usually known as ‘garden designers’ who make gardens for other people, that get the kudos. Maybe that’s as it should be. Xx