I’m sorry to begin another post with a disagreement with a much respected colleague, (see also) but here I go again. And it is also one of the joys of blogging that I can. Once we had to struggle to get a voice, now we can take one…
I was just reading the RHS ‘Garden’ – perhaps because I’m in it.
And Rory Stuart’s interesting book What Are Gardens For? is both discussed and reviewed by Nigel Colborn VMH.(congratulations, Nigel.xxx) Nigel says – .
“But experiencing and admiring other people’s gardens, like studying pictures in a gallery or attending a performance of Lohengrin, is a passive occupation….the only part of you doing any work is your brain”
He goes on to suggest that the kind of gardens referred to in Rory’s book (which includes Veddw, as a matter of self promotion)
have value ‘almost exclusively in their visual effect.’ Then, if I understand what he is saying, he suggests that the garden he enjoys is not one of those, but his own, where he finds ‘beauty and solace’ – brain activities perhaps? And privacy, gardening, wildlife, birdsong, butterflies. All of which, of course, may be found when visiting a garden, if you’re lucky. I think his point is that he energetically contributes to those outcomes in his own garden.
This is a curious concept of passive – that appreciating a work of art is passive. Brain work, sensations and emotions are hardly passive. But let that choice of word go. The suggestion is that gardening is superior to visiting gardens, which, maintaining the art analogy is like saying that that painting is better than studying a painting, and writing music superior to listening to it. Which seems daft, really – why the comparison??
I agree absolutely that they are different activities and that people who may prefer to avoid any contact with a spade or hoe may delight in visiting a great garden. Their delight may also be increased by reading Rory’s book and bringing a greater ability to appreciate what the garden offers as a result.
But both garden appreciation and gardening are active activities and comparing them at all seems a little pointless. And those plaudits for the virtues of gardening are becoming inescapable, like a prolonged and endlessly repeated advert on telly.
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