The Big Picture

Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are. ~Alfred Austin

Bench swallowed by hydrangeas, 2013

Bench swallowed by hydrangeas, 2013

I haven’t photographed with a wide angle lens in my garden for many seasons. The crisp circular pattern of paths that originally defined the shape and structure of the garden declined over the years, shifting under the influence of weather, gravity, and life’s unexpected challenges. Last summer’s heavy rainfalls rendered the paths unusable at the lowest point of the garden and moisture loving plants – Hydrangea, daylilies, Lobelia – quickly colonized the rich muck. Perhaps you remember a post from last year, That Particular One, where all of my garden photos focused on the details of flowers, excluding the messy bigger picture.

But this week, the wide angle lens went back onto the camera and I celebrated the renewed structure and shape of the garden on the completion of the rebuilt paths. Determined to reclaim my horticultural territory, I hired a local company, Best Feeds Outdoor Design, to dig out the dirt of the paths, add edging and drainage, and fill with various layers of gravel. Muscular men dug and removed cubic yards of soil and wheeled in barrels of stone in extremely hot and humid weather, a job I had unrealistically expected to accomplish myself until I came to my senses.

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Now, the original shape of the garden I designed from the upper deck looking down has been restored, and not only has the appearance of the garden changed dramatically, it is a pleasure to walk through it.

circlesVertWP

Garden and woodland

Since most of my free time is spent in the garden, I often tend to see it as a metaphor for my life and this newest development was no exception. What struck me immediately as I meandered through the paths was how different the garden looked and felt, even though the same plants were in the same place – all the beauty of blossom and leaf remained but were framed in a very different way. Restoring a firm structure made them appear more beautiful than before, like adding a frame to a painting to add definition and draw the eye. What had become a chaotic ramble among lovely plants is now beauty contained in a pleasing form, a balance between strong lines and cascades of color. The wild woodlands surrounding the garden now seem even more mysterious and primeval in contrast to the firm human hand of design and form.

This shift in perception has made me consider the desirability for clearer boundaries in my own artistic life, perhaps finding a better balance between daily structure and creative abandon. I’m beginning to turn a wide angle lens on my life, looking for balance and beauty in the big picture.

Enjoy some images of the restored garden; click on any photo to start the slide show. (All images ©2014 Lynn Emberg Purse).

“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant — and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.” ~ Michael Pollan