Anne Beswick on “The love that dare not speak its name”

August 14, 2007

in Articles, General Interest

Comment on Anne Wareham’s article on beauty and gardens

I think you are well within reason to ask that our gardens be beautiful but you must then allow that beauty is different for different people.  I know people for whom a steam engine or a well-placed pass to the goalmouth are life-enhancing and poetic.  Such things lift the spirits and good luck to the people for whom that works.   In the film ‘American Beauty’ the sticky roses of that name were a symbol of sterile control while a plastic bag dancing in the wind was ‘real beauty’ in the eyes of the young hero.

What I’m saying is- you can’t just say a garden should be beautiful without defining beauty.  If I think Allysum and Lobelia are beautiful then I have a beautiful garden and nobody can say otherwise.

This is the trouble with inviting criticism and a new form of critical language for gardens.  If we could put it into words we’d be writers, not gardeners (sorry, garden makers).  There is nothing sillier than asking an artist to say what they mean by their work.  If it communicates something to you then it is art in some form or other.

Your symposium thingy sounded interesting but here are a few observations.

  • You are in danger of alienating the public by hectoring/patronising ordinary garden owners whose normal plots are considered not good enough.  You don’t have to make an artwork of your garden if you don’t want to.
  • Don’t denigrate gardening as just enjoyable or as theraputic.  I understand what you’re saying to some extent.  I’m fed up with ‘how-to-take-geranium-cutting’ and ‘here’s-another-new-plant-I bet-you-haven’t-got’ gardening but ordinary gardening is often a joy so don’t knock it.
  • Designers-If you want a garden that is a work of art then make one.  Don’t expect clients to indulge your passion.  They are clients, not patrons.  Working in the public arena is different.  Public works have a different agenda and different responsibilities.
  • Lighten up.  This is gardens we’re talking about, not a cure for cancer.  Cartoons and jokes for ‘The Garden’ and ‘Garden Design Journal’ please.  Please.

Anne Beswick

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