Anne Beswick responds to Sara Maitland on beauty and gardens

August 23, 2007

in Articles, General Interest

Comment on Sara Maitland’s response to Anne Wareham’s article “The love that dare not speak its name”

I accept Sara Maitland’s criticisms of my previous comments.  Perhaps I was allowing my insecurities to show but I had just read the ‘Discussion’ section of the Symposium and my reactions were in reply to that.  This is what I read:

“The dearth of gardens past and present with ambition to develop a provocative agenda. The sad fact that most people who commission a garden designer want comfy beauty, not a thoughtful garden, and that it is up to designers to wean clients towards a more ambitious agenda. The assumption that because gardens are widely seen as merely soothing and comfy, the making of them must also be a soothing process, whereas a garden can also be as troublingly, intellectually provocative to the maker as it is to his/her subsequent audience.”

I read that, looked around my modest plot and felt inadequate, probably rightly.  As a designer I may do my best to encourage ambition (honest) but if the person who is paying the piper wishes to call the tune then I remember that I have bills to pay.  I might sneak in a thoughtful reference or bit of planting if possible but this can demand skills in more than just design terms. I have great sympathy with the thinkinGardens ideas.

Most of the letters and ideas are positive and stimulating but I do think it can sometimes be off putting in its militancy.  If people such as myself feel undermined by such lofty ideals (on a bad day) then perhaps it could be counterproductive.  Of course it could be that I simply am inadequate and should forget about art and revert to planting alternate lumps of Alyssum and Lobelia rows in six inch wide borders with a cross and defiant expression on my face.  Or would that be post-modern of me?  A Jeff Koons sort of garden!

Anne Beswick

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