Anne Beswick on “Girly Gardens – or not?”

February 18, 2008

in Uncategorized

Comment on Bridget Rosewell’s article by Anne Beswick

Duality?

I first saw Ann Pearce’s garden in The Times of Jan 06 and thought it was great.  I took the article in to an evening class I was doing in garden design.  They had learnt to look at things other than bright flower colour and were now happy with ideas of balance and proportion in the garden.  But they didn’t like Ann’s garden.  ‘It’s all right, but not for me’ was the general consensus.  Leading people out of their comfort zone is difficult.
I confess that I was a bit disappointed.

Regarding the ‘girly garden’ question, it is undoubtedly true that the design and horticulture elements that make a garden have a connotation of masculine/feminine but this does not mean that the men do the layout and the women do the planting.  That would be sexist and simplistic.  It is true that many partnerships have worked well this way (Lutyens/Jekyll, Nicholson/Sackville-West) but many others don’t fit into the pattern (Ohme and van Sweden, Tom Stuart-Smith, Martha Schwartz).

I think that the masculine/feminine split is undoubtedly present in gardens but not as men’s work and women’s work.  It refers to that nature of gardens being ‘double sided’ that is also part of our own personalities.  Gardens are outside our safe houses but not a wilderness, they are sort-of controlled by us gardeners but never totally so, they work with horizontals and verticals, spaces and masses, hard and soft landscape.  My garden is mine but it equally belongs to the slugs and snails that live here. This is what I like about my garden, it’s duality.  It means I always have to be flexible, compromise and co-operate to get what I want.  Or get something close, which is often better.
So, I think that there can be masculine/feminine biases in gardens but the best gardens work because of good teamwork of two people or two sides of one garden maker.

This begs another question.  Are the best gardens made by a single mind rather than a team?

Anne Beswick

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