A garden designer’s job is to create spaces.

As a designer I create planting compositions and combinations.  And lay out planting beds.  And water gardens.  And seating walls.  And patios.  And pergolas.  Yet none of these are primary.  The primary is using all these things to make spaces.  Spaces that are inviting for humans to move through and experience.

And I realize now that this is what is truly –though slowly– coming together here in Timshala..

Yes, it is slow.  And yes, sometimes I find it so frustrating how slowly the garden is coming together.

I’ve been here about two years, and still it doesn’t mostly look the way it should and will.  It is still much too open.  Still not enough flowering plants.

Then recently, while I was whining about it, someone said to me, “Do you remember what it looked like when you started!?”

And I have to admit, I didn’t.

So I looked it up.

This was the blank slate. Mailbox in the snowIMAG0052

This is what it looks like now. Same view.woodland-walk-sept-2016-6-w-pergola-capture

And what I see is SPACES.  The walkways – which were the first thing I put in — take you through the various spaces, from the woodland to the perennial border to the pergola to the patio.  There is now a “there” there.  There wasn’t when I started.

Perhaps some kind person will remind me of this next time you hear me whining about how slow it all is.

The Importance of Motion

I have been watching people walk along the driveway, now (as of a few days ago) lined on both sides with a dozen Kohlreuteria – Golden Rain Trees.  The trees are about 6’ to 8’ tall now, nowhere near their future majestic 20’ -25’.  And yet, one can see that the visitors are aware of the driveway in a way they weren’t before the trees went in.  They, and I also,  walk more deliberately, more experiencing of the driveway and its goal: the house at the end.  The house is no less visible than it was a week ago.  But here is the difference: now it isn’t just ‘over there’; the approach itself has become a sensory and visual experience.

Almost everyone who now visits and strolls through the garden “gets it” this way in some sense.  It is still very raw; there are now lots of baby trees and shrubs everywhere, but they truly are babies.  It will be several years before the actual spaces created by the plantings start to take shape.

The woodland will be defined by the shade created by large trees and the layers of understory trees and shrubs and groundcovers.  The orchard trees will be their own space, with a low-growing colorful grassy area defining that space.  And so on, for each of the areas we have planned.

And yet, visitors already seem to experience those spaces and shapes, which will actually come later.

Here is what I think is the reason:  the one thing is complete is the paths.  And in a sense I think this – motion — is the essence of what makes the garden a garden.   This is probably true for every garden.

In a garden, motion is the interplay between plants and us.  The plantings define the spaces; the paths and openings help define the plantings.

Motion takes place at many levels.  We have the driveway;  the major 4’wide walking paths; the large stepping stone paths; the mown paths through grasses and meadows.  A different kind of level is within the plantings themselves.  Even where we don’t actually walk, we can create a sense of motion with plantings that move the eye.

For example, you don’t actually step through a “trail” of Hostas winding through a large bed of ferns – but your eye does.  The pop of red from poppies waving in a distant meadow causes you to change the focus of your vision to the meadow, another kind of motion.  I think of these as mental motion.

And I think this is why so many people are enjoying the garden, immature though it is.