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.

Trees, trees, trees!

Over the years I have become quite knowledgeable about perennials.  Shrubs – I’m not quite so good, but still good.  A deep knowledge of trees has always eluded me.  I’m not sure why but I suspect it’s because most of my experience is in small gardens, and one or two trees is the most I typically do.

Of course I’ve done country gardens.  But they have usually come with their own trees.  My job has been to do some editing, removing some trees from existing, unkempt woodland to make it more accessible, more of a composition, and then adding groundcover, bulbs, perennials, shrubs.  That is, making a wooded lot into more of a garden.

But here at Timshala I’m actually making the woodland.  Most of my plantings are trees.  Large shade trees…understory trees…masses of shrubs.  And I have fallen in love with them.  Someone said to me the other day that I am creating an arboretum.  Well that isn’t quite true. My choices are for beauty, seasonal interest, size and compositional qualities.  An arboretum is a teaching collection, and is usually a ‘collection’ — that is one of everything — rather than a composition.  But I am having the most wonderful time shaping spaces with trees.

Trees have arrived croppedIMG_0258 editToday, this entire semi arrived filled with trees for me.  Huge quantities, some for the woodland, some for specific locations around the house or in the meadow.  I’m now actually seeing some of the vistas I had in mind when I created the design.  Views through a window or door are now framed by trees just as I imagined.