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Gardening as Art

Art expresses the colors of nature in this 1888 catalog of American seedsman W. W. Rawson, Boston.

The fact that you garden is amazing in a society like ours where immediate gratification is the rule.  You know that gardening makes you confront the cycles of life: birth, growth, suffering, and death.   All of that is in a plant you handle in your garden, at this time, in this space.

Gardening is also the work of an artist.

The 19th century seed and nursery owners wrote to motivate middle class Americans to garden. Here is a passage from Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan’s magazine Gardener’s Chronicle in 1861: “To regard a garden otherwise than as a work of art, would tend to a radical perversion of its nature. A garden is for comfort and convenience, luxury and use, as well as for making a beautiful picture. It is to express civilization, and care, and design, and refinement. It is a blending of art with nature.”

The gardener as artist is certainly not a new meaning. William Kent (1684 – 1748) was an artist and landscape designer, and instrumental in changing English landscape design, from the formal symmetrical look, to a more natural, open space. Rousham in England still stands today as an example of his work of landscape as art.

English writer Joseph Addison (1672-1719) is quoted in the book of readings in English landscape garden history called Genius of the Place in these words: “You must know, Sir, that I look upon the Pleasure which we take in a Garden, as one of the most innocent Delights in human life.”

So how is your garden a work of art?  The garden evolved with your thoughts and  your choice of plants, color and layout.


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