Sunday, October 4, 2009

Steal a Little Creative Inspiration

I am a collector and a thief…..I steal clever ideas from other gardens and collect them in photographs, lists, and tattered folders. I rarely, if ever use these ideas exactly as I stole them, but I collect them and then go through them, touch them, experience them and then create my own version of these bold strokes of creativity. They are my muses, my mentors and my teachers.
For instance, after years of photographing other gardens, I have finally realized that what attracts me first are the elements that would attract a child. Anything whimsical, creative, cute or clever. I may take a picture of the black taro to have in my files, but it’s the beautiful ironwork grate that covers the mundane drain that really catches my eye and begs to be photographed.
On a recent trip to Chanticleer, in Pennsylvania, I took picture after picture of their Apple House. Originally a small cellar-like structure for storing apples, they had painted murals of chipmunk holes on the inside and made it a completely charming little piece of the garden.
Another idea that I stole with my camera is their habit of putting brightly colored chairs, usually in pairs, all over the garden. A little bit garden art, a little bit invitation to sit and rest, enjoy the view, stay awhile.
My daughter, Bryn was with me for this trip and I could see the same excitement sparked in her inner child as I felt in my own. She loved the restrooms that were created to look like a Japanese dwelling, the creative ironwork or woodwork that graced every bridge, and the clever little boxes that held the plant lists for each garden.
The feature that blew us both away was The Ruin. Not sure if it was an actual ruin of a stone house or whether it was created, but it was sublime in it’s detail. Stone books graced the library, a giant stone “pool table” mesmerized us both (and the pun was not lost on either of us).
I had planned to “skim” through this garden on our way to another, but even though we were exhausted from catching the red-eye flight from Eugene just 14 hours earlier, no sleep, a nightmare experience with the rental car agency and hot, humid weather, we ended up spending many hours basking in the creativity of this garden.
Notice how I have written about this garden without mentioning any of the plants? The plants were equally clever and beautiful and bountiful – not a hole in any single garden, but what made it beyond special was all of the little artistic touches outside of the plants.
So here’s a challenge for you. Go through the pictures you took at your last garden tour, or garden show. Check out how many were of plants and how many were of clever little accents. I think it’s a very powerful lesson on designing any garden.

No comments: