Continuing on from an earlier post on the theme of volunteering as part of the Rose and Hardy Team at Kew Botanic Garden, which includes working on the parterre in front of the extraordinary Palm House at Kew, itself a world heritage site, this is about the ‘formal’.
I think of myself as leaning into more chaotic, loose forms of gardening, so the unending control of the parterre, with the strict suppression of some growth and the manicured profusion of others, is a curious phenomenon for me. I also find it very funny (and kind of weird) that I can be helping to maintain one of the most important and respected areas of planting possibly in the world, while having complete disinterest and indifference for the practice of lawn edging.
My self perception is that I don’t edge anything. But here in the parterre, I have grown to understand something about that, something to do with art and gardening, and that in fact I love edges, and the practice of edging: body position, the relationship between the body and the shears, the collection of the clippings, the creation of the continuous line without snags or serrations, and everything to do with something that appears simple, but that takes learning.
The good thing about Kew is roaming around the whole huge garden with all its different areas of focus and intent. Over and over I’m drawn back to a part of the garden that I didn’t think I would be: the Japanese garden. I am not going to go into detail here around Japanese garden design and meaning, but just to say that the structure, features, design and planting are of never-ending interest: all those edges and related shapes hold my attention, the inter-connectedness of form and content invite my mind in. I have had to acknowledge the formality and order of the garden is at the centre of what strikes and absorbs me. And I have returned to my task in the parterre with a different perspective: its a meditation (with clippings), an artistic process (with edges).
Here are pictures of the Japanese Garden at Kew in Spring 2011: