Friday, September 6, 2013

An Artful Muse




The Kiss by Gutav Klimt

Shovel in hand, I bend and dig, soil sliding from the edge like ice cream from a cone. Grass tumbles to the ground in clumps as I follow the curve, invisible to all but me. No paint or hose marks the grass. I dig and stop, dig and stop, watching the curve widen and stretch. The tips of the riverbed point inward, arms reaching to embrace and I imagine a garden as affectionate as the gardener. 


The Prairie is My Garden by Harvey Dunn 
A framed copy of this print hangs in my dining room. It's one of my favorite paintings. 

Dry clay soil lay piled along the mulch before dropping into the rocks of the river bed. Cramped plants flop and sigh into the freshly turned loam, as I plan and dream. The trowel sinks deep, small Swiss cheese gouges dotting the surface as I check for moisture. Damp soil lines the edge of the rain garden, an oasis in a desert. Flowers thrive, pushing forward in a cramped bed and I imagine a garden resilient and beautiful. 


Clinque Cheron by Theophile Steinlen
I also have a framed copy of this popular print. I wanted to be a vet or writer before becoming a teacher.

The squirrel runs along the fence, zigzagging between the trees and the bird feeder as the dogs bark, racing across the rocks and into the garden. I stop digging to yell, the shovel thrown to the ground as I chase them back into the grass. Safe in the neighbors yard, the squirrel scolds, its tail twitching with irritation. Bent stems lie at odd angles, broken and torn and I grab the remains as I fuss at the dogs. They sit at my feet, tails wagging, tongues hanging to the side. I throw the dying plants in a pile and sink into the grass, 100 pounds of dog jostling for lap space. I imagine a garden straight and square, pinched and pruned, small hedges keeping everyone in line but I haven't imagined my garden. I close my eyes and try again, seeing my garden as a painting, unpredictable and unfinished but full of potential. 


This section of my garden is dry and unfabulous in this photo but it shows a part of the newly expanded rain garden. The new garden bed lies above the riverbed. I'm not done with this project and still  have a lot of work to do.

40 comments:

  1. Beautiful writing. I love how you connected your garden to these outstanding works. I can feel the newness and excitement in the creation of your new bed. That is something about gardening that you can not explain to someone who doesn't garden. The possibilities that exist with one new little turn of a bed or group of plantings. Awesome friend!!!

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    1. Thanks! :o) I want to create the same emotional satisfaction I feel with art in my garden. I once told someone that my garden is designed to feel like a hug and they looked at me like I had squids coming out my ears. I've also expanded the other side with the same curve. I really love it.

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    2. and hugs back at you. I love that great sweeping all embracing curve. Is it a path as well?

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    3. Thanks! The curve goes around an oval of lawn in the middle of my garden. I've created an identical one on the other side that curves around my shade garden, which I'm in the process of redesigning.

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  2. You are so industrious, Tammy! My energy for big garden projects disappears with the heat. I love your expanded rain garden! Did you truck in the rocks or have them delivered? I really want to add a rain garden on the west side of my house, but we'll see...

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    1. We've had an oddly cool summer which is the only reason I was able to start this project. Normally, I would have waited until October. I bought the layer of rocks that form the small base layer in bags from Lowe's. The bigger rocks were purchased from our local Stone Center and a few came from the garden center. I filled the back of my very averaged sized car with empty pots and used them to carry the rocks home. A wheelbarrow brought them from the car to the back. It took a while but I wasn't in a rush so it was no big deal. :o) I would definitely add a rain garden. They are so easy to create.

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  3. I like the way you've described your day and your garden in the last paragraph. I too see the potential and that often keeps me going. :)

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    1. I've learned to view my garden as a rough draft or unfinished painting and always want to see its potential and ability to grow through change. I have to remind myself of that when it looks like crud. :o)

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  4. I like how the paintings you chose really speak to you and inspire. Your garden overhaul will come together -- it"s work, it's imagination, and it's painting a masterpiece in soil, clay and sweat! Keep workin' . . .

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    1. That's exactly what it is! We create our own personal masterpieces one plant at a time. :o)

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  5. It's the dreams and the mental images of what can be that keeps us going, isn't it? The temps in my area have skyrocketed as summer belatedly grabbed our region by the throat. Working outside is miserable but I'm still spending an hour or 2 each morning working on my own lawn removal/yard renovation project. It'll get done one day...

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    1. I think gardening can be as obsessively maddening as creating any other type of art. I have my Jackson Pollock moments where I just want to throw plants in the ground, regardless of color, just to see how it all turns out. Gardening isn't just digging a hole and plopping something in. It is art created to satisfy the artist, even if no one else "gets it".

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  6. Of course it's unfinished, and it always will be. Rejoice. When the garden is done, so is the gardener.

    That's a fine-looking start.

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    1. You're so right. I don't know why I keep forgetting that.

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  7. Seeing things that only I can see is how I plan my garden too. No drawings or marked lines, just working until it looks right.

    Your garden is looking great.

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    1. I think the trick is to continue seeing my garden for what it could be as well as appreciating it for what it is right now: a labor of love and a work in progress.

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  8. I loved all these art pieces, and I can imagine how they're inspiring you with your plans as you create your new garden area. Yes, plans created in the head and not drawn on paper with elaborate details are the best laid plans.
    I'll tell you a secret, a truly loved garden is NEVER finished.
    Upward and onward!!!

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  9. I think your writing is beautifully descriptive. And heartfelt. I wish I could imagine how I want my garden to be. At least you are taking action. I sit and stare, I suppose waiting for my garden to show me what it wants to be. It definitely needs some guidance, but I don't know in which direction to direct it. I admire your confidence to just get in there and dig!

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    1. Thanks, Dorothy. I do have a lot of confidence and know that if I don't like the way I've dug something up, I can always just keep digging until I like it or put the grass back. But sometimes we are frozen by indecision, at which point I just start digging. It feels like a step in the right direction, even if the road to the end is a bit uneven. :o)

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  10. I admire your energy. It sounds horribly backbreaking. I would love to expand my garden but I have been procrastinating because I can't face the clay. You are definitely tougher than I am.

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    1. I love physical labor, which I know sounds sadistic. I don't mind the sweat and grime as long as there is a hot shower and a pizza at the end. But it wasn't really as back breaking as it could have been. I chose a day that was weirdly cool and moist so the soil was easy to work with. But it was killer humid a few days later when I was done redesigning the riverbed for the third time in a week. I was so gross and sweaty I looked like one of those melting/drippy swamp monsters from Scooby Doo. :o)

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  11. My dogs have passed on now, but how well I remember! They both were big dogs, and gardening around them was always a challenge. But their presence was part of the vitality of the space. I miss them! Good luck with your gardening endeavors. It will be fabulous!

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    1. Thanks! My garden wouldn't be complete without my dogs. They are more precious to me than any plant. :o)

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  12. Love the big curve "bones." A landscape architect told me...you want curves that are more like the back of a dolphin than the back of a camel :-) I don't draw out what goes inside the lines, but I usually lay a hose and draw out the bones to make sure I get big sweeping curves in the end. Always guided by "easy mowing" curves. If the lawn outside the line is not easy to mow, I change the line until it is :-) Good bones give you a good looking garden regardless of the plants :-) Have fun with your project :-) An expanding garden is never bad, is it? :-)

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    1. I used a hose to lay out the curves on the other side of the garden since I kept veering off to the side and my curve looked weird. I struggle with finding plants that work in all of the varied microclimates in my garden. Every year I have more dry shade, which is so frustrating. Plants that are happy for a few years eventually end up being shaded out and a redesign is necessary. Plus, as the tree canopy grows larger, the soil becomes drier. It's a bit like one step forward, two steps back. But I think I may break even this year after I've done some serious tweaking this fall. Thanks for your support. :o)

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  13. I really like the print "The Prairie is My Garden". Art can be so inspiring in so many areas in our lives. Clever the way you've tied the prints to your post.

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    1. I waited for years for the Harvey Dunn print to be released and actually cried when it arrived. It has a lot of meaning for me. I have quite a bit of framed art in my house all of it very meaningful, even if most of it is inexpensive. I often find that what I try to create in my garden mirrors the art in my home, even if I don't realize it til later.

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  14. Well, you DO have squids coming out of your ears. But that's where your gardening vision comes from, isn't it? You see what isn't there yet but could be. That's as much gardening as pulling weeds (one would hope).
    I love your use of these paintings and the print. It's not just a visual sense either. The "feel" of these works come through so strongly in this post. As I and others have said before, you are a wonderful writer, and the way you connect with art is clearly similar to the way you connect with gardening (and gardeners).

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    1. Your comment means so much. :o) I was worried that the personal connection between the art I love and the art I try to create in my garden would be lost. I want to create a garden that is strong enough to endure the extremes of a moody Mother Nature, but also embracing and welcoming, with soft curves. Designing the garden isn't the hardest part but finding plants that will thrive in my dry clay loam is. But if it were less challenging, I'd be bored and would probably find some other expensive, time sucking passion to pursue. :o)

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  15. A great garden is a work in progress, it never ends – and really shouldn’t, whatever would we do the day our gardens were ‘finished’ ?! I loved your paintings and the way you describe your garden, as to feel like a hug. I usually describe my garden as the most important room in my house, and the only room that looks different every single time you step into it. Hurray for new projects, I’ve got a new one going too, it’s been a slow process, might finish just in time for the frost in January perhaps.

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    1. You're right about the garden being a room that always changes. Even when I'm frustrated with my struggle to make it look the way I want it to, I still love it and would rather be outside surrounded by the garden than most other places. Plus, I always love a project. I have a few artsy projects in the works, too. :o)

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  16. Wonderful writing Tammy - skilfully chosen words can describe gardens in a way that stretches the imagination even more, or differently, than images. Garden designed to feel like a hug - that phrase is still resonating with me! Fascinating post - an interesting meme would be to show your favourite artworks and say why and how they relate to the garden. I love all 3 of your artworks, all such different styles, but all show intense relationships with nature.

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  19. Hi Sue,

    Your comment popped up three times so I deleted the other two. I'm so glad you like this post. My garden is definitely a big hug. It is embracing and personal and is designed to bring visitors into the middle to view the beds around the circle. I actually find myself uncomfortable in gardens that are too linear and austere. Even if the plantings are pretty, if I don't feel embraced and comfortable, it just feels off. I like the idea of connecting our gardens to art. That would make a fun winter post when there's not much to talk about.

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  20. My ancestors were farmers for centuries. The prairie farm wife is so evocative.

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    1. Your comment appeared twice so I deleted the second one. What's interesting about the prairie painting is how much it resonates with women. The idea of women as soft and dainty is such crap. It takes strength to live on a prairie and resourcefulness to consider it a garden. I absolutely love that painting. :o)

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  22. Hi Tammy, I've never come across the term, "rain garden" and it sounds strange that you would have to purposely make one. In the UK, due to the weather, everybody's garden is a "rain garden" by definition, because it rains, a lot, usually. I shall have to look up the term to see if it has another meaning.

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