Thursday, January 01, 2009

Invasive Species and Gardening as Art

Tucked away in discussions about invasive species and gardening practices, lurks the ideas of the garden as art, the gardener as artist, and gardening as an artful process, an artifice of expression. Defining gardening or a garden is problematic because, among many reasons, it fits nicely in the realm of I know-it-when-I-see-it. Gardening is a process whereby gardens are created much like painting is a process by which a painting is created and sculpting creates sculpture. But these art forms once created are static and dependent on a viewer who stands outside the art form. The audience can not stand in a painting Making music creates an art form which is ephemeral and always in motion. A composition like a garden is the art of change. Neither music nor gardens are static. Even music though finds the listener perceiving through one sense outside the composition. A garden is experienced through motion within, even to the extent of viewing it from outside its boundaries. A garden engages all the senses at once and together.

Gardening is a process and a garden is a creation in perpetual motion. Current marketing ideas have reduced the garden to a product depriving it of its basic functionality and handing it over to the world of ‘accessorization’, itself perhaps an art form. The idea of linking gardening to painting and the western historic connection of paintings to gardens allows analogies of type. As a painter needs to make a blank canvas, so a gardener needs to create a blank piece of land. Herein is a point of contention, for an assumption is made by gardeners that the local ecosystem is a clean slate upon which on may express one self. By wiping clean the existing ecosystem and synthesizing a new one. In doing so, the gardener improves upon the existing arrangement and may even expand the palette of species in the short term.

For those, whose grammar of landscaping, who are literate in reading the complexities of the environment, this gardening action is not constructive but destructive. And so we have diametrically opposed understandings which underlie attempts to find common ground at a higher level of invasive species dialogue. Accordingly, the gardener sees an attack on freedom of expression, and a limit on his ability to add to existing nature, while the naturalist sees a process which includes the introduction of non native species, not diversity in the short term as a positive action, but as additions which may have long term negative impacts on the fragile local eco-system.


artist said...

Thanks for sharing such a wonderful article on this.

Becky at Cool Garden Things said...

I really liked the way you compared gardening to a painting...beautifully done.

Cindy said...

That the garden is not static is what caught me. You have a knack for placing my inchoate thoughts into words, perpetual motion indeed, and sometimes one despairs, because one cannot whirl fast enough.

You are also helping me to define myself in the 'naturalist' school,and teaching me landscape literacy, so that I might bring order out of chaos..[ha!]