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The Garden Guru designs and plants continously blooming flowerbeds that rebloom year after year. These are easycare, colorful, vivid gardens for Montreal, Canada, [USDA Zone 4 or CDN Zone 5]. A consultation and coaching service for do-it-yourselfers is also available. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.


Entries in Creativity (2)


The Artist as Landscape Designer and Vice Versa; a book review for

From Art to Landscape, Unleashing Creativity in Garden Design, W. Gary Smith, Timber Press

Examine the front cover of this book. Notice how it is divided into 5 distinct color bands, each one deliberately positioned to play against the band adjacent. Notice too, how beautiful is the pastel sketch of a forest in band three and how it relates to and echoes the photograph in band four. This cover illustration, a work of art in its own right, heralds the beautiful visual experiences the reader will find inside this publication. Day after day, I would find myself returning to it, simply to enjoy the pictures. Often, I would forget that I was supposed to purposefully read it in order to write a review.

Mr. Smith is an award winning landscape designer specializing in botanical gardens. He is also a talented artist. His book takes the topic of garden design to a new level by raising the bar on the discussion about the role of art in landscaping. His work is neither a manual, nor a guide, nor a text book. It is an ode to the beauty and creativity we insert into nature when planning great estate gardens. Readers should not dismiss this book if the phrase great estate gardens does not apply to them. These settings illustrate universal elements of creativity in landscaping. Lessons learned here, and there are many, can be applied to gardens of any size..

The book is divided into two sections. In the first, the author introduces himself with a sensitive autobiography that narrates his development as an artist. Then he proceeds to build our visual vocabulary with elements of design that empower a garden designer. This section, pivotal to the overarching theme of the book, includes concepts such as shapes, forms, and patterns. These are categorized into scattered, mosaic, naturalistic drifts, serpentine, spiral, circles, dendric, and fractured. For each, there is a brilliant visual demonstration how such a concept impacts design.

According to the author, the next step is to encourage landscape designers to get in touch with their own creativity, and to sensitize their eyes to beauty. In that respect, the following chapter is a natural extension of a theme developed by Fran Sorin, in her publication, Digging Deep.  Mr. Smith’ recommends that we develop an aptitude for sketching, painting and drawing. These skills, he believes, liberate us from constraint and encourage creativity.

Furthermore, the author suggests, garden designers may be inspired by artists from other disciplines such as painters, sculptors, photographers and the performing arts, as all have a role to play in artistic nurturing. For example, in an examination of the Cascade Gardens at Longwood, the author demonstrates how cubism and abstract expressionism influenced the overall design of that garden and, in the next chapter, discusses how the Garden at Winterthur is, in its totality, an expression of fine art.

Part two of Mr. Smith’s book is a journey through the author’s professional accomplishments, with an emphasis on the artistic elements that shaped each of his works. These include The Pierce’s Woods at Longwood Gardens, The Tropical Mosaic Garden at the Naples Botanical Gardens in Naples, Florida, The New England Wild Flower Society’s Garden in the Woods at Framingham, Massachusetts and The Enchanted Woods at Winterthur. The final chapter discusses the essential role that garden designers can play in the conservation and establishment of ecosystems and the philosophical relationship between art and gardening.

Prepare to be overwhelmed by the stunning images that the author has complied for our education. Some readers may find it necessary to put down the book after each chapter, to savor the moment. But don’t read it for that alone. Read it also to appreciate the author’s richly colored images of proposed and executed garden designs. I would welcome the opportunity to hang all of Mr. Smith’s artwork on my walls; He is that good.



The Imaginary Magic Butterfly Net in our Brain

Boy With Butterfly Net by Henri MatisseI cannot sit down at the computer and create a blog on demand. I need an inspiration. Sometimes that push will come from a comment in another garden writer’s blog; very often a news articles will stimulate a discussion, and occasionally an idea will hit me out of the blue. The inspiration might come while driving the car, taking a shower, reading a magazine, or falling asleep. The same goes for the flash of ideas needed to solve a garden design problem. I am unable to create flower compositions, standing on my feet, as I consult with a client who wants a solution now. I must first relax and listen to the humming of the cogs in my brain.

That is why I cannot understand how painters and writers are able to bury themselves in their studios for hours, with the expectation that they will create something marketable. I recognize that they do so because they need to eat or support a family. Nevertheless, it boggles this writer’s mind how they can produce creative matter on demand.

Two prominent member of the entertainment industry have shed illuminating insight on this subject.

David Foster is by far the most successful person in the popular music industry. Composer, music producer, performer, he has reached the highest level of success both for himself and the artists he nurtures. An interviewer once asked him if there was a well inside him that he draws upon for his creativity. Mr. Foster replied that creativity is not something that we store inside ourselves. It flows through us. And when it does, we must recognize it and capture it at that very moment.

Justin Timberlake is an extraordinarily talented singer, dancer and composer who began his career as a lead singer and dancer in a boy band that catered to young girls. Over the years he has managed to re invent himself several times; today he is respected by a wide fan base that covers all ages, gender and race. Recently, it was reported in the media that although he has not produced a new body of work since 2006, he refuses to feel pressured to make another CD. This is how he explained it:

 “Does a painter make a painting because he has to make it by December 21? No, he doesn’t. It happens when it pours out of him. That’s how music is for me”.

The above two opinions confirm my own take on this subject. The talent that accompanies creativity may be likened to a magic butterfly net in one’s mind. When one feels the creative ideas flowing through, when one is inspired, one must grab that net and capture the moment. That is how I approach design and blogging. The gardens that I compose on demand, and the blogs that I post because I must, are never quite as successful as those that result from a spontaneous, revealing moment that sweeps through my imagination. When I feel it happening, the magic butterfly net is nearby.