checked out from my local library
So I'm reading this big, new book "Great Gardens of America" by Tim Richardson, and I'm really enjoying it. Large, glorious photos of gardens in bloom are a great antidote to the winter blues. In tracing the history of styles in American gardens, it includes some old favorites, such as Filoli and Dumbarton Oaks, and new treats such as Dan Hinkley's new garden Windcliff. Then I came across the profile for "Hither Lane, East Hampton, New York." The images depict a modernistic house and naturalistic landscaped grounds, but it does not show a single "garden." A swimming pool, no matter how cleverly designed, is not a garden. It can be part of one, but that implies the pool is part of a larger whole of flowers and plants, not a pool surrounded by lawn and a single urn of flowers. When VIS saw the photos of it he said, "that's lawn," and "that looks like more lawn." The girl stated emphatically that it wasn't a garden, but she wanted to swim in the pool. I wouldn't pay to go see it on a garden tour. It's a mystery why it was included in the book, as it doesn't fall within my idea of "great" or "garden." It's not avant garde or outre, unlike a couple of other gardens in the book, temporary installations at Metis Garden Festival, one of which has a triangle of green glass around a few birches in a woodland setting and a second one, "Safe Zone," a "satirical take on health and safety rules, with a rubberized surface and crash pads around trees." I would definitely pay to see them.
My definition of a "garden" is pretty broad, as the above mentioned features show. I can even accept the stark modernism of Cornerstone Place's garden (also featured in the book) with coiled balls of rope, silver birch trunks, gravel and blue and white walls. But it requires more than just a wide sweep of lawn with a swimming pool and a line of metal rods as a fence or a large urn plopped down in the middle of a lawn. Am I being too harsh? Maybe there were more gardenesque scenes that could have been included but weren't, but I doubt it. It could be that this particular property was included because the author wanted to feature an example of mid-20th Century minimalist garden design (and couldn't find one in America). (Either that, or there's a nepotistic connection with the landscape's designers.) The author concludes the discussion of this estate by describing it as "a pocket 'picturesque' landscape park." A landscape park it may be; a garden it ain't (much less a great one).
Or am I wrong? Do you think there is a difference between a garden and a landscape? How do you define a "garden"? And what makes a garden "great"?
(edit. 1/26/10 Thanks to Gail for finding the link.)