Creating a Garden for the Senses

Creating a Garden for the Senses

by Jeff Cox
     
 
Featuring gardens, plants, and flowers that appeal to our senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing, this invaluable book will enrich the pleasures of gardening and of visiting gardens.

In a text that is both inspirational and useful, author Jeff Cox explains not only how to truly appreciate the gardens we visit but also how to design a garden to fully

Overview

Featuring gardens, plants, and flowers that appeal to our senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing, this invaluable book will enrich the pleasures of gardening and of visiting gardens.

In a text that is both inspirational and useful, author Jeff Cox explains not only how to truly appreciate the gardens we visit but also how to design a garden to fully satisfy our own preferences. He points out that one of the best ways to unleash your creativity is to look at what other successful gardeners have wrought.

Jerry Pavia's marvelous photographs illustrate many examples of the techniques and themes under discussion. For this book Pavia traveled throughout the United States and Europe to photograph the sort of beauty that touches the senses and, through them, the heart.

Cox shows us how to employ all of our senses to heighten our awareness of the key elements of a garden. We learn, for example, how to understand color and its perception; assess form and line; plan fragrant plants according to season; increase the tactile interest in a garden; create natural symphonies; and grow tasty plants. Special features include recommended plants for each of a garden's sensual qualitites, practical garden design tips, and a descriptive plant list.

Other Details: 160 full-color illustrations 192 pages 9 x 9" Published 1993

All the busy green of summer vanishes like a dream. Life retracts into roots that become hidden and forgotten in the frozen soil.

Nature operates the infinite interworkings of biological mechanisms in myriad forms, from gigantic to minuscule, intricate to simple, delicate to sturdy. And all of it is shot through with awareness.

Awareness requires sense organs. It is through the senses that all creatures--animal or vegetable--experience the world. Because every creature's sensory equipment differs, each experiences a different world. Within each of these worlds is the opportunity for a creature to make its way and survive, but for that to happen, it must do what it is driven to do, programmed to do--you might almost say, what it loves to do. The mole loves to chew the succulent worm. The hawk loves to swoop to pluck a sparrow from the air, just as the earthworm loves to burrow through topsoil. A plant's leaves turn to catch the beloved sun.

Love, desire, passion--these are all words that we can use to describe the organizing principles and the driving forces behind nature's purposes. When we look at a garden, we are looking at the total of many purposes, the passions of many forms of life. Plants directly display their organizing principles in their forms, but animals do so by their demeanor. Thus it is with passion that we need to approach the sensuous garden and to appreciate its fullness.

Can you remember a sunny afternoon when, as a small child, you wandered down a path into a low part of a yard or field, where wet grasses grew high, and where the path was a muddy puddle? Remember putting your hands into that mud, all warm and wet from the sun? Remember the smell of the mud and the grass? And the wetness seeping through your clothes as you got deeper into the joys of the puddle? There might have been a butterfly or a frog in the tall grass, or a tiny glittering golden fly, all in beautiful colors. Remember how the warm grasses and weeds hummed with the sounds of insects? To fully experience the garden, we have to experience it as a child might: sensuously, not just as a pretty picture arrayed for our visual enjoyment. Full enjoyment involves feeling the earth, and the weight of stones, and seeing beauty in decay, and smelling the freshly made compost. It comes to us through the delights of the eye, the sound of the wind, the touch of the grass, the taste of the berry, and the scent of the rose.

One by one our senses are captivated and charmed by the garden, and then all together: We are swimming in birdsong and perfume, fresh flavor and cool touches, all decorated with gorgeous colors.

The garden invites us to lie down on the grass and feel the sun and the wind and the earth. The rose invites us with its scent. The flash of a silver-sided fish invites us to peer more deeply into the lily pond. Clusters of ripe raspberries invite us to savor their taste.

As we enjoy the garden and love what it offers us, we draw close to nature and her ways. We are on the right path. The garden is telling us about ourselves, and, even more deeply, about how one of its purposes is to care for us--its human gardeners and visitors.

If you have ever created a garden and had a love for it, you will know this to be true. The garden soothes us and delights us, and we find healing care there, too. These gifts are given unfailingly, like a mother's love. The garden is a love song, a duet between a human being and "mother" nature. Gardeners do surely come to love their plants. They love the glimpses of natural orderliness that shine through the chaos of sheer growth. And they love the beauty that abounds there, both planned and found. In return, nature responds in kind to love and care.

We can feel this even when the garden is not ours. Ah, but when it is! Then we are not just listening to the duet, but singing in it. We find sites for our plants that we think they will like, and if we succeed, the plants respond with healthy, beautiful growth. We dig the soil, and the radishes grow big and sweet. We arrange the stones, and the moss fills in the spaces with its green bass tones. We are paid for our work with the coin of beauty that astonishes all our senses.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Here Cox ( Plant Marriages ) considers ``both the sensuous and sensual aspects of plants,'' hoping to ``bring . . . unconscious sensory experiences into the bright light of full consciousness.'' Lest this sound too Freudian, what he really wants to do is to simplify, not to complicate, a gardener's pleasure, returning us to a child-like state of harmony with nature. Reasonably, the book is divided into chapters that address each sense (sight, smell, touch, sound, taste) in turn, before finally taking on ``the sixth sense,'' meaning one that ``perceives a reality beyond the material world'' of plants. Under ``Sound,'' for instance, Cox discusses wind chimes and piped-in music for garden settings, as well as the music donated by nature. Under ``Scent,'' herbs receive a good deal of attention, and color, of course, looms large in ``Sight.'' And, continually encouraging the development or the reawakening of an ``aesthetic sense,'' the book prods gently with color photos. But, like his previous Plant Marriages , Cox offers more gimmick than genius, and quite a few commonplaces mixed in. ``A strong and trusted intuition is a particularly great help in gardening,'' he notes, and, ``sitting in a garden, it is not hard to believe that we and the plants are part of a greater whole.'' People have been saying this for centuries. (Nov.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Providing 160 visually delightful color photos from gardens in the United States, Canada, England, and France, photographer Pavia joins garden writer Cox in issuing an invitation to gardeners to sample appealing gardens that stimulate our senses of sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste. Devoting a chapter to each sense, Cox describes ways specific plants appeal to the senses and shows how gardeners can develop a greater awareness of color, form, texture, fragrance, and other sensuous qualities. An appendix includes a listing of annuals, bulbs and corms, vines, perennials, shrubs, and trees, specifying their sensuous appeal. This handsome book will interest readers who are hunting for ideas for new plants in their home landscape.-- Dale Luchsinger, Athens Area Technical Inst., Ga.
Alice Joyce
A good deal of recent gardening literature focuses on fragrant flowers and foliage, and Cox takes the notion of scented plants a step further by including plants that appeal to each of the senses. In his opinionated guide, Cox offers unflinching advice on garden design, assisted by Jerry Pavia's gorgeous photographic images that capture tableaux of color and form. Cox explores the garden as an art form and defines plant groupings according to such elements as tactile qualities and visual balance created by shape, line, and mass. All gardeners, whether they possess small spaces or acres of land, will appreciate this offering and its tantalizing mix of aesthetic concerns, philosophical musings, and scientific theories (such as the optical effects of color). A chart lists the "sensuous qualities" of selected shrubs, trees, and flowers.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558593299
Publisher:
Abbeville Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/01/1993
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
9.29(w) x 9.27(h) x 0.87(d)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction: Gardens Where the Senses Bloom

No place on earth is more sensuous than a garden. In its sights, sounds, tastes, touches, and smells, we find home and heart and love. The purpose of this book is to help us all--gardeners and garden lovers--more deeply appreciate the sensuous and sensual qualities of plants. Our appreciation will enrich the time we spend outdoors and enhance our pleasure in our gardens.

Sensuous and sensual--these words need defining at the outset. According to Webster's Third New International Dictionary, "Sensual implies gratification . . . the indulgence of appetite. Sensuous can imply less an indulgence of appetite than an aesthetic gratification or delight, as in beauty of color, sound, or artistic form." This book considers both the sensuous and sensual aspects of plants.

Such a project may sound reductionist. Instead of relaxing and enjoying the garden as a whole, must we separate it into its visual, aural, olfactory, tactile, and gustatory elements? Aren't we killing the unicorn by doing this?

No. The deeper our understanding of the sensible qualities of plants, the richer our experience of the whole garden will be. A neophyte can hear Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and enjoy it, but a person with musical training understands it in a deeper way. In the garden, too, subtext enriches text. Often we are not consciously aware of how our senses perceive plants. This book is intended to bring these unconscious sensory experiences into the bright light of full consciousness. In fact, when we again see the garden at night, the darkness will have meaning and presence.

This book is designed to inspire the natural creativity in every gardener andto suggest ideas for great gardens everywhere. A gardener who more fully understands plants and our sensory responses to them can be a more effective designer. Once we become aware of the different sensory elements a garden contains, our design intentions gain more content. We find meaning in the placement of plants, and we become more careful in our decisions. For example, the rose 'Gruss an Aachen' carries a fruity (even tutti-frutti) fragrance. If we use not just color but fragrance in making decisions, we may discover that the clove scents of spicebush viburnums or carnations combine well with that fruity note and not so well with the perfumy fragrance of damask roses.

One of the best ways to unleash your own creativity is to look at what other successful gardeners have wrought. Photographer Jerry Pavia's photographs provide examples of the techniques and themes under discussion. To assemble his photographs, Pavia traveled through the United States and Europe seeking out the sort of beauty that touches the senses and, through them, the heart.

As the photos amply show, no garden is wholly man-made. Rather, it is the joint product of the person who arranges it, the plants that clothe it, the tendencies and forces of the earth and stones from which it arises, and the impetuous nature that drives it all forward. The gardener plants the shrub, but the plant finds the light and displays its blossoms according to its own rules. Balance is the key word in most of the ways we design gardens: balanced color, texture, value, form, and visual weight. Well-balanced gardens have a quality of restfulness and exquisite perfection, with plants chosen and placed like words in a perfect poem.

When all the plants are planted, and the gardener has retired, nature comes in and puts on the finishing touches. A cardinal flower may volunteer to mark a field of blue with an accent of crimson. Or a clump of spiky, upright grasses may arise, in seeming answer to the pendulous limbs of a weeping cherry.

Nature can change the mood of a garden completely in just minutes. A sunny, cheery garden turns somber as gray clouds darken the sky. Tall junipers sweep back and forth in the wind and rain, scrubbing the sky clean.

The cold of winter can bring on a deathlike state, plunging ice daggers into tender foliage and soft earth. All the busy green of summer vanishes like a dream. Life retracts into roots that become hidden and forgotten in the frozen soil.

Nature operates the infinite interworkings of biological mechanisms in myriad forms, from gigantic to minuscule, intricate to simple, delicate to sturdy. And all of it is shot through with awareness.

Awareness requires sense organs. It is through the senses that all creatures--animal or vegetable--experience the world. Because every creature's sensory equipment differs, each experiences a different world. Within each of these worlds is the opportunity for a creature to make its way and survive, but for that to happen, it must do what it is driven to do, programmed to do--you might almost say, what it loves to do. The mole loves to chew the succulent worm. The hawk loves to swoop to pluck a sparrow from the air, just as the earthworm loves to burrow through topsoil. A plant's leaves turn to catch the beloved sun.

Love, desire, passion--these are all words that we can use to describe the organizing principles and the driving forces behind nature's purposes. When we look at a garden, we are looking at the total of many purposes, the passions of many forms of life. Plants directly display their organizing principles in their forms, but animals do so by their demeanor. Thus it is with passion that we need to approach the sensuous garden and to appreciate its fullness.

Can you remember a sunny afternoon when, as a small child, you wandered down a path into a low part of a yard or field, where wet grasses grew high, and where the path was a muddy puddle? Remember putting your hands into that mud, all warm and wet from the sun? Remember the smell of the mud and the grass? And the wetness seeping through your clothes as you got deeper into the joys of the puddle? There might have been a butterfly or a frog in the tall grass, or a tiny glittering golden fly, all in beautiful colors. Remember how the warm grasses and weeds hummed with the sounds of insects? To fully experience the garden, we have to experience it as a child might: sensuously, not just as a pretty picture arrayed for our visual enjoyment. Full enjoyment involves feeling the earth, and the weight of stones, and seeing beauty in decay, and smelling the freshly made compost. It comes to us through the delights of the eye, the sound of the wind, the touch of the grass, the taste of the berry, and the scent of the rose.

One by one our senses are captivated and charmed by the garden, and then all together: We are swimming in birdsong and perfume, fresh flavor and cool touches, all decorated with gorgeous colors.

The garden invites us to lie down on the grass and feel the sun and the wind and the earth. The rose invites us with its scent. The flash of a silver-sided fish invites us to peer more deeply into the lily pond. Clusters of ripe raspberries invite us to savor their taste.

As we enjoy the garden and love what it offers us, we draw close to nature and her ways. We are on the right path. The garden is telling us about ourselves, and, even more deeply, about how one of its purposes is to care for us--its human gardeners and visitors.

If you have ever created a garden and had a love for it, you will know this to be true. The garden soothes us and delights us, and we find healing care there, too. These gifts are given unfailingly, like a mother's love. The garden is a love song, a duet between a human being and "mother" nature. Gardeners do surely come to love their plants. They love the glimpses of natural orderliness that shine through the chaos of sheer growth. And they love the beauty that abounds there, both planned and found. In return, nature responds in kind to love and care.

We can feel this even when the garden is not ours. Ah, but when it is! Then we are not just listening to the duet, but singing in it. We find sites for our plants that we think they will like, and if we succeed, the plants respond with healthy, beautiful growth. We dig the soil, and the radishes grow big and sweet. We arrange the stones, and the moss fills in the spaces with its green bass tones. We are paid for our work with the coin of beauty that astonishes all our senses.

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