Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chaos Theory

Several days ago--or was it weeks?--I attended a garden lecture by W. Gary Smith, a BLUE HEN! (For all of you non-UD, "Dela-where?" folks, that means he is a graduate from the grand University of Delaware where I teach.)

Smith is a wildly successful artist and landscape architect. His vita reads like a veritable list of garden porn: the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens; the Children’s Garden at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas; the Discovery Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York; the Therapeutic Garden at
the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in Alabama; the John C. Wister Rhododendron Garden at Tyler Arboretum in Media, Pennsylvania; Winterthur; the Tropical Mosaic Garden at the Naples (Florida) Botanical Garden); and Longwood Gardens.

Of course his awards list is long.

And his talent is unquestionable.

And his creativity boundless.

And his charm--a natural, almost boyish, completely un-self-conscious charm--really endearing. 

Are you jealous yet?

I am.

Well: nah, nah, nah.

He did not did not work on my garden!  Shazam!

So we can't add my FIRST PLACE winning garden to his list. Um-hmm. Snap.

I digress.

His talk focused on unleashing creativity in the garden--and I think he took a most unexpected approach. He bound creativity within parameters set by nature: replicating its patterns, shapes, and forms.

He discussed eight basic patterns found in nature, which he more thoroughly covers, among other things, in his new book (yes, he writes beautifully too), From Art to Landscape: Unleashing Creativity in Garden Design.

The eight include scattered, serpentine, fractured, naturalistic drift, radial, spiral, dendritic, and mosaic. His book adds a ninth: the circle.

But poor Gary, accomplished as he is. Why poor? Well, now, I actually have something to teach him. Yes, me. Teach. Gary. Oscar-equivalent winning star that he is. Me.  Teach. Him.



There is another pattern he forgot:  THE MESS.

That is correct. Mess, as in my garden. Mess, as in "not naturalistic drift."

Mess, as in "not scattered."

Mess as in "what the ... ?!"

Mess as in "that explains why there's no color in your garden."  (There is; that person just happened to come "between seasons.")

Mess as in the awards announcer saying, after she read a blurb about my garden, "those were his words, not mine!"  Laughter.

Mess, as in "uh, what did you say your design was based on?"


My garden. The first place winning mess. (Thank you, Delaware Horticultural Society, for being blessed with southern gentility and having the grace not to mention the obvious.)

But Gary, as much as I'd love to talk to you, have you for dinner ( I blushing as I write this?!), introduce you to my garden, well, I love my mess. You can't touch it. But....

But perhaps it could be representative of something--oh, that's right, a mess--in your next book? A sort of guide on "what-not-to-do?!"

I can see it already: my little idea propels him to create a wildly successful HGTV program to embarrass all those folks like me who think they garden, but actually all they do is play in the dirt and create messes of all sorts.

If that happens, just promise you'll remember little old me, okay Gary?!

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