Platitude of Plant-itude


For me, asymmetrical items are always attractive and I suspect it comes from growing up in a home of perfect symmetry, or maybe, I am just a child of advertising post-Salvador Dalí. For some, balance is considered a perfect pair, a straight line, rhythmical echos of shapes and/or shades, and that funny concept of what we call and consider harmony. My mom would say that things have to match and that is often how many people feel. But what does match really mean?

Harmony stretches though to what is called the atonal, and although this is typically used to describe musical pieces with harmonies without tonal centers, I feel that it very much can be used to describe design, and in this case, garden designs. Since garden harmony means so much to so many, harmonies we sometimes see and feel in gardens, can reach down deep inside of us, touching the harmony and/or discord we have inside of ourselves from our own experiences. Some people can really be either personally offended or else irritated by what other people might consider “matching”, while the same scene might make another deeply serene. It could be too cold, or simple, maybe even too messy for one, perfectly in harmony for another.

I see symmetry as peas and pods and sometimes even worse. It is as the Comte de Lautréamont once wrote in Les Chants de Maldoror: “…beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella.” I have not yet installed the dissecting table in the garden for the sewing machine and the umbrella, but I will make an effort to do so, somehow. For me the match is not about a direct line, but an indirect one, and although that is a personal choice, it does help in a small garden design since folks seem to take it in slowly. I like to see them walking in circles reading what I have left for them to read.

This lovely plant device my gardening buddy found for me at a garage sale for my birthday is a perfect foil for my ongoing adventure in marrying my interests in French and Spanish Surrealism with my current world that is so far away from my old academic haunts. I think that for any of us suffering early in life from chronic illnesses and pain, when we are ready, we must begin to reinsert those things that once mattered dearly to us into our garden work and designs. I’ve begun to unpack the past that had to be put into storage, I had considered it a painful loss, but now, unpacked and ready to head out to my garden, these memories and concerns will only grow bigger and bolder with this reassertion of what has really mattered to me all along.

14 thoughts on “Platitude of Plant-itude

  1. Elephant's Eye, you are correct! That was on my list and I will try to work on it today or this evening. We have two very busy foster kids for the weekend so I will do the best I can. If you don't see it later today, expect it by Monday. Pinky swear!


  2. Thanks for stopping by my own blog! I appreciate it and hope you will visit again.

    I really enjoyed reading this thought provoking post, and I love the combination of purple foliage in your first photo.Too much structured symmetry is boring, but balance and harmony are important in many landscape designs. I like a bit of wildness, but it needs to be contained.

    BTW, I admire your work with foster children. I work with sick and premature babies, and a percentage of our infants end up with foster parents. I am grateful for people who unselfishly extend their hearts and homes to children who so badly need someone to love them.


  3. gardenwalkgardentalk, maybe this is when I should disclose that two of my best friends from college were serious mathematics majors! They also enjoyed music a great deal and have both gone on to become creative.


  4. Oh, the amount of theory and emotion one can put into a garden. I had completely forgotten about that quote by the Comte de Lautréamont, so thank you for reminding me.

    Personally, I like gardens with harmony. That can come through symmetry, matching colours or forms (though “matching” is surely not synonymous with “mirroring”? Complementary colours match, yet stand out boldly one from the other, just as a jagged leaf can match a round one by giving an increased impression of “roundness” in the round leaf), but mainly to me it remains intangible. Harmony is when things – or plants – somehow play each their version of the same tune. Sometimes in accord, some times in a slight disaccord that renders one conscious of the elements and their composition.

    I liked your entry. I liked it a lot. Also partly for personal reasons. The idea of inserting painful memories or chronic illness into a garden – even if nobody else can see that this is what you have done – is so beautiful and empowering.


  5. Alice, no, I didn't make it, I've been collecting vintage ones and I plan to make some next year! As for becoming more engaging, my husband passed his sommelier exam so I was inspired by him.


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