“I have a new vision for the backyard.”
I say this to my husband as I gaze out the kitchen window, assessing the lawn, trees, and borders. It is all unsatisfactory! All of it!
He looks at me with suspicion as he sips coffee. My urge to create new territory is not new territory for us.
“Does it involve ripping out something you’ve already planted?” he asks.
How much should I tell him?
I decide to keep it vague. “Wellllll, it would involve a bit of a shift here and there….. See, look –” I gesture at the wide grassy space between the pool and the toolshed. “Imagine two sweeping curves that form the edges of the lawn as it leads back to the shed. Wouldn’t that be incredible?”
“How much lawn do you want to take out? I like our lawn.”
“It’s not so much about taking things out as adding and enhancing. I mean, these would not just be any curves. They would be the perfect curves. They would be, like, Porsche curves, Scarlett Johanssen curves” (pause to check his expression) “they would swoop back towards the shed in a sort of serpentine avenue but they would swoop the right amount in just the right way, and they would, like, speak to each other as they swooped, and off to each side would be little woodland walks that curved around too but everything would hinge on these two beautiful swooping lines of the lawn.”
My husband glances out through the window and furrows his brow. I’m pretty sure he’s not seeing the swoops.
That’s alright. The Swooping Lawn Cutting Through a Contemporary Woodland is just one of many designs I have in my mind for my backyard. Other ideas have included The Zen Garden of Good and Evil, Piedmont Tropicale and The Flannery O’Connor Tribute Garden. (The latter would require peacocks, try suggesting that to your spouse.)
Such is the life of the gal who fancies herself a garden designer but who actually works as a teacher. I’ve got all these design ideas buzzing around in my head, but only the one piece of property on which to spill them.
So yes, a certain amount of tearing out revision is going to occur in my garden from time to time.
Now, I know that real working designers don’t necessarily get to create all their dream gardens with clients, but at least they’re presented with some different contexts, some different canvasses.
Imagine if da Vinci were in my shoes. He’d have painted Mona Lisa and then thought, “aw damn, I only have the one canvass. So much for that Last Supper idea I had.”
See what I mean? My front yard can’t be Romantic Foliage Garden and Appalachian Meadow at the same time. But I want to design both!
Sometimes I’ll dream about a landscape design, and when I wake up I try to imagine if I can build it somehow. Awhile back I dreamed I was walking down a path, and along one side of the path was this huge wall made of enormous rocks, boulders ten feet across, and there was this feeling of being dwarfed by the boulders, but also of being protected by them. It was amazing! When I woke up I still felt the effect of being in this imagined landscape, and I even experienced a heady little buzz from my own hypothetical powers of design.
If I were a working designer possibly I could incorporate this giant wall into a client design: “Mr. and Mrs. Jones, I know you had requested that seat wall by the patio but I’m thinking if we’re going to do this let’s go big. I think a twenty foot wall made from massive blocks of granite would really make a statement. It would really blur the lines between your outdoor entertainment area and the gates of insanity.”
Well, I can dream, can’t I? Oh, that’s right, I did.
Listening to music also conjures design projects in my brain. There’s one piece of music that I’ve always felt could be beautifully expressed in a garden design: Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.
If I could take the closing segment of that piece (especially that part where the violins do that little crescendo thing and then the flute comes in) if I could pluck the notes out of the air and turn them into mountain laurel and maple, bloodroot and bluebell, just the right scattering of rocks, and of course all the spaces between them, I swear I would never need to design another garden as long as I lived.
Or at least for that week.