When I was quite young I learned from my mother about plants and the garden – it became a place where I would play and imagine. I would see the garden in new ways, fantastic and magical places full of adventure and life (frogs, toads, salamanders, spiders, bugs, birds, squirrels, rabbits…the list is extensive). Places where I could spend endless hours making-believe and creating. Burdock leaves that my mother and I would weed would be woven made into a hat, breast piece and skirt – we’d been reading Robinson Crusoe at the time and jungle island apparel was big on my mind! Weeded grass was made into a kind of hut deep in the lilac grove beside our home. Read more about the benefits of children interacting with nature here.
There was also a midden down a field and just into the edge of the woods near our home that my mother took me to when growing up. A midden is an old trash heap, and this one was from an old farm house long since gone. It was a place of intense interest to me with old cobalt blue bottles, the remnants of ancient automobiles and farm equipment, pottery and china chunks, medicine bottles, tins with faded pictures textured with rust and the chips of old metal paint left intact, and strange tool bits from old logging work to be unearthed. Many of these old relics found their way into my mother’s personal collection, but a good deal of them I was allowed to keep and play with. I added these to my imaginings where they would quite often find their way into our gardens.
As an artist and a gardener I am often reminded of those early days when I create. I look to my imagination to see a place differently, to look for clues or things left behind from the past, or for materials that can be created during the process of removing weeds, overgrowth and turning soil. I look for the hidden things that time has forgotten, for the plants that have been dwarfed and lost to other, more competitive species. I move through the space and create story, a flow, creating a reason why one would move through the garden and imagining what things a person might see that would lead them along an experiential journey.
Use the waste! As you work your gardens, use the cast-offs to create compost. Use weeds like clover or grasses to add fertility and protection to the soil. Use stones that are unearthed for creating edges, building walls and defining pathways. Pruning material can be made into simple and beautiful brush walls, or intricate and breath-taking wattle fences and living sculptures. You might even try making a hugelkultur garden. Often the time that it takes to remove the waste can be shortened by actually using it for another project close by. Your garden problems can sometimes be their own solutions.
Trash is treasure (and what we throw away stays)! You may be digging around on your property or come across some of these on the side of the road: old wheels, busted pottery, brick chunks, fence rails, old barn logs, scrap metal, bottles, tins, rubber tires – essentially junk. Or is it?! Think twice about throwing it out or passing it by. Turn it into usable materials and spruce up your grounds, leaving the place that you found them better also. Old bottles, when found intact, can be quite valuable or have historic significance. Even old farm equipment can be a spectacular addition to a garden bed or the genesis of a new one to be created!
Imagine the space: create a story and flow. Create a story for your garden by making a journey through your space with a beginning, middle and end. Use visual art pieces, garden music, paths, entry ways, exits, places to sit, nooks to explore – all to help lead you through your journey. Each part of the journey will provide a unique experience for all who will come to your garden. Read more about creating flow in your garden with pathways and transitional spaces here.
If you need to give your garden some love – take a good look at it, and remember the spirit of play and imagination. Contact us to get your artistic garden started today. You never know what exciting new places and ideas you might discover!
Happy playing in the Earth everybody,
Guy Doucette is a Gardener and Artist-in-Residence at Earthshine Gardens, as well as a freelance preforming and visual artist. 'Like' Guy Doucette and the Shadow Band's Facebook Page to check out more of Guy's work.