Tuesday’s post for the Garden Designers Roundtable on inspiration was a longer than usual post for me. Why? The topic of inspiration is of serious interest to any professional designer- that includes me. Without inspiration, design is pedestrian. Plodding and sleepy. Solid and exciting design doesn’t appear with the wave of a wand-even after years of experience designing. Every new project needs to be imagined in just that way-new. It seems obvious that exposure to new things in horticulture, the arts, and design would keep the eye fresh. But perhaps exposure to old things might be just as inspiring.
Does anyone need an landscape and garden to live? This is a topic that would invite debate, but that is not my intention here. People do not need landscape in the same way that they need food ( which has to be grown), and a relationship with nature that permits survival. Most certainly there was a time when no person was afforded the luxury of a landscape that did not also feed them. The invention of espaliered trees came from a monk, experimenting in how to coax maximum yields of fruit from his trees, in order to feed the entire monastery. A ha-ha is a change of grade which kept the farm animals out of the kitchen gardens adjacent to the house. The landscape and garden at Monticello was designed around the growing of crops for food. The need for farms that produces food is elemental, and ancient.
I have a big interest in how agriculture has influenced landscape design. Also of interest is how growing landscapes are thoughtfully and meticulously designed. Their design is focused on cultivation, harvesting, and yields. This vineyard is planted with Chardonnay grapes. The rows are spaced equally. Why this particular spacing? Perhaps it is based on the width of a vehicle that inspects the vines. Or perhaps it is a comfortable space for harvesting grapes. I feel very certain that the spacing has everything to do with the efficient use of the land. This landscape is not intended to be ornamental. It is intended to be a part of a maximum yield with the most simple cultivation effort. A beautiful byproduct? How breathtaking is a grape orchard, following the natural contour of the land?
I find how the rows are laid out, how the vines are attached to the fences, how the vines are pruned, how the land rolls, and how the vineyard looks in the early morning on a winter day – satisfying. The repetition of forms is both inspiring and comforting. I like the idea that the farm draws sustenance from the ground-and that the interaction between nature and people also provides sustenance to the eye. I like landscapes that work. They feels comfortable, and meaningful.
This vineyard is comprised of thousands of grape vines, planted with the same spacing, all pruned the same. Though the land rolls up and down, the planting repeats itself. Though I don’t grow food, or cook, I admire the beauty that is a working farm.
A vineyard in January is a good place to visit. It is as good as any gallery or museum. The utter cold makes speech difficult-all the better. Feeling the history of the cultivation of the ground is bound to inspire something.
Such extraordinarily cold weather we are experiencing now. I have bundled up, and piled on the clothes. Though extreme cold can damage plants, the frost beautifully desribes the shapes of the plants, and the structures on which they are grown.
I like a landscape that is attuned to, and features the weather, whatever that weather might be. No landscape is better at this than a farm.
So cold right now. So warm-the the evidence of the day’s work.