I’m not a horticulturist; I’m an artist with an interest in plants. My interest stems (pun intended) from one of my horticulturist friends and it was this friend who recommended I watch a TV series called The Great British Garden Revival. There was an episode where Rachel de Thame presented a piece on topiary http://youtu.be/b-mx3MAU-WA.
The images of Levens Hall in Cumbria took my breath away. As an artist I didn’t see a garden, I saw an art gallery!
This programme alone inspired me to book a holiday built around purely visiting Levens Hall in May this year. Most of my trips are usually centred on visiting art galleries and sculpture parks, but now I found myself hunting out gardens to visit, to see, through my eyes, art. I never realised just how creative the horticulture sector is and could be.
I started to wonder why I’d never seen the horticulture sector as creative. It wasn’t until I started seeking out topiary gardens and artists who use plants within their artworks that I realised just how hidden the creative and artistic aspects of horticulture were.
The more I read about horticulture the more I started to think of it as a forgotten art! There are similarities between how artists and gardeners approach their work and even the terms used are often the same; colour, line, texture and form – these are words I associate with art, not horticulture!
You don’t have to look far to see creativity across many areas of horticulture so why is it not seen as creative? Why, for example, is gardening not considered an art form? I think perhaps this has something to do with how people view their gardens as another room in their home – after all, people don’t approach decorating a bedroom like it’s an art installation (though maybe we should!) As it’s one of my favourite things, if we look at topiary as an example, why don’t we see topiary in sculpture parks, in art galleries? Why is it still predominately limited to stately homes? Is it the association that prevents it from being recognised as an art form?
Art and horticulture have always been inexplicitly linked though I only realised this recently when I was reading about landscape architect Capability Brown. He was someone I had come across I when studied art history. I was actually quite surprised to read that he is often described as “England’s greatest gardener” as I’d always seen him as an artist and designer.
There are many examples where artists have used nature as a means of expression or to convey their ideas. “Land art”, a term coined in the 1960s, uses the landscape and materials found in nature to create an art form. Artists like Andy Goldworthy http://www.artnet.com/artists/andy-goldsworthy/collaborate with nature and the landscape using materials such like twigs, leaves and petals. Land sculpture “Northumberlandia” by Charles Jencks is another great example of where art meets horticulture using excavated earth to create a giant female figure in the landscape.
I’m re-seeing horticulture and find myself no longer distinguishing the creative aspects of horticulture from any other art form, in fact, I see most plant arrangements as artworks these days, whether it be a garden, a living wall, green architecture, or kokedama. I could talk endlessly about art and horticulture, from the trees shaped by Axel Erlandson to the films for plants (yes, you did read that correctly) by Jonathon Keats. I guess my point is that the similarities and the cross overs between art and horticulture should not be overlooked by either sector. As an artist I’ve found the creative side of horticulture truly inspiring and it’s what has ultimately lead me to have a more active interest in plants – I only wish I’d discovered it sooner!
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