The View from Federal Twist (Credit: digdelve.com)
The terms landscape and garden represent fundamentally different approaches to place-making. The word landscape derives from the Old English landskip, which refers not to land but to a picture of it. As a landscape architect, he understands that the essence of his discipline is the molding of land into a concept.
Yet a garden is different. Gardens are relational. They come alive through time. So for the Federal Twist to be a landscape garden represents a fusing of two disciplines: the boldness and vision of the landscape tradition merged with the intimate conversation of gardening.
He observed the way plants grow. He listens to the site.
I was looking for my own voice, looking for a less contrived aesthetic, and looking for a more authentically ecological design process.
By refusing to break the earth, and refusing to make permanent memorials, James instead created a garden that celebrates the ephemeral.
I came to gardening late, when I started thinking about retirement-not as some practical way to keep myself busy, but in a much more thoughtful and intentional way. I asked myself where I wanted to be in the world and I wasn't thinking about physical space. My meaning was far more metaphysical. I wanted to live in a garden, live a garden, in fact, to be a garden. Could I ask for more?
[Atmosphere and Mood]
'Being touched as if from inside' as Toni Morrison described it - internal experience is a physical reality. Your experience in a garden is both in your body and in the garden. This is not magical thinking; it is a reality. It is part of what we called the spirit of place (Genius Loci) for centuries. I am saying the spirit of place is as real as any plant or physical object in the garden.
[Greenness and Wildness]
The green inside the garden blends with the green outside, creating the illusion of transparency - so you see them as one, this is the classic garden technique of using a 'borrowed landscape'.
I want the garden to be linked with the idea of 'wildness' to evoke the sense of something intangible, unknown, unseen, and perhaps only heard or imagined. in pursuit of that idea of wildness, I kept the ecology of the place as it was, at least to the extent I could, preserved hints of past wildness, and did not 'improve' soil or change drainage patterns. I kept rotting wood and tree snags for atmospheric effect and value to wildlife and I retained many indigenous plants.
With the feeling of wildness, I also want to suggest vulnerability. if you are sitting alone in the garden late on a summer afternoon you may hear the sounds of the wild. The mere potential of danger awakens the senses and creates an alertness that focuses the mind in the moment.
[Finding the spirit of the place]
Reading the land: any space, whether neglected or cared for, is charged with possibilities.
Spirit of place comes from the nature of the place itself, for no 'space' is completely neutral. something Is there - tree, swamp, rock, breeze, fragrance, odor, fog, a glint of sunlight, even emptiness itself, absence - that suggests mood or atmosphere, a glimmer of memory, some sort of character.
The intangible aspects of the place - feeling and emotion, smell, light and dark, sound, fog, rain, wind, snow, warmth, cold - exist without human perception. can meaning happen only when a human being enters the picture, and one may say 'I feel cold', 'This autumn fog makes me feel melancholy? without consciousness experiencing the garden, can such words as atmosphere, mood, and emotions become relevant to the sense of place? perhaps it does not matter that we can't answer these questions, though they nevertheless intrigue.
When I first set my eyes on the land, the 'raw' landscape strongly suggested an ecology, a style, emotions, and moods the garden might share. By accepting what was given - neglected woods, weeds, heavy clay soil, and too much water - I was agreeing to make a green that was informal, naturalistic, ecological, and melancholy at times, mysterious, a bit chaotic, wandering rather than direct probably with many curves and few straight lines. I also was agreeing to limit myself to a plant palette dictated by the difficult soil. Such constraints would certainly affect the physical appearance of the garden - though I did not know how at the time - and flow from the 'spirit of place'.
[Space and Place]
Space: is simply physical space, it has dimensions and exists in time.
Place: can transcend time and distance, through human memory and consciousness and possibly in other ways. e.g. broader landscape, culture, ecology, geology, soils and climate, characteristic weather patterns, seasonality.
So...how do all of these capabilities and attributes of the landscape come together in the human impulse to make space into place? I think you look first for emotional connections and imagine a future there. you make it yours, you give it meaning.
From the start, I was committed to using the site ecology essentially unchanged and saw the virtue of accepting site constraints to evoke mood and atmosphere. my ultimate goal would be to transform a derelict, waterlogged woodland into a garden of emotional power.