Some tutu-like blooms to brighten this sunny but grey-brown subzero day in Toronto.
Stumbling across the word choreograph in the textbook for the planting design course I’m taking, I had a little A-ha! moment. Choreography and the garden: of course!
I’ve been in the habit of thinking of the selection and placement of plants in painterly terms – or of creating floral arrangements at static moments in time. But while the painterly principles of composition are essential – balance, proportion, scale, emphasis, et al – it’s the notion of time that I’d paid insufficient attention to; its simultaneous continuity and movement. A-ha! I said. And a-ha, again!
Our text is Professional Planting Design by landscape architect and horticulturist Scott C. Scarfone. He makes a strong case for remembering that a garden is dynamic and ever-changing:
“Planting design is different from other design professions in that we are designing using living entities that respond to their environment and that change over time. … Plant designers must be able to fully understand and take advantage of the changing nature of their medium, and that requires a carefully trained eye capable of noticing the myriad factors that influence a landscape or garden and the plants that fill it.”
Naturally, I know that plants, particularly perennials, have blooming periods. However, the notion that I could map these facts-beyond-my-control into somewhat controllable patterns hadn’t previously lodged in my brain with such a loud click.
Now, as I carefully train my eye as instructed, I’ll be thinking of choreography: of the movement of individual performers; solos, pas de deux and choruses; of filling the stage in three dimensions.
And while my mind is embracing music, I also like the idea of orchestration, which moves notes and instruments through time in a similar way. I’ll be thinking of individual plants as melodies weaving through the life of a garden, with harmonies or even pleasing dissonances or recurrent themes.
Get out your sheet music, gardeners. It’s time to go for baroque (sorry!), to really think about time as we plan our own Four Seasons.