Nectaroscordum siculum

Garden Designers Roundtable: Plants, Memory and Dance

I have reached an age when I am able to stitch together seemingly disparate memories into a fluid life’s story. The ability to see, the kind of sight gained through years of training, observation and memory, is what leads me to connect plants to memory. They are visual cues to the young girl whose book Let’s Imagine took dancing feet to far off and exotic places just by closing my eyes. Since a very young age I have had a fascination with Fred Astaire’s dance and style. Like so many young girls I wanted to be a ballerina. I still tap my gypsy feet to the slightest beat and have spent many, many solo hours on a crowded club dance floor lost in a my own world of sound and movement. My lifelong mantra has been “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” (Thank-you Kurt Vonnegut.)

This dancing, swirling memory trail leads me back to plants. When I see maple samara twirling down from branches above, I think corps de ballet. When I see a grove of  leaning, gnarled trees I think of dancers and want to be among them. It’s a palpable, visceral feeling of memory and imagination. So, indulge me and let’s play Let’s Imagine.

Read the clue in each image’s caption and then close your eyes and imagine the most beautiful dancers you’ve ever seen.  Yes, plants even rooted in the ground as they are, do dance…

Nectaroscordum siculum
Pas de deux
Cercis canadensis 'The Rising Sun'
Blue Agave
American Beech

For more memorable dance partners, try these Garden Designer’s Roundtable posts:

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA
Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI
Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA
Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA
Rochelle Greayer:  Studio ‘g’ : Harvard, MA
Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA
Thomas Rainer : Grounded Design : Washington, D.C.

14 thoughts on “Garden Designers Roundtable: Plants, Memory and Dance

  1. Beautifully written! I’m with you here, Susan. A while back, I twigged to the idea of garden choreography. In a post called “The Dance of Plants” I wrote about the challenge in garden design of managing the continual motion of these dancers across time. Your point about plants’ emotional value – and I use that term to mean something like colour value – makes that challenge more complex but more rewarding.

  2. So often Helen, we think along parallel planes…or plants as it were! I’m going to look up your post later today.

  3. Thomas–Thank you for making my day. It’s been a long time since anyone referred to anything I do as ‘brilliant’! I appreciate the time you took to visit.

  4. Susan: you have me up on my feet, listening to the hum of the bees, feeling the warm breath of spring, despite our rapidly freezing soil outside my window. Thanks for this beautiful post. Douglas

  5. Thanks for this evocative post, Susan! Right there with you on seeing the world through a dancer’s eyes. Seeing _The Nutcracker_ with my son recently — my first time doing so as a landscape designer rather than an aspiring ballerina — I was struck by how the flowers come to life on stage. Love that you brought that inspiration right back onto your reading of actual plants in the garden!

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