Clients often present me, as their landscape designer, with carefully collected files of garden photographs culled from magazines and books that they want to share as inspiration for the design of their gardens. I welcome their ideas since I believe in client+designer collaboration. The problems begin when clients expect their gardens to ALWAYS look like the photographs they’ve collected. There is a disconnect between these primped, coiffed and dressed glamazons and real gardens.
A garden photograph in a portfolio, book or magazine is often carefully staged, framed and cropped to depict a moment in time when that garden is at its magical best. Time is fluid and so are gardens. I have witnessed many a bloom added or deleted via PhotoShop to aid in creating an image of the perfect border in full and glorious bloom. Anyone who has lived with a garden–even if they are not gardeners–knows that gardens have as many moments of perfection as they do ‘bad hair’ days.
Unless there’s a single distant or a 360 degree view to be captured, garden photographs also ignore everything that surrounds the perfect garden–it exists in a bubble. An extreme example of this would be the hundreds of pictures I have seen of urban gardens where the surrounding buildings are never included in the image. The shot of a rooftop terrace might show a glorious glimpse of skyline that can only be seen from high up on the ladder the photographer was standing on. It’s as if that garden exists in some kind of bucolic time warp. Here’s a simplified example of how a photograph can skew perception.
Highly personal, this garden stops traffic. It’s way over the top, totally appropriate to the house and a statement about the owner’s commitment to his/her garden. It exists in its own time and place.
This garden is also a personal statement. Red begonias and geraniums in pots make a bold summer statement that hints at the owner’s desire for order and simplicity in his/her garden. Order reigns in this carefully controlled environment.
These two disparate gardens actually exist side by side. I wonder if they’re good neighbors.