When Cesca first showed me the drawing plans for the UCS garden at RHS Malvern, I knew that it was going to be special. But nothing could prepare me for the final result. More a large scale high-art installation than a garden; it is playful, fun and definitely sending a message that we can all understand.
I have been reading a book recently, called “The World Without Us ,” in it the author, Alan Weisman, writes of how nature – that pervasive force – would take over after we are gone. Concrete would fall down, buildings would crumble under vines and the remains of humanity would disappear; and quicker than you would imagine. Of course, for us Daoists we don’t see the human and so called “natural” worlds as different at all. They are all parts of the same thing; and it is only human arrogance that distinguishes us and our achievements. When we see metal and we think that it is not a “natural” substance, we forget that we stand upon a 50 trillion ton ball of the same stuff. Given the size of the Universe, our small scratches on that metal ball amount to a glint of light in a million years of sunshine, but we don’t see it that way. We still think we are in control. As Weisman shows in his book – that is the ultimate illusion.
And so it is with the UCS garden, losing control leads to organic growth and non-human cycles of birth and decay taking back the ground. Returning to the rhythm all of its own. It wont be rushed, it is like the blowing playful wind, and as gardeners we might conduct this orchestra briefly, but we hardly could claim control of it.
We work with it.
So, I looked upon Cesca’s and friends’ work and read its title and I considered what it meant. I think it means that we may stop listening to the song of nature when we build our concrete pillars and throw away our rubbish, but that song is only just out of earshot; and awaiting to erupt upon our works when we turn our backs from it. Even the most ugly structures return to beauty. A fence, a bucket, a sign, a pool of water – given time – are visited and reseeded. We just need to lose “control” and release our nature; our natural ability to live in harmony with this planet. That is what I think attracts many out into the gardens of this world, and what makes some gardens great, that one word; harmony. It suggests a tune, a gentle tune carried on the breeze, whistled by Gia herself upon the wind and waiting for you to hear it.
Making this garden was backbreaking work for a lot of people and I salute them all here. I watched for the final week of the preparations, seeing what was a simple patch of grass become the garden. There were many risks: the planting could have looked “planted”. The whole effect of such a work required the highest knowledge of nature, how the seeds would catch and how the plants might spread. Such risk was then doubled by the redoubtable students with their choice of a 360 degree view on the final piece. That is, you could walk all around it and it left nowhere for any mistakes to hide. That took courage and demonstrated confidence and the RHS noted the skill and spirit in the garden and upped the marks accordingly.
Some visitors didn’t understand. For they: a garden is an expression of man’s supposed dominance over nature. But they can be safely ignored as ignorant of the truths this garden exposed; man lives IN nature, as a part of it. And lo – look what beauty we can create together! As partners, not master and slave.
The film: My rather poor footage (I really need a tripod for this sort of work) and the fact that my camera was struggling to focus through its armour (ready for airsoft use it the field) meant that I could only capture some of the wonder to be seen here. I also decided to capture footage with nobody in it, for while I could have made a film about “the story of the garden being built”, I decided that the story in the garden was more important and that is what I aimed for. The cutting was back in Sony Vegas (version 9 now), my brief dalliance with Adobe being well and truly over; at least for the time being; due to its incomprehensibility.
I hope you enjoy the results, please leave a comment below or feel free to ask a question.