Give the flowers back to the gardens!

Jora Dahl 23.5.2021

There is a new trend in the garden. Actually, it’s not new, but it seems to me that it has gained quite a bit of momentum in recent years. The garden is supposed to become the new living room and offer the same comfort outside as inside. Garden furniture appears in the form of huge sofas, the humdrum barbecue has been replaced by the stylish outdoor kitchen, the four-poster bed can’t be missing, carpets are laid out and, of course, the lighting has to be right.

I was recently contacted by a garden owner who commissioned me to plan a large perennial bed. The one-family house was three years old, the garden still a wasteland. She sent me a landscape architect’s plan in advance, which somehow made her uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but be amazed: six (!) terraces were planned around the whole house. The plants – white hydrangeas, lavender and Chinese reed – were apparently only intended as pure decoration for this huge “living landscape”. The idea of filling six terraces with loungers, outdoor kitchens and rugs made me shudder. Is this really what we want when we go out into the garden?

I don’t think so. Nature, even if tamed in the garden, cultivated and pared down to its essence, functions completely differently: soft, organic forms, sounds, smells, colours, the play of the seasons. It is the exact opposite of the world we have created for ourselves in the house. It is at times chaotic and unpredictable (a planting plan works very differently from an interior plan), at the same time surprising (where did that wonderful columbine suddenly come from?), incredibly dynamic (a perennial bed is like a play in 12 acts) and at times breathtakingly beautiful.

As I put these words to paper, I sit on a plain wooden chair and look out from my single 15-sqm terrace into my sea of flowers. I place my garden lounger next to the fragrant daffodil bed in spring, under the old lilac in early summer, by the rustling birch in summer and under the red-hot vinegar tree in autumn. I put them in the grass, I don’t even need a terrace for that. Light and handy garden furniture is my ultimate tip to my clients, because the whole garden wants to be enlivened and experienced.

When asked what she thinks of when she thinks of “garden”, the customer with the perennial bed said: of bees, butterflies and birds, of colourful, fragrant wildflowers and self-woven wreaths in her hair, of grasses dancing in the wind. I would say: the garden planning went just right. I would probably take a more relaxed view of the whole thing if these new living landscapes with decorative plants were simply called “outdoor areas” in future and no longer “gardens”. Because that is something quite different.

Published in the summer issue of the magazine “let it bloom”.

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