The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Monday, March 17, 2014

Playing More Ball

I have been contemplating the suggestions from my last post and have come up with a drawing of a possible arrangement of boxwoods.

The original design of the Lower Garden had a central panel of lawn flanked with rectangular borders with a very traditional granite bench focal point with a pair of symmetrical stewartias on either side. Two pairs of boxwoods are located at the two entrances to the garden: the Hall with Balls on the left and the Woodland Garden on the right. All very predictable and proper.

Last year, I added a third stewartia behind the bench on the right side. It created a trio of stewartias which is both symmetrical, if you look at the outer trees, but at the same time asymmetrical when a third smaller tree is added. I have been playing with that concept: symmetrical pairs on axis with a third repeated element added to make the symmetry less anal and more spontaneous.

Now back to this rolling balls/pinball wizard idea from the last post. The previous drawing had all the boxwoods in the borders, now the boxwoods are allowed into the central lawn. I think the structure will be appealing in the winter months, especially in the snow. The balls will make fun at all that perfect formality of the original design without disrespecting it. I like that vision.

Now for a reality check from my wife. She is my best, and sometimes most brutally honest, critic. She bristles when things get too "designery". She hates the glossy magazine layouts where everything is too perfect and kind of weird. She thinks they are trying way too hard. Her take on this idea is "I don't why he put a bunch of balls down there!" Maybe I am going a little overboard or maybe the next step is to determine if I like this idea enough to try and sell it.


  1. I like this arrangement. I think it is humorous and much more interesting than stark symmetry.

    1. Thanks, Emily. That was what I was trying to accomplish.

  2. Hi Michael
    I think you have a clever wife
    But your intention of playing, trying, seeking and deciding, - this creative work is not a coupple-work, and something one have to decide by one self. Alone!
    I like your idéa very much.
    Have you tryed to push this idéa a Little (or much) further to see what happens?

    I´ve just finished Rory Strongs book "What are gardens for" I´m not impressed! it´s generally a weak book, but with an interesting title. BUT I really do miss (among many other things) chapters that describe the meaning of the creative work we all have to confront ourselves, working, designing or injoying the gardens we are in to.

    But I like the quotes on top of chapter 5


    `A man of great common sense and good taste - meaning thereby a man without originality, or moral courage.´ - George Bernhard Shaw

    Have a good day and kind greetings to your wife.


    1. Hi Kjeld. My wife is indeed clever and has a good eye and can spot pompousness a mile away. I am trying to be true to my artistic process in both my private and public gardens. But in the end, I must please not only myself but my wife, who shares my garden with me, and the public in my work in the parks of Peterborough. It is a challenge that I really enjoy.

      I stubble with how far can I push myself and how much of myself am I willing to reveal in either garden setting.

      I have toying with even more boxwoods but my space is misleadingly small and my experience with the Boccelli Garden and the Hall with Balls tells me that the boxwood get large quicker than one might think and will occupy precious garden and lawn space.

      That said, I am doing more drawings!

      I think another way my wife my put it is: she doesn't want designs to be too tasteful nor too fashionable. I like to call it inevitable. What seems right for the space, conditions, climate, culture and the designer's intention.

      Thanks for pushing me along!!

  3. Replies
    1. The folks at ThinkinGardens would love a review of What are Gardens For? I'd be interested too! Thanks for commenting.

    2. Someone did review the book on ThinkinGardens. I liked it. It was a pleasure to read, with interesting observations about various elements to keep in mind when judging or evaluating a garden. A good, albeit misleading, title. And I loved the highly eccentric lists at the back.

    3. Pat, You should review it too! ThinkinGardens loves well thought out differing of opinions.

  4. Ooooh, this one is hard for me, Michael. While I might not try it myself, I'd love to see you move these box. There is something very wonderful about the unexpected. We just came home from England, and it was a fabulous surprise to see an allee of towering palm trees in a walled garden. Happy first day of spring! Loi

    1. Thanks, Loi, for the encouragement. Not sure what I will do yet.



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