Paradise Found: Rosetta Sarah Elkin

TINY Taxonomy
International Garden Festival – Les Jardins Metis
June 26 – October 3, 2010
Chelsea, Chaumont and Metis.  The 3 biggies of the garden festival world.  I logged onto the jardin de metis site to find out who the winners were for 2010 season:  Three winners, all unknown to me.  I started with Rosetta Sara Elkin’s project Tiny Taxonomy.
Rosetta was kind enough to talk to me about her background and her project, which I publish here in its entirety, including the plant list she sent me.
“I began my professional career in garden design, which is a scale that continues to define my approach to landscape architecture; seasonality, process and vegetative transformation.  After completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts, I was trained at the University of Toronto, receiving a MLA with distinction.  I have been working professionally at Inside Outisde/Petra Blaisse (Amsterdam) on a range of large scale and international assignments.  In 2007, I received a grant to set up my own design studio: RSE.  My work addresses an ongoing interest in the role of vegetation as a theoretical tool for framing and conceptualizing large scale urbanism and spatial design.
Les Jardin Metis is one of the most renowned festivals in the world, located in a truly Canadian setting.  A festival such as this offers an opportunity to contribute to the contemporary discussion of gardens, of what defines them and how they are received by the public.  Essential qualities of the regional landscape are condensed to the scale vegetation, which engages the rich cultural history of gardening.  Gardens have always been sites of transformation, change, light, shadow, movement and perspective – made evident by the immediate conditions and the local elements.  It is my hope that Tiny Taxonomy will remind visitors that contemporary festivals are also about imaginative gardening. “
 Copyright Rosetta Sarah Elkin.  No usage without permission.
“Nature will bear the closet inspection.
She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, 
and take an insect view of its plain.”
-Henry David Thoreau.
“The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Paradise’.  Each entry was asked to consider a contemporary vision for a garden along this theme.
Paradise is a cultural construct which often reflects the collective values of a people or religious group.  As such, ideas about paradise are highly specific and underscore a set of common experiences and perspectives which are not universally applicable.
What is universal about notions of paradise is that they often represent an idealization of nature.  Furthermore, these idealizations (often deployed as gardens) tend to depict entire ecosystems (the grandeur of nature), focusing on vistas, sight lines, and compositions rather than the individual players in the system.
‘Tiny Taxonomy’ attempts to highlight the beauty and frailty of paradise’s most inconspicuous and often ignored players:  the plants of the forest floor.  By providing a partial inventory of some of the smallest operators of the forest ecosystem and by elevating these species from their traditional position at the forest floor (underfoot), it is hoped that their highly delicate and intricate nature will be made evident to visitors of the garden.  Tiny unpacks and re-presents the garden, inviting the visitor to consider the beauty of individual species.”
 Copyright Rosetta Sarah Elkin.  No usage without permission.

“This festival offers designers a chance to experiment with ideas in real time and with an appreciative audience.  Tiny is designed as an occasion to isolate certain specimens in their natural habitat.  Gardens take years to develop to their full potential and although the Festival runs over several months, it is not enough time to offer visitors a truly vegetative experience.  The design uses this disadvantage to its benefit by planting small species which require little time to fill in.  Instead ‘Tiny Taxonomy’ will be planted just as it is imagined.  All the planting and installation will be done in-situ, starting in May.”
I have been looking at my calendar and trying to decide when to make the trip to jardin metis.  How often does one get the chance to visit paradise?

*The planters are mostly imagined as holding a single species, but some combinations are required to hold seasonal interest.

*Groundcovers are added as required with species that do not form a good ground cover.
*Over maintenance to trim height, leaves and typical deadheading can be kept to a minimum, as decay is part of the forest ambiance.

The plants in Tiny Taxonomy were donated by a well-known and specialty nursery in the area:
The Gardens are located on route 132 in Grand-Metis, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, mid-way between Rimouski and Matane. 

*Please respect the copyright on all these images. Contact Rosetta for usage.

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