Promises Nothing and Gives Everything

Gilles Clement

Gilles Clement

I’ve called the moles in my garden every expletive known to mankind.  I’ve never called this annoying creature, a “gardener’s assistant.”  Gilles Clement changed my mind about moles and other things.

Clement’s talk was part of the New York Botanical Garden’s Landscape Design Portfolio Series 2013: “Urban Transformations.”  Clement deviated from the topic.  He was talking to gardeners.   Setting the tone of the  “conversation,”  Clement spoke to us as colleagues, garden makers.

The Evolution of a Gardener


Parc Andre Citroen

Gilles took us through a history of the gardens he has made.  From formal to informal, from gardens in motion to the third landscape: it was a window into the mind of a person,who has been gardening his entire life.  His journey began in his own garden, following “the travelling of plants.”  This was a Frenchman speaking English and talking about what we call volunteers, but with greater poetry and meaning.  Clement traced the beginnings of his re-education as a gardener to these moments in his own garden.  “The gardener chooses the plants to keep and which ones he wants to delete.”  The form of the garden is made by mowing  or simply weed wacking  paths. These paths can change depending upon what seeds where. The gardener is the decision maker and nature is the teacher. For instance, a branch falls and makes a space in the garden where light  did not exist before.  Watch and wait.  “These plants were sleeping.  Waiting for an opportunity.” In a Garden of Movement, “a weed does not exist.”

The Third Landscape and Beyond

Image_1What does this mean?
The Third Landscape are those places in the world that have been neglected, abandoned, undervalued:  they are time capsules of biodiversity. Clement argued that we don’t know much about the ecological processes of nature.  “All plants communicate, but we don’t know how.”  It is natural genius.

My need for order prevents me from taking such a hands off approach as Clement suggested and advocates.  The next time I take out my hori hori, I intend to remember this:  “… it invites the gardener to define its space, its wealth, its habitat.  It holds humanity suspended in time. Each seed announces tomorrow. It is always a project.  The garden produces goods, bears symbols, accompanies dreams.  It is accessible to everyone.  It promises nothing and gives everything.”

Landscape Design Portfolio Series 2013
New York Botanical Garden
Harsh Beauty: Designing the Urban Southwest
Christine Ten Eyck – September 23, 2013
The Planetary Garden:  Paris and Beyond
Gilles Clement
October 22, 2013
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park:  Sustainable Renewal for the 21 st. century
Mary Margaret Jones
November 4, 2013

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