A View from the Woods
Ketzel speaks with Rick Darke, author of The American Woodland Garden. Darke has more than a few suggestions for using lessons from the forest to bring drama and mystery into the garden.
December 5, 2002 -- Rick Darke is in love with the woods. O.K., obsessed. He marvels at the trajectory of a falling leaf and the filigree of branch ends against the sky. He believes the forest holds the secret to even the most denuded of landscapes. And he's done quite an impressive job of revealing those secrets in his own Pennsylvania garden.
But where does that leave gardeners who live on land that never was, nor will be, forest? The premise is the same: take your cues from the nature of the land.
It's hardly a startling concept. Savvy gardeners are well aware that their little piece of ground offers opportunities way beyond the old slam-bam flower border. Buzz words like a sense of place, sanctuary and naturalistic gardening have sent books flying off the shelves now for a good few years.
But what captured my attention was Darke's historical perspective on wild places, whether the brutal desert or the deep, dark woods. Two hundred years ago, he suggests, our very lives were threatened by wilderness. The story of the 19th century became one of control. Today, having secured our own safe havens, it's the wild places that are threatened. Their very survival may now rest in our own backyards.
With this in mind, looking at Darke's new book (featuring hundreds and hundreds of almost heart-breakingly evocative images of the woods), I am first starting to really rise above the buzz and understand the poignancy of "natural" gardens. Never mind that they will always be contrived, that's just the nature of the beast. It would seem what we're finally talking about is a place of refuge for the plants themselves.
On that happy note, if you're hankering for an immersion in the translucent, seasonal beauty of a day in the woods, Darke's book is the easiest way to get there. For others among you who have a garden, but find it bereft of any natural, lasting beauty, take a closer look at the landscape that surrounds you. Perhaps, by repeated observation, you may suddenly see a way to capture its light, color, shape and personality within the ordinary rhythm of your day.
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Copyright © 2002 National Public Radio, Washington, D.C.