What IS a Garden?

I am reading a lovely novel at the moment about a botanist in 16th century Somerset (The Knot, by Jane Borodale).

I will write a review of it very soon, as I’m sure it will be of interest to many of you gardeners out there, but I have to share these lines from it today!

When asked by a botanist colleague what his garden is: “So if it is not a work of art, what do you call it?”

Henry Lyte replied:

“A garden is a deliberate gathering together of living things, partially governed.”

I think that sums it up perfectly!

Definition of a Garden

What do you think?

50 thoughts on “What IS a Garden?

  1. “The Knot” sounds interesting! Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to develop my garden as I hoped (eventually it will happen), but I do miss the many public gardens we visit during the warmer seasons. Each garden is unique, but the picture you posted with what looks like poppies, irises, and ferns reminds me of one of my favorite spots at Chanticleer (a public garden in the US). I’m looking forward to going back there once my area defrosts.

    • There aren’t many gardens in the south of Germany open to the public, so I do enjoy visiting gardens on my brief trips to the UK. I like the “partially” in this quote… exactly how my garden is! Thanks for stopping by. πŸ˜€

    • So you still have snow Nancy? The last of ours melted away yesterday and it is very mild – the birds and the crows especially have been very noisy! Have a lovely Sunday!

    • Hi Michael. Yes, poppies from June last summer. I never can believe it when I look at summer photos in the middle of winter… there is absolutely nothing out there at the moment except a few dried up stems!

  2. This is a great quote! Your photo illustrates it perfectly, too. You even read about gardening in your choice of novels. I hope that holds you over until spring. You are definitely doing the dreaming and envisioning. πŸ™‚

    • Yes Debra, I love so much about plants – and not just the flowers in my garden; the folklore, the history of their discovery and naming by the people who collected and documented them centuries ago, and the names themselves linking them to their categories and characteristics. If I find a novel or any articles on the subject they are added to my reading list! By the way, you reminded me in your post last week about the John Muir book I had put on my book list… I ordered it at last, so hope to learn more soon! Have a wonderful Sunday!

    • Definitely… I think that is more the trend in today’s gardens than perhaps a hundred years ago. Mine is only partially governed not only because I like it that way, but because I simply couldn’t manage to govern it completely! πŸ˜‰

  3. Henry Lyte has summed it up precisely and perfectly but with my practical mind I think of mine in a much more practical way, like the best place to have coffee or a meal, or where the family can sunbathe on holiday or … you get the idea…:)

    • I hadn’t thought of it like that, but you’re right – that’s such an important aspect for most of us. I do look forward to sitting out under a shady tree in the middle of summer! πŸ˜€

  4. I think this is true but there’s still more to a garden or garden making, it’s far more complex. Your book sounds interesting, Cathy, and I look forward to your review.

    • But if you had to sum it up in one short sentence it comes pretty close for me! I still haven’t quite finished the book – the rate I’m reading at recently I will have to abandon books altogether in the gardening season! LOL!

      • You’re right, and I had a very interesting conversation recently with a lady whose garden will be featured in my book: She feels we’re not at all in control and she neither does she want to be. She just wants to be part of the garden cosmos. Great, isn’t it!

  5. “Partially governed” is an excellent description Cathy as nature will always have a hand too in the way a garden develops.’The Knot’ is another one of those books on my to be read to pile on the groaning bookshelves. I mentioned the book quoting from it on my blog back in October 2012 and threatened a review which has still to materialise. That shows just how big the pile is πŸ™‚

    • That’s the part of the quote I like best Anna. My pile of books is pretty high too… all those hopes I had of winter reading haven’t come to much! πŸ˜‰

    • I actually caught my breath when i first read it, as it really is rather clever. I much prefer it to some of the witty definitions I’ve heard before. πŸ™‚

  6. “partially governed”… perfect. Mine sometimes looks more like barely governed, and it’s at those times that I need to step it up before it slips into complete chaos!

    • I love that phrase too Frank! My garden is looking pretty despondent at the moment, with no snow… definitely wild and ungoverned, but it will have to remain that way for another month or so. πŸ˜‰

    • An ongoing work of art with some governing! I remember a non-gardening friend wanted to visit one spring, but I had so much to do in the garden I asked her to come a week or so later. When she arrived she asked me “Have you finished your garden then?” I thought it was a hilarious question, but she didn’t understand why I laughed!

    • It’s one of the best and most succinct definitions I’ve come across…. my garden just seems to happen, in an unplanned and undeliberate way though!

  7. I agree too, “partially governed” sounds perfect, and I wouldn’t even want it to be totally controlled, which is just as well! I find it rather distracting when I am reading a novel that has good descriptions of plants. I was reading an old Mary Stewart novel recently, and there were these fabulous descriptions of the wild flowers growing on the mountains of Crete. I kept re-reading them! Even worse is when I am watching something on TV and suddenly spot a planting combination I like – I re-wind, much to the irritation of my other half!

    • LOL! My other half has got used to letting me watch the gardening programmes, but I do sometimes watch bits again on the internet afterwards!
      And that’s why I like the phrase too Janet – I wouldn’t want a completely governed garden but would never manage it anyway!

  8. I was at a seminar that really needed a good definition before we could continue. “A garden is an outside space designed for the pleasure of the owner and his friends” seems to me to be excellent and can apply to historic as well as modern gardens.

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