I spent most of yesterday at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, attending the annual Perennial Plant Symposium that is co-hosted by Georgia Perennial Plant Association. (Is that a ridiculous number of very long words in one sentence, or what?)
Anyway, the first speaker of the morning (who turned out to be my favorite of the five speakers, I think) was Claire Sawyers, who is the director of the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College. I was fortunate to meet Claire at a small dinner the night before, so we had a chance to chat then, as well.
Much of Claire's program came from her book, The Authentic Garden, which was published in 2007. Fortunately Claire's program was not an infomercial for her book, which is so often the case.
The focus of Claire's presentation can be summarized in a quote from the dustjacket on her book, which starts, "American gardeners have tended to turn to other national traditions - such as Italy's, Japan's, or England's - for inspiration. The unhappy result of this piecemeal stylistic borrowing has been the creation of gardens that bear no relationship to local landscapes and history, and that have no connection with our daily lives." Claire elaborated in her presentation the need for American gardeners to emphasize our own styles, rather than creating (for example) a Japanese garden in Georgia.
Claire Sawyer's recommendations (that she goes into great depth about in the book), are:
1. Capture the sense of place. Have a garden that is appropriate to your locale.
2. Derive beauty from function. A driveway is a part of the garden at this point, so why do we ignore it as a necessary evil and treat it as an afterthought?
3. Use humble or indigenous materials. Gravel paths are appropriate for my humble Georgia garden; marble is not!
4. Marry the inside of the house to the outside.
5. Involve the visitor! When our garden is perfect and museum like for the visitors, they miss the experience of the garden.