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Monday, February 22, 2010

Garden Design Elements: Gardimacy

When I walk through a garden, I like to see the little details that give a hint of the gardener who tends that garden. In fact I love the little details that gardeners put into their gardens that show that they know their gardens intimately.

These little touches may not even be noticeable to the casual observer, but they give the garden a more personal feel once you see them or they are pointed out to you. They may simply be meaningful items that the gardener placed throughout the garden or special plants that the gardener enjoys growing, no matter where they garden.

I refer to this garden design element as “gardimacy”, the intimacy that one finds in a garden lovingly tended by a gardener. (Yes, I could just call it intimacy, but having made up words to describe the other three garden design elements of wanderability, placeness, and well-plotted, I decided I should make up a word for this element, too. The fifth garden design element may actually be a real word, but I make no promises about that.)

In my garden, there are some examples of this intimacy already. Underneath a nearby red maple tree, I’ve placed what to some would just look like a flat-topped rock. But I know it is part of the foundation for the original house that my ancestors built when they settled in Indiana generations ago. I must incorporate that rock into any garden design I work with, and will take it with me should I ever move away from my current garden.

Another example of intimacy is found in the plants that grow in the garden, plants that have a story to go with them, plants like Kalimeris pinnatifida ‘Hortensis’, pictured above, also known as the Oxford Orphanage Plant. I planted it because of how it relates to one of my favorite garden writers, Elizabeth Lawrence.

And of course, there are all the passalong plants in most gardens, each with a story of the gardener who passed along those plants.

Gardimacy is really about seeing the gardener through the garden, because the garden reflects back the taste and life of the gardener. It overall makes you look closer at the garden, makes you want to kneel down and get closer to see even the tiniest plants. Done well, it compels you to pause and study the garden, just to see those details, to understand the gardener as much as the garden.

That's why if you really want to see and understand all of the intimate details of a garden design, you would, of course, want to see the garden with the gardener. Then she could point out some of those little details, and you could understand the gardimacy, the intimacy of a garden personally well-tended by a gardener.

That’s what the garden design element of “gardimacy” means to me.

16 comments:

Cyndy said...

There is no greater pleasure than walking a garden with a friend, hearing or sharing your own stories of plants and other treasures in the garden. Gardimacy is a sweet thing.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

You have concocted a good word for the feel of a garden Carol. I always feel sorry for people that have gardens that when you walk into them they don't have that gardimacy. I find myself looking for it.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Gardimacy is why I like visiting private gardens more than public gardens. The individuality of the gardener adds so much.

Liza said...

I really, really enjoy your blog, and your take on the garden. I find your attitude inspiring, thank you!

Kimberly said...

Gardimacy!!! How clever! I agree with you!!!!

Jayne said...

I really like the concept of gardimacy. Great post.

Eliza said...

Ooh, what worthwhile new jargon, thanks!!

Kim and Victoria said...

I love gardimacy. Every garden should have it, and probably does.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Speaking of things unique to you, I stumbled across these on another blog, and have decided that you need one. They're made out of recycled agricultural disc from plows and such--how cool is that?!

Melanie said...

Fabulous post! gardimacy is what makes us human. I've enjoyed reading your posts on garden design elements.

Cindy, MCOK said...

Gardimacy is definitely important to me, but I'll bet you knew that!

debsgarden said...

How very true. My own garden is filled with memories and meaning. I can tell you many stories as we stroll the paths. "Gadimacy" is what gives a garden its soul. I love an old garden for this reason. I may not know the stories, but I can tell they are there!

lotusleaf said...

I know what you mean by 'gardimacy'. In my garden there is a tree fossil and a stone flour mill which I love.

Rose said...

I love this concept best of all, Carol. Gardimacy isn't something you learn from a book, but it is what makes a garden so personal and enjoyable for others to visit. Walking around and remembering that this plant came from someone who was important in your life, or seeing a plant that reminds you of visiting the Lurie Gardens on Spring Fling--that's priceless. I think it is so special that you have a rock from your ancestors' first house!

Commonweeder said...

This is a great word. One of the elements of gardimacy in my garden is the smooth slate stones that I brought back from the Vermont farm on lake Champlain where I spent some years of my childhood. Part of my history. Part of my garden.

Diana said...

Carol - Just read all 5 of your elements and you've really captured it. Gardimacy is my favorite - I love my passalongs, gifted garden art, little Oklahoma barite roses (and my fabulous garden tools key chain - tho that's not in the garden!). Those little special touches truly make our gardens 'ours.'