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.