Gardens do so much for us. They console us, welcome us, connect us. They bring us moments of peace and reflection. They humble. They teach. Unfortunately, we also idealize our gardens (see previous sentences), place them on a pedestal so magnificent they almost seem untouchable and impervious to critique or change. This is a sort of marginalization, the same thing we do when we call nature "mother" and give it inherent or subconscious second class status -- something passive, subservient, or something that's there for us only when we want it.
We need more mindfulness in gardens. We need a sort of Buddhist mentality of practiced displacement so we know our world and place from as many angles as possible -- this tests then confirms or shatters our belief structures and makes us better creatures. I wish gardeners could spend a week sitting by a sunflower observing every insect, every interaction, every rain drop and breeze that effects the plant. If we could see the garden through the eyes of a sunflower, would we become better gardeners? How would our practice change? How would our interaction with flora and fauna, with humans, morph in the coming months and years?
If we could experience the garden through the life in it, I think our gardens might look very different. We'd practice a sort of selfless art, informed by science, literature, art, philosophy, and even religion -- and in turn the garden would reshape those larger areas of knowledge and belief. We'd exercise both sides of our brain and maybe involve a little bit more heart.
A garden is not at any stage an Eden (neither is nature). It is not a place of exclusion or seclusion. A garden is not an idealization of perfection or a perfected idealization. A garden is not for me, but is a nexus of everything I did not understand or realize before I had a garden -- of species, interactions, and methods.
A garden, once created, is a selfless expression of faith. Think of it as a big bang and the ensuing free-forming evolution of life. A garden is created not with self as the centering, ordering property, but as everything else as centering and ordering, like drawing a still life by filling in the shadows first in order to give objects definition (my art teacher in high school taught me this concept).
A garden will never be nature, and it will always be limited by our conception and perception of what nature is in our eye at one moment in time. Just as we evolve, the garden should evolve. A garden is an interpretation, and is as a result as fallible as we are in our knowledge and beliefs, which change through discovery and practice. When I look out my window to the garden I don't see myself as instigator or even creator, in the end I hope to not even see myself -- it is the sunflower turning to face the daylight, pollen in the bloom and nectar along the stem, ants and butterflies and bees and beetles. The sunflower is the instigator and creator. The sunflower is the moment a garden ceases to be a garden and becomes a conduit to freedom from the tyranny of our man-made reality, a reality too often divorced from nature.