Garden Solitaire

“How to achieve by not achieving? How to make by not making? It’s all in that.” Eva Hesse

Neglect will make of gardens, haunts.

Emergent scrub and gathering detritus trace an edge between a garden and its undoing. In outgrown states the garden tells of this and our own vicissitudes.

Contemplating unkempt groves between long lived hedges, we are (suddenly) alone at a point of concealing darkness.
And, wandering fox-hollowed paths to light-wells a game of garden solitaire ensues. Voices from the house are distant. Except for the birds we are lone witness to saplings grow uninvited; to trees lean and fall; to brambles colonising in long arcs. Topiary and mown grass if maintained, will become sporadic outposts fusing with copses to disappear one year. In time too, garden apparatus banished from neat areas will come to grace these quiet, unbidden groves. 

We may start to find that such liminal places – thickets – deliver respite so becoming the only garden we require: A Hinterland to evoke all that needs to be undone, rather than that which needs to be done. 

I have kept a garden such as this. It started life through setting out a formal enclosure but became a process art of partially preserving a mess of scrubby trees that threatened such order. White poplar, hawthorn and sallow arrived and –leaning, seeding and suckering with dusty blackberry– they found their way amoung those ‘noble’ hedges and groves of lime, yew, box and hornbeam: the first origins of the garden.

For years, thresholds between re-colonised and cultivated ground were worked as much through stillness as toil. Tree species each gave their character, expressed as dark and light. I matched their black and white seasons with rough ground, portable chairs, buckets. Rain-water, dust, and snow blew in. With these elements and the murky-pure trees, makeshift realms were orchestrated as gardens of solitariness, shrines even. Not here for long.

From Garden Solitaire. 2016. Blackwhite Press.

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