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ASID Industry Partner

June 15-30, 2008


DIRT

The Modern Garden

(Page 2 of 2)

Though its practitioners have been following the same meditative and intuitive principles for centuries, the spare elements of the Japanese garden aesthetic always look the freshest, the best thought out and, usually, the newest. To capture the very essence of modernity, how would the most au courant of landscapers do it without bamboo or stone, specimen maples or sculpted shrubbery? These are the real hallmarks of a Japanese garden, certainly not those ubiquitous stone lanterns. Many genuses of plant and trees are at their most beautiful in their Japanese and Chinese forms. Just think of painted ferns and Iris ensata, the undeniably gorgeous horizontal un-bearded iris that blooms last.

Those who fancy themselves as gardening connoisseurs—those who choose only the best of the best for their highly individual tiny (or huge) kingdoms revel in subtleties that go beyond quirkiness, or even price. Exemplar of this quiet phenomena are shrubs and trees like Hydrangea arborescens ssp. radiata where the white underside of the leaf is more important than the green topside, let alone the flower, or the fuzzy rust colored underside of the southern magnolia. Lagerstroemia indica, crape myrtle, Acer griseum, paperbark maple and Betula nigra or B. utilis jacqumontii, the river and Himalayan birches all have striking habits and great fall colors, some even a summer flowering, but it is the bark for which they are prized.

What makes a garden modern? If there were one defining principle, I think it might be that centuries old tradition of discretion and taste equal beauty. One of our most "modern" landscape designers, Edwina von Gal, succinctly says modern means to her, "less visual confusion." Cohesion, definition, as much attention to the view as the viewed, innuendo and a stirring of the senses make the modern garden. Oh yes, and no silly annuals.

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