How hard can it be to go from this…
|On the beach in Perth, West Australia|
|A snowy day at Glen Villa|
Very hard! But it is even harder to go to this…
|Montreal on a cold win’ter’s day: the view from my apartment window|
When I left Perth, West Australia, on Friday, December 13, the temperature was 35C (or 95 fahrenheit) — and climbing. When, after some 30 hours of travel, I arrived in Montreal it was still Friday, December 13. The temperature was -22C (or about 7 below freezing). And it was falling.
That’s extreme: a difference of 57 degrees centigrade, or almost 135 degrees in fahrenheit. It’s also extreme in a mental sense, to travel more than 24 hours and arrive at your destination on the same day you left. To go from one continent to another, from a mind at rest to one on jet-lagged overdrive.
The dramatic change in temperature and location started me thinking about extremes in other contexts. I’ve come across the phrase ‘extreme gardening’ a few times recently. I’m not sure what the phrase refers to, whether it is an approach to gardening or a way of describing gardening under difficult circumstances, or merely the name for some commercial product.
|Gardening in this locale would definitely be challenging.
Does anyone know where this is?
Comparisons come to mind. Guerrilla gardening, or growing things on land that the gardener doesn’t own, often an abandoned or neglected urban site, implies a community spirit that the phrase ‘extreme gardening’ doesn’t contain.
Xtreme sports seem a better fit. There the words suggest danger, obsession, a craziness that goes beyond the norm, that leads into new and unexplored lands. Gardening is rarely dangerous physically (tell that to a sore back after a long day planting bulbs) but it can be dangerously expensive. And crazily obsessive.
|Obsessively starting anew: less expensive than buying full grown plants.
And almost as much fun.
Gardens reflect their times. Historically, they illustrated social and economic class; they were status symbols that allowed the gardener to demonstrate power and good taste. And in many ways, this remains true.
Most of us don’t live in an 18th century landscape park or in an Arts and Crafts fantasy world, yet our gardens seem to suggest that we do. The two winter photos above show what I’m getting at. The pretty picture of a majestic pine with a snowy lawn beyond offers a traditionally romantic view of a winter world. The urban scene is a colder, harsher reality.
Can extreme gardening help us push beyond the boundaries of traditional garden design? Can it help us find new ways to relate to the world around us?
An installation at London’s Chelsea Fringe Festival by the Montreal landscape architectural firm NIP Paysage suggests that it can. Floating Forest refers to the history of trade in forest products between Canada and Great Britain. It isn’t what most of us think of when we think of a garden, but for me it illustrates how an imaginative use of natural materials can stretch the mind.
|Floating Forest, an installation by Montreal’s NIP Paysage,
was a major element in the 2012 Chelsea Fringe Festival.
Extreme gardening needs an extreme gardener, someone who wouldn’t concern herself solely with plants and plant combinations, and all that those words imply in terms of a world view. Someone who could be crazy, could garden dangerously and push beyond the boundaries of traditional garden design.
I’m not an extreme gardener, but I’d like to be. So I’m searching for new ways to see the landscape that surrounds me. I’m looking for new ways to present this landscape to others. I’m trying to move beyond aesthetically-based gardening to something more substantial, with content and meaning that relates to the present instead of the past.
|Heading out towards a different world?|
I have no idea whether I’ll accomplish this. I don’t know how I will go about it. But I’m searching.
Very interesting. Changing temperatures can be very hard, I know: I went from +32 in Brasília to -12 in Montreal two weeks ago!
As for gardening ina cold climate: have you read Ada Audur Olafsdottír’s The Green House? A lovely novel by an Icelandic writer where roses grown in a greenhouse in Rejavik feature prominently.
Mary, I haven’t read The Green House but will look for it. Thanks for the reference.
It would be extremely painful to go from Perth to the Hat in winter. Back and forth from Montreal to the Hat always brought on a storm with the snow getting deeper the greater the occasion, funny how that works.
So they finally got the word extreme into gardening, they should call it Tuscany gardening another over used word at one point.
I always thought creating a vision in your mind of what the garden will be with its given location is like paint to canvas. Based on one’s knowledge, travels and occasional beer as influences, the expression begins. Walking into the green house to begin the life of a garden is a wonderful feeling branching out into the unknown. Traditional gardens are wonders of the day but to me they are influences as time passes where personal expressions begin.
This would be my Tuscany opinion!
Tuscan gardens are on my to-do list. I’m taking a small group there in April. So overused or not, the words has its appeal! As does snow, in moderation. Just not in cities!
As I look out over Trial Island towards the Olympic Mountains; the snow is where it belongs. I have been to Venice and must get back to Italy again one day, I will take Italian anything! Buona sera!
Always searching!!! Like your photo from Perth….I do love Australia, and have a special place in my heart for Perth, since it is the first place in Australia I landed first time I was there (more than 2 decades ago) which is unusual, since most people land in Sydney. I am guessing your mystery photo is north of Perth. I hope you enjoy the snow as much as you enjoyed the sun and sand.
Amy, you are right. The photo is north of Perth, a LONG way north, in the Kimberley. We were there two years ago on one of the best trips ever. And I agree, not many people get to Perth. What took you to Australia two decades ago?