RELEASING ART IN THE GARDEN

All is not as it seems in the quest for art in the garden. Environmental devastation can pose as woodland.The artist-gerdener's exploration takes a winding path. Sometimes all is not as it seems, and trees do not equal healthy woodland, or organic mulch, healthy soil.

Join me on a winding path of discovery !

Welcome to this website about a search for, discovery of and emancipation through finding art in the garden. We'll explore the possibility of setting free the beautiful design in nature. At the same time we'll be glancing at art about nature such as my own flora and fauna prints, and the happy resonances which occur between making art and looking for it in nature. Below are some of my nature paintings.

a coral fisha fish camouflaged by coral
tiny bells of succulentreproductive strategy in winter

The path of discovery dodges like a rabbit zig zagging between the trees of a home made forest. This introductory page must be frequently rewritten as the website pursues new threads. The process is not formal or linear, but the explorer is determined, peering into impenetrable thickets, cutting and composting swathes of greenery, trampling waist high weeds, and braving snails, caterpillars and stinging nettles with an apron stiff with layers of old paint and a faraway but fevered look in the eye. The following will hint at some of the projects undertaken.

Helping return fertility to the soil, fungi are a vital part of soil life.A mushroom spore 'print' made while culturing mushrooms, which help with nutrient supply, soil building, decay processes and fertility.
cover crop seeds from the pet shopcover crop seeds
liquid plant manureliquid plant manure
wild flower seedswild flower seeds

In the process of discovery and experiment, a large website covering many topics has arisen, that defies being neatly 'niched'. Temporarily, until all the easy clickable links are rebuilt, it will be through the old home page, home gardening, that you can access the groups of topics and through them all articles. You can also very easily just scroll up to the top and click the green tabs above the broad header picture at the top of this or any other page, or click on the sitemap, at the top left of the green tabs mentioned, or click the link at the bottom of this and every page. I welcome you, glad we found each other, wanderer in green, and I hope you enjoy interacting, both reading the articles and leaving your own questions and comments in the forms at the bottom of each page.

Mustard has a biblical reputation, and its also an easy green vegetable, a spice and a soil improver.Mustard has a biblical reputation, and its also an easy to grow green vegetable, loved by insects, and is a spice and a soil improver.

Sensing art in the garden

The experience of all senses integrate to guide the searcher towards nature's blueprints and plans. Information comes to the nose of biological activity and the heady reproductive work of flowers luring bees. Our eyes inform us of the geometry of growth patterns and the colors of camouflage (that could inspire lovely textiles). Taste tells of the freshness of herbs bursting with beneficial phytochemicals, and if one could taste the soil, of the sweet sugars pumped into the ground by healthy plants as they regenerate the life in the soil. In awe and wonder at what nature is able to accomplish without help, the seeker wishes to be midwife, even in a small urban backyard, to the rebirth of a piece of mostly unmanaged wildness.

technology of natureGreen technology in nature using only sunlight and air.
Artificial wetland. Copying nature is hard work sometimes.Artificial wetland construction, arduously copying nature.

The invisible hand

After years of planning and toil, we learn to be less busy in the garden, or rather, to do less and observe more. We allow the innate art in the garden to be set free rather than pursue it, and we are gifted with an innate design of the highest most elegant kind. Nature's art is self organizing, beautiful, infinitely rich in meaning and never reduced by analysis. Watching, the person calling themselves a gardener sees that they have gardened less and less over the years, that is they have acted out less, and that most of the work, the building, the destruction, the trimming, seeding and the nursing is done by invisible hands with infinitely fine skill and artistry.

Haemanthus plantHaemanthus plant
Cotyledon orbiculataCotyledon painting
Acacia thornsVachellia thorns

No artist can reproduce the patterns, glowing colors, and delicate forms of flowers, no dancer capture exactly the moves of a butterfly. No gardener can copy exactly the artistry in the garden or what the garden does for itself, we can only follow its lead. We can only suggest, refer symbolically to something greater than us, try and take a posture on this untrammeled splendor and what we humans have done with it.

With a flutter and skitter, our path changes course slightly from searching in gardening alone (see the old home gardening page) to the explicit combination of art and gardens. Just how the relationship will evolve, time will tell. In the initial season, the cross fertilization appears to be very fruitful.

In search of environmental friendliness and fertility, we compost humaure.For environmental friendliness and fertility, we compost humaure.

Where may we be heading in our search for art in the garden ?

The content of this website is much like a blog, but organized in the typical hierarchical tree of websites, rather than the linear string of a blog. The reason is to make it possible to browse topics of interest and glide effortlessly between an overview and a close up.

The search for the art in the garden is through gardening practice, ecological and horticulture experiments, reading, writing, painting and printing. The aim is a glimpse of the design to be found within nature herself and how to work with it and within it. First this was a dimly conceived goal, by naming the website green idiom. That is, a way of conceiving things or seeing them, and describing them, down in the nitty gritty of language, that aligns with and deeply respects nature, and looks for ways of living that offend her less.

drying cyprus seedsdrying cyprus seed
urine cleaning washingurine cleans sheets
disinfecting fish spawntreating fish spawn

Some places the search has visited:

NATURAL AND WATER-WISE GARDENING

The first articles on this website were about building backyard gardens, and how to garden naturally using organic additives with minimal interference. Early on there was a strong emphasis on water-wise gardening, and conserving soil with total plant cover and indigenous plants.

building the greywater recycling systembuilding a filter to catch solids when recycling kitchen greywater.

PERMACULTURE

Permaculture provided a system that answered many of my questions on gardens that flourish. Exposure to permaculture also brought food production into the previous gardening ethos. Staying with soil cover, no till, and mostly native plants, articles on perennial food plants, with some foraging and edible weeds and herbs were produced.

fertility issuessmall roots frustrate
greens under attackgreens under attack
wild and poisonous ?wild & poisonous ?

Finding it a very difficult task to produce enough food on a small urban plot, and reduce labor and inputs, the goal of self reliance transmuted into satisfaction with plenty of diverse greens, herbs and berries from the garden, which commercial food supply chains are not so good at delivering fresh anyway. Greens are the basis of any healthy diet, be it low carbohydrate, paleo, vegan or Mediterranean.

The first blossoms of a new apricot treeThe first blossoms of a new apricot tree

In search of hardy berry plants, natives were used a lot. The permaculture food forest idea led to a lot of reading on forest creating, and doing a webinar with a world famous forest creator.

Assembling a domed tent for a township workshop.Assembling a domed tent for a Langa township workshop.

Permaculture advocates caring for people, and volunteering shaped my learning experience. A future with a non money economy is goal to many in permaculture, but a realistic caring approach should integrate the need to earn, for the time being. We are stuck in a money economy for now. Time is the most irreplaceable and scarcest resource we have. People care should also involve finding ways to reduce labor, so that more people can manage growing food and making a living.

I wild tree fruit, bitter but sweet, build a wild mother.I wild tree fruit, bitter but sweet, made a dense wild vinegar mother.

Personally, the problem of making a living has been frustrating, and dictated my path, and I can't just do what I want. I think most humans are in this with me. The harder it is to make a living the more it probably restricts your options. My material needs are very few so that I don't need a lot of income, but money is unavoidable. I dream of integrating spirit, home, food, garden, and earning. For anyone, this would accomplish spending most time doing what one loves. It saves on the most precious resource, time, as one activity can double up, or quintuple up into satisfying multiple human needs.

pineapple, numnum, pear, herb, vinegarspineapple, numnum, pear, herb, mulberry vinegars

I tried growing vegetables and making pickles and berry vinegar, selling herbs and plants, and making cosmetics, I tried giving workshops, creating and selling books, making websites about food and gardening, and offering my garden design skills. These types of businesses have succeeded for people I know in permaculture. My wild yeast vinegars didn't sell, other people with better connections succeed. I'm consuming them four years later and they are more exquisite than any vinegar I've tasted.

After many ideas and many struggles, I returned to what I've spent most of my working life with, making applied art, and finding it makes me excited and happy again. I'm hoping that if I can make art about plants, ecology and growing food, integration will be accomplished, and unite the various activities of living and one's life history. But there is always struggle, and it will continue.

bits from the garden so crushed full of vitamins you can taste themfood from the garden, tangy with fresh vitamins.
Washing away the summer heat in the reservoir we built with sweat and patience.Surviving summer, the sweat of building is over.

NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE

A family health crisis necessitated extensive research on nutrition, based on online webinars and MOOC's on related topics, leading to a number of articles of broad health interest. Many health experts advocate living like our ancestors, with healthy circadian rhythms, physical hardship, fasting, plenty of exercise, organic food in season, and lack of exposure to processed food and industrial agriculture's pollution. The things we did instinctively in our rural past have turned out to be good in complex ways. It is almost as though it were cleverly planned.

Months of effort building an artificial greywater wetland turns out wellMonths of effort building an artificial greywater wetland turns out extremely well, and the book is available right here.

REGENERATIVE GARDENING

Soil advocacy through Kiss the Ground delivers an encyclopedic justification for soil regeneration, and for the gardener, supports simple old fashioned ecologically sound gardening. Regenerative agriculture is based on imitating the effect apex predators had on grazing herds of animals. By keeping herds moving, the predators kept grassland at peak photosynthesis, creating soil health and sequestering carbon. These days we substitute with movable electric fencing and frequent pasture changes. 

Even in a small urban garden, we can build a beautiful, low cost, self perpetuating, natural carbon sequestration machine. The regenerative principles of minimal disturbance, permanent soil cover, increasing diversity, leaving roots in the ground and integrating animals are possible. In the city, the animals could be small, such as chickens, or medium sized, such as us. We can use our dung and cut back and trample the plants to imitate the effect of grazing animals. Perennial vegetables, chop and drop weed control and the conservation of useful weeds and native plants for diversity in the garden will help restore our soil. The benefits are too numerous to mention here, and I'm naming only a few: Healthy soil reduces drought damage and soil erosion, the richer soil life results in more nutritious food, cleans water biologically and the soil sponge it creates maintains full rivers. Every restorative gardener is helping. Applied globally, soil regeneration could sequester enough carbon to stop global warming over the course of time.

THE GARDEN AS A SITE OF ACTIVISM AGAINST GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION

Individual restorative gardeners are working against many destructive forces. Some of these are environmental and water pollution, soil loss, ill health form industrial food, degradation of natural ecosystems and loss of diversity. One can actually play an active role in the conservation of insect species, by increasing plant diversity in the garden. Without pollinators many fruiting vegetables would not bear, causing food scarcity. To increase plant diversity it is necessary to have some indigenous plants and some weeds. Markus Gastl is a German gardener who started a global network of insect gardens. In Germany the majority of wild flowers thrive on nutrient poor soil, as do our exceptionally diverse Fynbos plants in the Cape province of South Africa. The wild flowers support insect diversity. This shows that making soil maximally fertile, for which permaculture or regenerative farming supply the means, should not be applied across the board, is not a solution to everything. Each garden or natural area should have some low nutrient soils to provide the maximum diversity of flowering plants to support the most diverse habitat for insects, and the greatest insect diversity.

Leave them be and our native carnivorous snails will increase.Leave them be and our native carnivorous snails will increase.

Rewilding by definition uses the reintroduction of apex predators to restore wild ecosystems. It has been found that they heal broken ecosystems and rebuild ecosystem function. Reintroducing big carnivores may not be possible everywhere, but successful conservation practice is exploring ways of getting on with lions, and other wild carnivores and large herbivores. On farms, regenerative agriculture can restore many elements of ecosystems and landscapes without the apex predators, and regenerative gardening in urban areas can surely do this too. However, as the big predators play such and important role keeping ecosystems healthy, it is I think, necessary to inform oneself about them, even as an absent element, to try and determine what effect the absence has and how one can remedy it.

In microcosm, small predators, like our carnivorous native snails, are vital to a garden's health. Many carnivorous beetles and wasps are killed by insecticides, but if left to flourish they hunt our insect pests.

No wordsNo words enough

MY GARDEN, MY TEACHER.
DISCOVERING THE ART

The garden can be a site of activism, and a laboratory for finding less destructive ways of meeting some humans needs, and most instructively, it is a bit of potential wildness, that we can observe. A gardener learns, through failure and success, many things about the greater garden in nature around us, beyond the garden, and the awesome completeness and apparent intelligence, or even design, that maintains natural systems. Our teachers are growth and decay, plants, soil, water, insects, birds, weather, harvesting and labor. These and other multiple sources teach us of the artfulness of nature, the art in the garden, Fukuoka, Finian Makepeace, Miyawaki, Lawton, Guerilla House, Zayaan Khan... and dear old mum !

ARTISTS FIND ART IN THE GARDEN

A combination of blogging, making art and gardening can be a tough and a deep learning journey, especially as they integrate. I found that researching on the plants in our designs produced information about their pollinators, chemistry, and cultural significance. Human needs were blatantly woven into the natural world, not separate.

There are thousands of artists who love or loved their gardens. Monet, Matisse, Frieda Kahlo and Nolde are some of the famous names and lesser known artists and their gardens multiply the interesting and divergent ways in which gardens and art intersect.

As time progresses, the garden becomes a bearer of symbolism, now more than ever, of paradise lost. Perhaps we can fix what we broke in ignorance. Perhaps without us it would fix itself. It is bigger than us. Most of us hope for a greener idiom to spread through art and society.

Below are the tabs in the navigation bar at the top of the website, also found as headings in the site map, to help you find your way through the diversity of topics that have been covered in this website's evolution.

Water saving systems and water-wise gardening

Perennial food plants

Organic and easy to grow vegetables

Healing herbs

The uninvited: animal diversity in the garden ('pests')

Fertility and soil

Design

Beyond gardening

Your health and your garden

Green products for home and body

Art prints

You’re a home gardener ! Share your experiences and questions !

We all know about home gardening. Tell us about your successes, challenges and ask about issues that bother you. You may have the luxury of a back garden, but there are other ways we learn. Few people age without growing something or buying vegetables during their lives ! It is absolutely guaranteed that you have learned things which can help others on their gardening journey.

We invite you to share your stories, ask questions, because if a thing has bothered you it will bother others too. Someone may have a solution ! No question is too small. There is learning for everyone involved, for you, for me (yes, I learn from every question), for us all. Exciting stuff !

We are starting on a new journey. Every week we will profile your letters ! The best stories and questions we receive.

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

adding joy to the garden 
For the garden as therapy nothing beats a garden swing. Return to the carefree moments of childhood for a few minutes, meditate and relax. This swing cost …

Ficus, oh ficus 
I have a complex relationship with my ficus tree: it's the air conditioner for the house, holds up the tree house and shades half the garden, but it sheds …

Ficus, oh ficus 
I have a complex relationship with my ficus tree: it's the air conditioner for the house, holds up the tree house and shades half the garden, but it sheds …

Click here to write your own.

site map

I've been writing for four years now and I would love to hear from you

Please let me know if you have any questions, comments or stories to share on gardening, permaculture, regenerative agriculture, food forests, natural gardening, do nothing gardening, observations about pests and diseases, foraging, dealing with and using weeds constructively, composting and going offgrid.

[ ? ]

Upload 1-4 Pictures or Graphics (optional)[ ? ]

 

Click here to upload more images (optional)

Author Information (optional)

To receive credit as the author, enter your information below.

(first or full name)

(e.g., City, State, Country)

Submit Your Contribution

  •  submission guidelines.


(You can preview and edit on the next page)

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Privacy policy