I love the familiar geography of our western land, especially the lofty and majestic mountains that shape our lives—our climate, our outdoor spaces, and our watershed, here at the edge of the continent. I feel rooted, intensely belonging on this land. I’ve tramped it all so thoroughly, examining the vast sweeps and sparkling grains of its deserts, patting the mosses in its mountains, tasting the clear ringing air atop its high peaks, and wading and swimming its tarns and rivers. I try to bring my love affair with this land into the tiny patches of earth entrusted to my design. My life’s work stems from a belief that design is really a very small portion of a large whole. One is always in the position of needing to step back and view the entirety of the whole, then to assess inward, toward the specifics of the design.
Designing a garden—it’s all about movement. It’s about your movement, walking through the garden, and the experience enhanced by different kinds of movement all around: the fluttering of leaves and swaying of grasses in a breeze; the appearance and disappearance of birds and the scuttling of creatures on the ground; and the inexorable movement of time, which is fundamental to a garden’s soul.
Time is the factor that renders the garden’s special character. Small leaves and unfolding blossoms arrive quickly, you can almost watch. The growth of trees arrives over centuries, by which time other parts of the garden have expired. And, throughout, the whole collection moves and changes every season.
There are weighty elements to garden design: rough, craggy eternal things like rocks; earthy things, like tractors and camaraderie with the workmen; imponderable things like regulatory bodies and boards of directors. And there are also thin, gossamer overlays: frost, reflection, shadows, dew. The interplay along these spectrums of the experience creates a garden’s intense richness.
To design with all this requires a sense of wholeness—a sense of connections—a serious intent, but with a lively play. The appearance of the finished garden is the outcome of the wholeness of the process, the pieces interpreted and stitched together properly. It cannot be programmed; it must be felt, like a tune.
Design is about holding a window up to the unknown and stepping through it. A well-designed garden gives glimpses into meanings far beneath the surface and far beyond our consciousness. It lets us in on secrets so satisfying, they needn’t even be comprehended.