Humans have a fascination with two things: nature, the world from whence they came; and order. Gardening is basically the urge to order nature, expressed in a beautiful and enclosed fashion. It’s a way of controlling nature in such a way that it can be beautiful and habitable at the same time. The way this is done? Landscaping.
Landscaping is the art of “designing” an outside space â€“ ordering everything in it, from the wildest bush to the most austere rock garden. That allows a garden to “say” something â€“ to be ordered in a way designed to make inhabitants, or visitors, feel a certain way. It also allows a garden to “be” something â€“ namely, a potted version of nature without nature’s inherent dangers. No beasts looking for their supper, nothing poisonous.
Landscaping achieves its objects simply. Paths divide gardens into segments, or direct wanderers in specific ways. Manicured lawns and ordered flower beds impart a sophisticated air to a garden, deliberately devised â€“ while wilder grasses and outposts of shrubbery encourage selected wildlife (butterflies, for example; and birds) with the intention of bringing specified bits of the outside world. The colours and shapes of plants are used to make a garden into a kind of living picture â€“ while hard furniture (tables; chairs; even decking and sheds) remind users that the garden, the picture, is not the real natural world but one designed for human use.
Landscaping â€“ gardening with definite design â€“ appears to be an utterly unique behaviour. It makes every home owner the God of his or her domain: able to regiment, to order, to decree what will grow and what will not; where it will grow; and what sort of things will live there. That’s not far off creating one’s own universe â€“ as though the idea of gardening was to indulge in a private Creation story where the only things that get cast out are slugs. Humanity, after all, has in one myth or another been cast from a beautiful Garden to spend eternity living in the wilderness â€“ where Things howl at night and shadows frighten. Perhaps landscaping, which offers everyone the chance to reverse that process, is a way of re-inventing the Garden â€“ returning to that beautiful, safe place of outside order we “lost” all those years ago. It certainly allows people to create microcosms of natural space in an unthreatening environment â€“ which means even the most inner-city dwelling can have a little of that quiet reflection Nature bestows on us all.