On magic and mystery:
Once, when I was a student, I went for a walk with my girlfriend around the city suburbs at 2 a.m. We strayed into the high-hedged gardens of a convent where it was pretty inky-dark for a town, and we managed to lose physical touch with each other after going through a narrow tunnel of hedge. I crossed the next open space in absolute darkness, arms forward like a cartoon sleepwalker, and suddenly found myself torso to torso with Mary Mother of God. She was cold, white, and just--just--visible in the dark. I was terrified.
It is that quality of experience which deserves to be created in a garden. The tall white statue at the end of a simple green space, like a secret locked in a closet, can be both a strong piece of design and a strong piece of theater. And calm into the bargain. Give the space a seat too if you like. Not a bench--a single seat. Like a confessional. Somewhere to be alone with your thoughts.
I want bits of mystery and darkness in my garden too. Mary Mother of God isn't quite my style, but I love where he's going with that idea.
Other ways to add mystery to the garden: "significant entrances, something beyond which unknown things can happen". He explains,
"There has to be that moment of dark in the theater before the show starts. So make your entrances telling, and maybe the exits too. Closing a door behind you gives a huge feeling, not necessarily of security, but of finality and commitment."
I want to connect that to his discussion of woodland design styles, which I find very appealing:
"It takes surprisingly few trees planted closely enough to make the feeling of a woodland path weaving off among the trunks... The suggestion of a path going into woodland is the promise of a journey into the dark, and makes the environs of the house itself seem safer than ever..."
I feel tempted to try a shady woodland path with Acer palmatum and Acer circinatum on the south side of the garden where it's already shady.
I have the vegetable garden on the sunny north side, and that "productive" element is very important too. Anderton says one expects to find productivity in a garden. Well, I do like a garden that meets simple expectations--especially by unexpected means. More on that later, but back to the subject of productivity, I realized recently that I want to have some cutting flowers in my garden. (That's a desire I feel even more keenly since reading Amy Stewart's recent article on flowers, and hearing her talk at her book signing last night.) Right now, the productive element in my garden is mostly limited to vegetables--a lemon tree, the artichoke, tomato, squash, beets, and the native wild grape--all chosen because I admire their ornamental qualities as well. And the only herbs I grow are the ones that make appealing flowers for pollinators, particularly dill and coriander. Everything has to pull double duty.
Finally, on borders, Anderton says something extremely important in one sentence in a photo caption:
"Yielding to the temptation to have small plants at the front of large borders does not lead to a calm garden."
Do you hear that, gardeners? Plant those big, bold foliage plants right up front!
Ah, so liberating.