Is Garden Design a form of Art?

There are only two ways to create a garden.

In a world where nothing seems simple it is hard to imagine this can be true, but to some extent it is.

It is difficult to argue that a well-designed garden is not a work of art but if it is a type of art then it is a practical one and one that works with nature to weave something new.

When it comes to creating a garden space we do one of two things, we can either add or we can take away.

New gardens tend to be ones were we add to create. We can add soil, water, shape, colour, and plants.

By adding to create a new garden on a bare block of land we create in a similar way to working with clay or painting on canvas but on a massive scale. In a lot of ways this is only the beginning, a very important one to get right but it is simply the start.


There is a second way; an option more open to established landscapes and that is to create by taking away. Landscapes can be carved out by shaping the land with shovels or machinery and by carving out a garden by selectively removing and controlling growth. In gardens where plants are allowed to self-seed or spread with runners or layers we can choose to carve out a garden by leaving only what we want; removing plants here and there and allowing new plants to grow where they and we have chosen.

Carving out a garden is an art akin to sculpting with stone and wood.

Something still appears to be missing with an analogy of art and garden design. To some extent it seems to be one of control and of working with changes over time.

The long-term success of a landscape design goes well past just simply adding to create and involves more than simply creating by choosing how to manage the space and things in it. What is required is that we understand what the landscape itself wants to do.

Rather than comparing garden design to painting or sculpting a closer analogy might be a comparison to making a musical instrument. An instrument that once planted and grown in the ground and with its many strings and valves and reeds is played by the light of the sun, the wind and the rain, the earth and all the living things around.


As gardeners we then find ourselves in a different place, we might be artists working on a big scale but more than that we find ourselves to be part of something bigger-the real world.