Monday, March 28, 2011

Short List 2 - Reinventing Traditions

The two projects on this week's short list take a new look at traditional (edible) garden forms, creating links with landscape architecture history.

[Orangerie at Versailles, via]
We begin at the orangerie, a classic element of landscape design. Originating in Renaissance gardens, the orangerie came to be a status symbol, reflecting the wealth of the owner. Essentially a large and ornate greenhouse,  the term orangerie refers to citrus trees moved outside during the summer, and inside during the winter months. In this way the orangeries is also a power symbol, communicating a mastery over nature. The largest and most famous orangerie housed Louis XIV's collection of orange trees at Versailles.  

[Prinzessinnengarten, Berlin, via]

When I read about Berlin's Prinzessinnengarten, an urban park/farm/education center with mobile beds that are moved inside for the winter, the orangerie metaphor seemed apt. While the garden's creators reference the idea of the nomad to explain the mobile phenomenon, the classic form of the organerie rings truer. Nomads tend to be hunter/gatherers, or in the modern definition of urban nomads, simply people free of  fixed geographical identities. The labor of moving garden beds twice a year, on the other hand, is a labor rooted in defying the limitations of one's fixed place, and of committing to making the best of it where one is.

Another classic element of landscape gardens is the kitchen garden, an area of the garden dedicated to growing herbs and vegetables for the kitchen. When a garden magazine extols you to 'grow your own', essentially they are promoting the renaissance of kitchen gardens. Such gardens can be found in the earliest records of gardening, and provided food and medicine to Indian rajahs, medieval monks and British homemakers, (to name a few), in turn.

[Garden No16 -Bon The, Bon Genre, by Pip Partners, via Plot]

At last year's Chaumont-sur-Loire Garden Festival, a garden dedicated to tea neatly wrapped up many threads in the history of kitchen gardens, and surreally presented it with undertones of Alice In Wonderland. A tea party on a wall, the garden promoted awareness of native plants used for herbal teas. While no real food appeared to be grown in the making of this garden, the paradoxical aesthetic of repetition and whimsy creates a wonderfully intriguing balance.