Click Here To Purchase The Artful Garden: Creative Inspiration for Landscape Design

Authors: James Van Sweden and Tom Christopher

Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6389-5

The theme of this beautifully written and breathtakingly illustrated book is that great garden design may be enriched when it references and embraces creative elements that are found in the plastic and performing arts.

Such a phenomenon is called synergy in industry and in horticulture it is metaphorically referred to as hybrid vigor. It represents a cumulative result that is superior to the sum of its parts and explains the cross fertilization that sometimes takes place between two artistic disciplines. As composers collaborate with choreographers and sculptors are inspired by painters, the resulting works are often richer and more powerful than what might have been created alone. Similarly, in designing a garden, the authors suggest that the inspiration derived from the arts can raise a landscape to a higher level, making it more creative, and meaningful.

According to Mr. Van Sweden, a garden may be likened to a painting because it can be described as a two dimensional depiction. It is also similar to a sculpture because it is a space through which the eye moves. There is a fourth dimension to a garden because it is constantly in motion due to seasonal change and rhythmic repetition. In that respect, it is similar to music and dance. However, because nature controls the pace of that change, an element of unpredictability is inherent in any garden – and that is its mystery.

In planning landscapes of any size, the reader is boldly advised not to rely upon “horticultural rules of thumb and clichés” as these produce “passionless mediocre results”. Instead of focusing on borders and beds, or paths and meadows, we are encouraged to consciously incorporate what we have observed, or experienced in other media. The authors suggest that the resulting landscape design might resemble a tapestry woven from sky, trees, rocks, vines, flowers, grasses, and space.

To enrich that perspective, Mr. Van Sweden interviewed performance and plastic artists who garden. These include cellist Yo-Yo Ma, sculptor Grace Knowlton, textile designer Jack Lenor and painter Robert Dash. Through their landscape experiences and artistic mindsets, we are reminded about the fundamentals of design that include positive and negative spaces, form and scale, as well as light and shadow. Additional design concepts discovered in these unique landscapes include composition, color, symmetry, line, harmony, contrasts, rhythm and movement - aka music, foliage and texture. Finally, there is a brief discussion about creating the illusion of depth with textures and about layering a garden for mystery and excitement.

This informally written publication offers readers more than inspiration; it gives us insight into the brilliance of a landscape architect who gardens are great works of art. James Van Sweden, along with his partner Wolfgang Oehme, was responsible for introducing his vision of the New American Landscape, an artistic and horticultural achievement that continues to receive international acclaim for more than twenty years since its conception. We are pleased that, with the assistance of Tom Christopher, Mr. Van Sweden has chosen to share with us the art - inspired creative process that makes his gardens beautiful beyond words.


Click Here To Purchase The Artful Garden: Creative Inspiration for Landscape Design