Rock Garden Quarterly Spring 2012 - (Page 174)

Rock and Ink Struck into Flowers - a Response Brian Bixley IN HIS ARTICLE, "Rock and Ink Struck into Flowers" in the Fall 2011 issue of the Quarterly (vol. 69, #4) Robin Magowan writes, “The Canadian gardener Brian Bixley once asked whether it is possible to create a ‘great’ garden without substantial wealth. Try as I might, I’ve found myself unable to grasp the lure of a ‘greater perfection’. . . You can make an excellent garden on a small urban lot, or the deck of a suburban home, or the windswept terrace of a Manhattan apartment” (p.346). I read anything that Robin writes with great pleasure. He writes about gardening with a poet’s pen, while his poetry is, happily, uncorrupted by his gardening preoccupations. I think he is making two points, that he is not much interested in the idea of better and worse when it comes to gardens (“unable to grasp the lure of a ‘greater perfection’”), and that even if he were, he sees no link between wealth and ‘greatness’ in gardens (“You can make an excellent garden…”). These two points are in response to a passage in my Essays on Gardening in a Cold Climate, reviewed very handsomely in the NARGS Quarterly by Robin himself. Let me consider the points in order. Few of us are indifferent to judgments of value, especially when it comes to the arts. We – and I shall return to that ‘we’ – accept that Mozart was superior to Salieri, Beethoven to Dittersdorf, Shakespeare to Beaumont and Fletcher, Monet to Cassatt. It might be safer to say that there is a ‘set’ of painters, composers, playwrights and poets who are judged to be greater, in their fields, than the rest of us, the left-over set. Perhaps Robin would dispute this or, alternatively, that he accepts that such judgments come to be widely accepted but is not personally interested in knowing what those judgments are, about his own garden or anyone else’s. This is an admirable withdrawal from the world, but the judgments will go on being made, by the relevant critical community – the ‘we’ I alluded to above - whether or not he is unable (does he mean unwilling rather than incapable of?) to grasp the lure of such comparisons. The question I raised in my piece concerned less the way in which such judgments were made in the gardening world, but in the strange correlation, as compared with the other arts, between wealth and ‘greatness’ in the creation of gardens. Here is what I wrote: “One of the peculiarities of the history of the garden as art form has been its concentration on the gardens of the rich, as though only the rich made gardens, or made gardens sufficiently important to be studied. 174 Rock Garden Quarterly Vol. 70 (2)

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rock Garden Quarterly Spring 2012

Geoffrey Charlesworth Writing Prize
2011 Photo Contest Winners
2012 Photo Contest Announcement
Seven Unheralded Axioms of Rock Gardening
Rock Gardening from Scratch: Vegetative Propagation - Understanding Cuttings
Newfoundland's Southern Limestone Barrens
William J. Dress, 1918-2011
DNA and the Changing Names of Plants ... and Making Sense of the Dicots
Jennings Prairie
Carl Gehenio, 1922-2011
Rock Gardening Roots
Plants that Dazzled me in 2011
Phipps Conservatory
Rock and Ink Struck into Flowers - A Response
Bulletin Board
2012 - Eastern Study Weekend: October, Pittsburgh - Registration form and details

Rock Garden Quarterly Spring 2012