Talking gardens, roses, the language of symbols, sustainability and Christianity

The green walls being made in gardens have more significance as symbols than as practical contributions to sustainability

The green walls being made in gardens have more significance as symbols than as practical contributions to sustainability

Garden designs can communicate with words and images – or they can continue with the silence of abstract modernism.

The drift from modernism to postmodernism continues, but with little knowledge and less thought. A recent post on The Fower Sermon, recalled that the dying Buddha used a single flower to speak volumes. He also advised: “All conditioned things are impermanent. Work out your salvation with diligence.” Christianity has been more concerned with relationships between humans than with the HUMANITY:ENVIRONMENT relationship.
During Europe’s Middle Age, the Rose was an eloquent Christian symbol. The five petals of the rose symbolised the five books of Moses (the Pentateuch), the five wounds of Christ and other pentads. Gazing at a rose, the garden owner could feel inspired and re-assured, as when remembering a famous quotation, a line of poetry, a proverb or the heroic deed of a saint or martyr.
So are there symbols of comparable power for current garden designers to explore? I think many green roofs and green walls fall into this category. Presently, they have more value as symbols than actual contributions to sustaining life on earth. I make no complaint about this – but am deeply skeptical about any practical contribution they might make to saving the planet from climate change, forest clearance, rising sea levels, interruption of the Atlantic heat conveyor – or sin. And if green walls use electric pumps they aggravate the risks we face.

9 thoughts on “Talking gardens, roses, the language of symbols, sustainability and Christianity

  1. Chris

    I dont get the picture. I cannot put it in to context. Is it a garden outside being viewed through a window or a garden inside being viewed through some sort of arch? I agree about green wall and green roofs being symbolic but surely they are there to remind us what we either have, have lost or can have if we work to get them

  2. Christine

    Even if there is a bit of wishful thinking in green walls they are a good reminder of the real value of all things green – and hopefully if we keep our aims high our desire for a greener world will one day become a reality.

    Musing on all things decorative…
    This morning I walked past a florist with a small circular piece of artificial grass outside on the pavement. I have never been taken by artificial grass before – but this particular piece was quite charming…

    And I found myself imagining a space…a cube with four green walls, a green roof (probably cactus?) and an artificial grass floor (that could be rolled up for refresing purposes.)Not sure of the use of the space yet.

    So I dream on…

  3. Tom Turner Post author

    I’d like to see a photo of the artificial turf. I have seen many ugly examples but enough good examples to gave a slight weakness for it myself. Green is a nice colour; soft is often better than hard, mid-tones and non-reflective surfaces produce less glare than light tones and reflective surfaces. ALSO: symbolism is very important.

  4. christine

    Unfortuneately I didn’t take a photograph and I have been unable to find you an image of this particular appealing circular piece of green artificial turf. It was a very ‘naturalistic’ piece of lawn and very healthy looking…

    Perhaps you have a photograph of something like it?

  5. Tom Turner Post author

    I can’ think of anything. And I wonder: what is the key to doing good things with artificial turf? The answer may be: don’t pretend it is real turf.

  6. Christine

    Maybe….That can be a trick of the application….

    1) ie. fool the eye into thinking at first that it is real grass then subtlely shatter the illustion….”well, hang on, …I suppose it can’t be real turf after all.”

    2) An abstract art piece where you construct a plain box with a door (perhspa positioned in an art gallery or public square) and when the person enters the box the inside is grassed (rather than the outside.) In this way the observer is forced to question is the turf real? Perhaps some of the turf is real and some of the turf isn’t!

  7. Marian

    I have felt the same when viewing some of the better landscape architect’s design concept boards. They are full of swallows and butterflies cleverly coming out of the frame, and small children playing, but the space they are actually depicting is still cold and bold and empty.


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