Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Order and Chaos in Gardens

Versailles´gardens. Image from
Versailles´gardens. From

Thinking about gardens, I prefer chaotic gardens with mystic places, those with huge trees and old species. I’m not attracted by neat landscapes, but I cannot say that I don’t dream of enjoying Versailles’ gardens…..I’ve never been there.

From “The Botany of Desire”, by Michael Pollan, page 184 of the NY 2001 edition, I reproduce today this wonderful reflection:

“In 1999 a freak December windstorm, more powerful than any other Europeans could remember, laid waste to many of André Lenotre´s centuries-old plantings at Versailles, crumpling in a matter of seconds that garden´s perfect geometries –perhaps as potent an image of human mastery as we have. When I saw the pictures of the wrecked allées, the straight lines scrabbled, the painterly perspective ruined, it occurred to me that a less emphatically ordered garden would have been better able to withstand the storm´s fury and repair itself afterward. So what are we to make of such a disaster? It all depends: on whether one regards that particular storm as a straightforward proof or our hubris and nature´s infinitely superior power or, as some scientists now do, as an effect of global warming, which is adding to the atmosphere´s instability. In that review, the storm is as much a human artifact as the order of trees is shattered, one manifestation of human power pulling the rug out from under another.

Ironies of this kind are second nature to the gardener, who eventually learns that every advance in his control of the garden is also an invitation to a new disorder. Wilderness might be reducible, acre by acre, but wildness is something else again. So the freshly hoed earth invites a new crop of weeds, the potent new pesticide engenders resistance in pests, and every new step in the direction of simplification –toward monoculture, say, or genetically identical plants- leads to unimagined new complexities.¨

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