Garden Art

Lesser goldfinches at The Los Angeles County Arboretum.  Photo: Jean Sudbury

Lesser goldfinches at The Los Angeles County Arboretum. Photo: Jean Sudbury

Art has always had a place in the garden. Changing seasons, expansive spaces, and a palette of living elements provide an animated gallery space that adds another dimension to the work. Vision, skill, and craftsmanship determine the ultimate success of an outdoor piece.

With this issue we’re taking a look at art intended for a garden setting as well as artists—and gardeners—who are working the landscape as their medium; plants, stones, and the very shape of the land itself provide raw materials for their creative output. Environmental artist Fritz Haeg uses the landscape on a grand scale to focus attention, most recently on Southern California native plants. Los Angeles County Arboretum leveraged their role in his Wildflowering L.A. project to engage visitors while developing an exhibit that will remain long after the wildflowers have faded.

On a more intimate scale, colors coaxed from plants allow us to literally clothe ourselves in nature. And contemporary pressed botanicals capture detail and inform just as preserved herbarium specimens have done for generations. Both media record a moment in the gardening year and provide a closer look at the art of nature. And our series on color continues with Blue, that most precious and elusive hue that gardeners—and artists—have been pursuing for ages.

Whether we’re talking about a sterile fern that’s been faithfully divided and passed along for generations, or hybrid Digitalis, a product of skilled breeding and this year’s “It” plant nearly the world over, vision, invention, growth, and tending are as much a part of the care of a landscape as they are intrinsic to an artist’s creation. As Elia Vargas, a member of Exquisite Gardeners, “a loose coalition of creatives” proclaims: Art is growth. As gardeners, I think we all know a bit about that.