viernes, 4 de enero de 2019

Interview with Dan Pearson

Last year I wrote in this blog the ridulous figure of three posts. It was not due to lack of illusion or ideas. Simply to the absence of the most precious good, time. I don't know if I'll have more time this year, but the purpose of the new year is clear. To have a good start, I'm recovering the most interesting text in which I had the opportunity to participate last year. This is an interview with Dan Pearson that I did for the magazine Verde es Vida. Thanks to the people in charge of the magazine and its editorial director Elita Acosta for giving me the opportunity to elaborate the interview, and to Huw Morgan and of course Dan Pearson, for their kindness and generosity.


(Si prefieres leer esta entrevista en español la puedes encontrar en el siguiente enlace: Entrevista a Dan Pearson)

Your country has a strong tradition in gardening. And today the naturalist style gardens of the New Perennial Movement born in Germany and Holland, are successful all over the world. In my opinion, your gardens are an example that both traditions can enrich each other, but what is your opinion on this?

I think that we have had a long tradition of naturalism in our plantings in this country. We could take, for example, William Robinson - he was already doing something that was very naturalistic in the 19th century. The tradition of juxtaposing formality with informality has become a very British thing. Therefore it sits very comfortably in this country.
If we think about what’s been happening in Europe the aesthetic has changed with the New Perennial Movement being given a name. However I think it’s already here if we think about Beth Chatto, her work has been very important here. In fact we’ve been doing this quite naturally for the last 100 years.

Recently you created gardens in places with a strong historical influence (Lower Castle, Folly Farm). What are the keys to bringing these gardens to the present times without altering their historical spirit?

Our work is always driven by a sense of place, working with the history and mood of the place and understanding what the place is about. We then use the mood and ethos of the place to inform how we then update it.
We always acknowledge the spirit of the place with our work. Rather than imposing we work with the place to reveal, strengthen and clarify it.

You have published five books, countless articles and now you write a blog (digdelve. com) that is a world reference among garden lovers. Why is writing important for you?

For me it helps to pin down thoughts that may come and go easily. It’s good to articulate thoughts about landscaping and gardening. When you put your thoughts into words you have to really describe why you’re doing something. It helps to ground an idea, to flesh an idea out properly and move an idea on.
Writing is a good back up to the process of design, it helps you to articulate it in a different way and more thoroughly. When you’re writing about gardening and plants you often have interesting and valid thoughts that can go quickly when you stop what you’re doing, but by pinning them down with words you can capture some of that process. I think that gardening particularly is about the process, not just the end result.

Your writings have frequent references to childhood, memory and the changing seasons. What is the relationship between the garden and the perception of time for you?

I think this goes back to the idea of being in process, of a garden never being finished. When you’re working in a garden you’re linking all three timeframes: the past, the present and the future.  You draw on your experience, you’re working in the present time but you’ll be thinking of what it will be like in the future. In a way it becomes a timeless experience. The here and now is driven by what’s come before and what is still to come.
When designing a landscape or a garden you have to think about large periods of time. For example, you might be planting a small tree but have an image in your head of that same tree in a 100 years’ time. This doesn’t faze you as the process of nurturing that tree and waiting for it to grow is as good as the end result. Gardeners really understand that the process, the wait, the nurturing are all as important and time becomes elastic.


Your gardens and writings are very personal, romantic and literary. Which landscapers and writers have influenced your work?

I think Rousham by William Kent in this country has been very influential in terms of its engagement with an inner and outer world. The landscape draws from its setting, it’s very difficult to tell where the garden begins and ends and the landscape takes over. However, he has also created a very vivid sense of place which feels of another world that feeds the imagination. William Kent has been a very influential gardener for me.
Additionally working in Japan over the last 20 years has been a big influence. The composition of those gardens is so complex and refined. It taught me a whole discipline about restraint and how less is more.

We recently heard the sad news about Beth Chatto. How did her work influence your development as a landscaper?

I first saw Beth in the late-1970’s at the Chelsea Flower Show and her stand was unique because at that point she was the only person working naturalistically with plants. These plants were almost untampered with, uncultivated in a way, but composed in very beautiful combinations that were very much about practical and sensible decisions about things that would grow together aesthetically combined. She had an artist’s eye that supported her practical horticulutal ethos. Her writings were also very vivid and beautiful.
Her nursery was the place, when I started making gardens, that I went to to get plant material that was more unusual. She worked naturalistically in alliance with nature and not battling against it. This for me, from a very early age, always made complete sense. She’s been a mentor for me. However I think she’s been very overlooked, maybe not so much now. It was people like Beth who were carrying the naturalist movement forward in Britain, picking up from where William Robinson left off.

You have successfully created gardens in countries with very different climates, languages and cultural traditions. Do you think gardening speaks a universal language?

Yes, definitely. It allows you to key into a sense of place, the way that things are done in that place. It’s a form of expression. If you’re moving around the world, things are done very differently and we have to learn a different language of different plant communities depending on where we are.
One doesn’t impose, but works with the setting. If you know the language of plants it allows you to be in context and part of that place. So I think there is a universal language, but we have to learn it.

Your work includes large and small gardens, urban and rural, in Mediterranean, Atlantic and Continental climates. Which gardens have been really special for you or have been a particular milestone? Have any of them been a particularly difficult challenge?

I think one of the milestones was Torrecchia Vecchia, a garden in Southern Italy which I started working on 25 years ago. It’s a garden that’s been designed to feel very much a part of its context. The client wanted to make a very informal garden which felt like it was almost part of the wilderness, the wild woodland around it. I had to learn very quickly how to work in the Mediterranean and to do that within a setting which was very fragile but at the same time very strong and potent. That was an important garden for me.
The biggest challenge was not particularly in Torrecchia Vecchia as we were still working with 4 seasons, even though it’s a lot hotter and drier and we had to learn how to manage those things. It’s been a greater challenge working in Hawaii in a tropical environment where I’ve had to learn new ways to work with plants. I’ve created three landscapes in Hawaii for two different clients. These have been much more challenging in terms of learning how things grow in the tropics and how to apply that idea of less being more. It’s very tempting in the tropics to use all sorts of different things because you can, but if you use too much it very soon becomes a jungle - I’ve had to learn about restraint. I was working there for probably around eight years. In that time I think the first three years were a very steep learning curve. Having learned a few basic rules, from working with the people who were helping make the gardens, you can then start to fly. The challenge was there because there are not four seasons; things grow four times as fast as they would in Britain.

In the last few months you've been in the United States and Greece. Do you have new international projects in sight? What are your customers asking for?  

I have four projects in the States, three in California and one on the East Coast. What my clients want is for us to create spaces which are in context. They come to us because they see that our work is driven by a sense of place and there are subtleties to the work and nuance. They are looking for our gentle approach that allows their gardens to sit comfortably in the settings.
Each project is different. We’re doing one in Malibu where it’s very dry. In Greece, for instance, we’re working on a very small island with a very dense forest and we’re managing the project very carefully to reveal the magic of that place because the island has been taken over by the forest. It’s about understanding a place and allowing a place to speak for itself. I think the clients want us to be able reveal gently, even though they know that sometimes we have to make some bold moves to be able to do that.

Many of your gardens have a kitchen garden, and in your new own garden one of the first tasks you did was planting fruit trees. In your opinion, should the ideal garden have an orchard?

I think there’s something very beautiful about being able to go into a garden, pick something and eat it. Growing to eat is a very primal thing; I think we all respond to that. It allows people to really feel part of the place – the energy that they put in can be rewarded.
Orchards for me are very beautiful places, they’re very simple places that people can understand. I don’t always include one in my gardens but we often include fruit trees for these reasons.

What is your opinion about Spanish landscapes and gardens? Will we be able to enjoy one of your gardens in Spain?

Spain has a wonderful climate, especially in terms of its variability with moisture in the far north going right down to Andalucía where you have that amazing desert landscape. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Andalucía, and used to visit the Cabo de Gata regularly and of course I’ve always loved the Alhambra. 
I’ve never worked in Spain, but that wouldn’t mean that I wouldn’t want to. It’s a fascinating country. So one day maybe!

Western societies are increasingly demanding greater attention to sustainability, ecology, ecosystem recovery, etc. What do you think are the keys for gardening in the coming decades?


I think that does allow you to think about those big issues. There has been a very positive movement in the last 10 or 15 years in gardens to be understood properly as ecosystems in themselves. They will collectively become a place where we can preserve and develop ecosystems, where there is a richness of biodiversity. There’s a lot of potential.
We always try and think about how a place can be as dynamic in terms of its stability as possible; this is something that our clients are very interested in as well. More and more people are realising that gardens are important places for these reasons.

1 comentario:

  1. Muy interesante la entrevista. Conozco su blog desde hace poco y ciertamente sigo sus comentarios sobre su nuevo jardín naturalista, intentando sacar alguna idea aplicable a la Barrosa.
    A ver si el próximo año te animas a poner más entradas. Hace tiempo que no sabemos nada de tu jardín.
    Saludos


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