1. To do a book review is a bit luxurious. But does all my work need to be toil? No. I like to read and write, document, and photograph and so I have incorporated it into the work of Buffalo Horticulture. The time spent I justify as Buffalo Horticulture offering me a productive space where elements of my 'scholarly work' can be seen as creating value. It is part of the practice - practice as opposed to theory; practice as repetition towards proficiency; practice as an exercise of my profession; “Buffalo Horticulture” as a practice and/or the practice of Buffalo Horticulture.
2. Intent. Martha Stewart's new book, called “A Practical Guide to Growing, Gathering, and Enjoying” a casual reader may take it as a “How To,” a manual, instructional. But it never really takes up an authoritative voice or position. Generally it just describes how the gardens came to be. Not “this is how to do it” but “here is the path we took - you can follow.”
4. Process. But to speak of it as suspiciously formulaic or corporate is a bit negative - it is to see it as a manual, a “How To.” I never really read it this way. I identified with the process or the work and experimentation being described. The motivation behind the work was to grow some cool flowers (although, the scale of production seems to be unnecessarily monumental. I’m not quite sure what she did with an acre of peonies.), arrange them, stage them, live with them, photograph them. My imagination of the texts production is not of “Martha” sitting at a table with pen and paper but her walking around the garden and pouring over the photographs others took of others arrangements and orally giving a quick story of each and then having “the writer” generate the text. Credits for work are scattered around but the overall project is put together with a list of photographers, collectors, arrangers, stagers, etc. And this is not to take anything away, its just that method of production for the representation made, the aimed for form of a book.
5. Way of being. I direct this attention to the process because I think it important to distinguish what it is. The book doesn’t sponsor a field of commodities and provide detailed cultivar lists that every garden should have, it suggests a creative process one may live by, of research, design, imagination, planting, harvesting, bringing the garden into the home. Interacting with the garden, as opposed to passive landscapes, and bringing flowers into the home creates a certain quality of life and living. Its not rich. Most minimally can find a bare soil patch they can guerrilla plant with a 79 cent seed pack. Its about imagination and contact with the the forces that make life emerge from seeds and the soil. Its about the seasons, the weather, patterns, death.
6. A garden is for leisure. Just as one may make discoveries strolling about unknown places in a city so to do we discover with direct relationships to the soil and the outdoors. A garden requires work but it is not necessarily toil. We may also see it as tending and giving care. Landscapes are different. They are more about economic values and property; work on a landscape is toil. Landscapes are measured by the maintenance required of them - everyone wants “low maintenance.” This is fine. It is a skill I have worked towards mastering. But, to draw parallel to the structure of a house, when we wish to have low maintenance, we get plastic windows and vinyl siding. So let us be cautious and careful. They may intentionally create worlds that do not require any attendance or caring. So let us actively consider the low maintenance landscape so that when we build it it embodies some kind of care.
Landscape designer and Proprietor of Buffalo Horticulture