Thursday, June 21, 2007

WWZD? What Would Zappa Do?

This says it all for me! Check this shot from the Santa Barbara Mission. Dasylirion longissima with a Euphorbia resinifera. This composition was just sitting there in a grouping of large pots, minding it's own business, paying no attention to me. The perfection of the juxtaposition of the dark green needle-like leaves and the ghostly stout vertical architecture of the euphorbs say it all.

For me, it was like entering a sacred temple where a master had been, and feeling the presence of wisdom. Have you ever looked at a Japanese sumi-e scroll? A few gestural lines, seemingly unconscious, but capturing the essence of its subject in just a few strokes of the brush. That's what masterful, zen-like plant composition does for me.

I've been math phobic since 8th grade when I was put in an accelerated algebra class, so I can't say I completely get it when I hear about mathematicians who see beauty in equations. But when I look at a simple yet brilliant plant composition, for me it's all about ratios and proportions and rhythm.

In the composition above, how much dark green does it take to balance 'X' amount of pale gray-green? The central upright clump of dark green repeats the rigid vertical of the foreground, but then, to create the contrast that any fine work of art needs, gravity pulls the outer leaves into a soft arch, then lays them nearly horizontal.

If this composition were music, it would be about variations on a theme, in this case cylindrical forms in varying scales. And just to complicate things slightly, there are those tiny magenta flower buds topping the euphorb, sort of like random notes borrowed from a Frank Zappa musing.

No disrespect intended, but keep your pink and lavender and yellow and mauve Martha Stewart flower beds. Your cone flowers and roses and brown-eyed susans and glads. Gimme plants used as sculpture, as unresolved conflict, as an expression of the vast varieties of form and texture and foliage color that will keep me designing for the next century. Nuff for now.


Anonymous said...

The photo in the foreground is euphorbia??? Let us know when you ID it, will ya?

Diana said...

Love the picture!

I wish the local nursury carried good stuff like this. Maybe if people had better choices we would see more interesting stuff.

Unknown said...

The comment made by Diana is right on the mark. Garden Centers tend not to carry lots of “like climate” plants since they don’t sell as well as other plants. I am always trying to get people to try plants with interesting form and structure. “Don’t you have anything more colorful?” and off they go to the Zinnias.
As people learn to appreciate our unique climate and are shown how beautiful like climate plants can be they will come around. One of our most popular workshops is “Mediterranean gardening in a Mediterranean Climate”. There is lots of interest and the same complaint as Diana, not enough selection in local garden centers, as well as un-knowledgeable staff.
We are working on changing that as I would like to have the best selection of “like climate” plants for the Sierra foothills and mountains. No one else around here is doing that and it’s time is coming. As water supply becomes even more of a concern, especially when we have our next big drought we will be poised as the place to go for this type of landscaping. Besides it’s an attractive look that can only be replicated in about 2% of the worlds land mass. How unique and special our landscape is.

Anonymous said...

Love the forms and the contrasts here. Very exciting stuff. It is cool to know that a garden can look interesting, intriguing and challenge viewers with a different perspective.

Chryss said...

I've been really enjoying the show!
Not sure if you're ever up for a blogsphere "meme," but they can be kinda fun. I tagged you for "8 Fun Facts" if you choose to play...
Queen Whackamole

Garden Wise Guy said...

Mystery Euphorbia identified! Thanks to Virginia Hayes (curator at Madame Gana Walska Lotusland) for the genus. The small foreground plant in this photo is Euphorbia resinifera.