Cultivating wisdom in the garden

Posted by: Heidi

March 1st, 2011 >> Books

As I wait for the weather to be more conducive to spending time in the garden, I’ve been reading about gardens instead. I just finished a wonderful new book, “Gardening – Philosophy for Everyone: Cultivating Wisdom”, edited by Dan O’Brien, a collection of essays that cover a variety of topics from gardening history and architecture to the role of gardens and gardening in the work of philosophers both ancient (Plato and Epicurus) and modern (David Hume). This book explores the question of why gardens mean so much to so many people and presents some answers to why gardens have been so important in human civilization throughout the ages. The contribution of gardening to “the good life” is discussed along with many other kinds of meanings that gardens may have, from their representation of nature to their spiritual significance.

My favourite essay in this collection is “Gardens, Music and Time” by Ismay Barwell and John Powell. In it they argue that gardens are as much concerned with process and time as they are with place. Since Emmanuel Kant first classified landscape gardening as a sub-category of painting, gardening has been seen as a form of visual art. However, unlike paintings, gardens are not static. Just like music, gardens incorporate the fourth dimension, time. Music makes the passage of time audible and gardens make the passage of time visible. Gardening, painting and music, my three favourite things!

This insightful and contemplative book about gardening can be purchased here in Canada:

Gardening – Philosophy for Everyone: Cultivating Wisdom

or here in the USA:

Gardening: Philosophy for Everyone- Cultivating Wisdom

“In gardens we are both spectators and participants.”
~ Ismay Barwell and John Powell

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