Is it Real?

Have you ever watched a blue heron fishing? There it is standing stock still readying itself to snap up an unsuspecting fish? For an age you and it wait, but nothing happens. You start to doubt, Is it real? It doesn’t move, then gradually there is the dawning realization that it isn’t real, it’s plastic!

Plastic flowers too can be so real seeming, it’s hard distinguish them from the real thing. While in the Temple in The Netherlands a few of us gathered for a meeting beside the fish pond where a blooming Water Lilly sat amidst glistening leaves. I kidded the guests, It’s not real you know. A shadow of a doubt was sewn, successfully but not for long! Just what is it about coming upon the man-made in nature that is both strangely attractive and deeply disturbing at the same time?

In the photo above all is well with the world, nature is going about it’s business of blooming and leafing. But what is that rising above the bushes? A head. A real head, or what? In actual fact it’s the Angel of the North standing beside the A1 greeting visitors with wings outstretched. Art placed in natural surroundings, especially sculpture on any scale, finds me examining my conceptions of…well gardening actually!

I think the disturbance is about the truth of impermanence. Creating successful gardens is, it seems to me, about working with impermanence with a light and playful hand. And I hope gardeners will continue to place sculptures within their creations. Yes, and I hope to see the occasional plastic pink flamingo or pixie in their shrubberies to disturb us even more!

It’s good to have our realities challenged.

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3 thoughts on “Is it Real?”

  1. Real is such on odd word.

    Thanks for the post. It’s thought-provoking – strangely attractive and deeply disturbing at the same time.

  2. Thanks for an interesting post. It is a subject very close to my heart and head at present – the nature of the ‘real’.
    I think man made demonstrates the work of the rational controling mind – ego at work, the formation and protection of ‘self’ out of the ‘real’. Art be it sculpture or gardening can demonstrate the tension between impermanence and our desires. The man made / nature divide (an illusion)brings us up sharp against the reality of our predicament. I find hope when I have the faith that the path from the ego self to the real is devine. I find depresion when neither the ego nore the reality of impermanence seem valid.
    Is that part of what is so disturbing about the deception of plastic flowers I wonder?

  3. One of the most extraordinary gardens I have visited was a cloister-garden made by a group of nuns at a hospice. Beautifully proportioned yew and box hedges, enclosed by pleached limes and immaculately maintained it was a peaceful and harmonious space that generated a sense of well-being that all good gardens have. And in the corner was a plastic flamingo and a group of painted gnomes. It was unsettling, but it also made me smile. A very light and playful hand had been at work. One of the nuns explained that in their work and in their prayer it was also important to smile.

    I’m just in from the garden and your post has reminded me that one of the very many joyous aspects of gardening is having to be very focused in the job you are doing, thinking about what the plant you are tending needs right now and at the same time aware of the work you’ve done so far and imagining the plant in six months or six years. And all of that encompassed in one fleeting moment.

    Sounds like you may have inherited some of your mother’s green fingers


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