I was painfully shy as a child, often taking refuge in the forested greenbelt adjacent to our suburban backyard. It was the early 1970s, before children were kept on a short tether, and I was allowed to wander so long as I was home before dark. I would explore paths and climb trees, collecting nature and memories as I went. The forest of my youth was mostly conifers, where an occasional mother tree would establish her dominance, reaching out with a great protective canopy underneath which little could grow. I would adopt the ground beneath and “park it out.” This meant removing debris and creating a garden of collected flowers and plants (sometimes with roots still intact), along with laying small circles of stones. I would sit in the mossy solitude on the forest floor with my back against the trunk, feeling safe in the dappled light. It was an idyllic refuge of my own creation, all done on a five-year-old’s salary.
I grew up to become a painter, a sculptor, and a curator. And with adulthood came the realization that a garden could be a work of art as well as a refuge—a stage where I could create a picture, a mood, and a story. Over the course of 20 years I’ve transformed my small urban lot into a living art installation. It is filled with an array of textures and forms, with visual jewels around every corner and the peaceful serenity that makes it a true oasis. (Doesn’t everyone want that from their garden?) And it has all taken shape under the canopy of a mother tree reminiscent of my youth.
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