MA student, Aaron Carpenter, takes on Monty Don with pleasant surprise.
I was recently sent the Around the World in 80 Gardens BBC series by Monty Don as a birthday present, and instantly thought thanks mum more unwanted gifts I will never get around to using. But started watching it in the background whilst working on uni work, and very quickly retracted my initial thoughts. Monty Don is a name I associate with Gardeners World, frilly planting borders and slightly sleepy sunday afternoon tv shows, but in this series he really explores the history and theories of historic and contemporary gardens and Landscape Architecture throughout the world in a refreshing and articulate way. One of the moments that really capture my interests in landscape architecture is when Monty Don interviews Mexican landscape architect Mario Schjetnan on Luis Barragan’s work “There are whole discussions, seminars saying Barragan is not a Landscape Architect because he doesn’t work with plants, nonsense its about sky its about light, and its about the notion of connecting the sky with the horizontal, with the ground. thats Landscape Architecture” Mario Schjetnan.
In the series Monty Don visits every garden he sees has changed the world of garden and landscape design. As well as the Mexico episode, the episode on Japan and China I found really fascinating as Monty Don visits some culturally interesting spaces, trying to understand the method and spirituality that is evident in the Japanese and Chinese Gardens. He visits built landscapes then explores the natural landscapes linking design elements to the natural landscape that has such a massive influence in the Japanese and Chinese Gardens. One of which is the Lion Grove in Suzhou built by Buddhist monks in 1342, which is a garden built almost as a shrine for nature. This garden has some beautiful moments but also is a bizarre and surreal space. The obsession that comes across for copying nature is something that really interests me about the gardens, but Monty Don also puts together strong critics about the space highlighting its monochrome appearance and also compares it to more familiar western gardens such as the Victorian Stumpery or Georgian Grotto’s.
Its not only small kitsch gardens Monty Don comments on, but he also looks at the identity of modern cities and there geographical importance for plant growth, and early settlers such as Cape Town in South Africa, and its western influences as well as the use of native plant species used, and the importance of the micro climate created by the Table Top mountain that looms over the city. New york is also visited in the series, and to my relief the program is pre-Highline so there is no talk of it what so ever, allowing us to see other projects in the city, exploring how public spaces become very personal spaces to some people and then by default becoming more of a garden. To discuss this Monty Don interviews Thomas Balsley a Landscape Architect and designer of Gantry Plaza State Park a 2 acre Public Park. Monty Don asks the question what defines a public garden. “Garden when you put that word together with public in my mind doesn’t have to have to be about horticulture at all. Its that place where we can all escape are lives, are apartments, are places we live, where we work or the streets we walk down, its that place where we can transport are selves into another realm. If we have done a good job, its really that we have created a common ground for people to find themselves and each other and to build social connections.” Thomas Balsley
Overall this series is a pleasant surprise which looks at deep theories and areas of landscape and garden design I wasn’t expecting it to view, producing great inspiration for my own work and studies.