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Garden Tips: What is garden art?

10 questions to ponder in any garden

What is art in the garden? Is it the decorations, the sculpture or the fountain? Are pathways art or the perspectives from different parts of the garden? Or is the design of the garden itself? Possibly, and I am sure in some gardeners' minds, the plants themselves are art.

This month, let's look closely at our gardens and the gardens of others. Let's ask ourselves 10 questions to find what works for us, makes us happy and brings serenity, and why.

1. What is your first impression when you enter a garden? Is it the color, textures or form?

2. What do you see first? Where is your eye drawn after that?

3. How does the scale affect you? Is it huge like Golden Gate Park or petite like a knot or herb garden?

4. Are there water features, sculptures or structures such as a pergola, arbor, trellis, fence, gate or bench? How do they complement the overall garden? Note: I am asking you to look for what is right or correct for you; not what is wrong. Finding what is right is more difficult and builds skills that help us become better gardeners.

5. Is the garden you are looking at pleasing, functional, shocking or all of the above? Notice your individual feelings at first sight and then as you walk through the grounds.

6. Has there been extra care taken in the maintenance or is this a folly (garden meant to be just for fun)? Either one has its place, and takes thought and effort to achieve.

7. Is it a seasonal garden, as in a vegetable or rose garden?

8. What flowers are blooming now, and what will be coming next month or six months from now?

9. How much time does it take to get the theme or essence of this garden? Can you sense it in a glance or might it take a lifetime? Note: Some gardens are timeless; one can visit them for years and take away a new experience each time they visit.

10. Is it memorable? Are there elements that catch your interest and give you ideas about how you might want to change your garden?

Good gardening.

Garden coach Jack McKinnon can be reached at 650-455-0687 or, or visit his website,


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