Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Burlesque Principle of Garden Design

You don't want to see everything at once...

This may appear esoteric even by my own standards but bear with me. I have a point, nay an academic principle to propound. And I have been thinking about this for a while.

Garden design is a bit like stripping*. The posh sort, of course, but getting your kit off nevertheless. In the same way that you don’t (so I am led to believe) see a lady walk on stage, drop her metaphorical towel, go ‘ta dahh!’ and walk off again, you want a garden to tease you a bit.

The concept is well known, garden rooms are ten a penny, but the comparative epiphany came when I recently visited a garden that needed a little mystery. It showed its, undeniably outstanding, best feature off immediately ...but then there was nothing much left to keep you hanging on.
Really good gardens are the ones that keep you guessing. The ones that captivate, that go on and on with surprise views, distant temptations and sudden flurries of excitement and beauty. The ones that make you go ‘wow’ not just the once but over and over again as they gradually reveal their charms.
Those burlesque girls have those big, feathery things, lacy edges and gauzy drapes for a reason. And that reason is that the delights you are anticipating are more thrilling if you wonder and yearn for a glimpse, try and peep around corners and generally have time to wonder whether she can actually walk in those shoes, where she got the lingerie from and exactly how much yoga one would need to do to look like that (or maybe that is just me).
Alluring peep-hole hedging

Gardens have curves and corners too, dense cloaking evergreens and gauzy birches and grasses, iron corsetry, fine bone-structure and graceful movement. They should lead you on beguiling and tempting and the visit should end with a sense of a journey well travelled; elegant and fragrant discoveries made. Not a sense of ‘was that it?’.
As googling ‘burlesque’ (but not as googling ‘garden design’, curiously,) will tell you, it should be ‘Flirty fun and fabulous’. Not blatant and swift.
Access all areas?

So, boys and girls, this is not so much gratuitous mental imagery and an attempt to get my blog hit rate up as a (slightly)serious point. Next time you think ‘it’s lovely but what on earth is it doing hidden around there?!’ it is the garden design difference between Dita von Teese and Rene the Dockers Delight** at work. You may not see everything, all at once, and you may spend a bit more money (plants, underwear, whatever) in the process. But the results will be worth it.

I don’t have any pictures of burlesque – that is what the internet is for – but here are some conceptual illustrations. I rest my case.

*This does not in any sense equate garden designers with strippers. Its about the garden as an entity, not the person who makes it pretty.
**And no-one wants carrying on with stokers from the coast of Kuala Lumpur in their herbaceous border, no matter what the Small Faces have to say about it.

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