A Summer Home for the Family, On Earth and in the Sky

Here we are in a community garden in Stein am Rhein, Switzerland, an old roman fortress, and before that a 4000-year-old settlement where Lake Constance becomes the Rhine.

A shaded picnic bench for the parents, in the middle of the garden, and a magpie nest for the kids, up in the sky, where they like it.

Rome, and the old sub-alpine culture might be gone, but its shadow can be very fiine!

Water Sprouts

p1420239

Beurre D’Anjou Pear Tree in Healing Mode

In pre-scientific knowledge, these vertical shoots, the result of aggressive and wrong-headed pruning, are known as “water sprouts”. The old knowledge says it well. The principle here is that water sprouts from the heart of the tree, dries in the sun, takes shape and hardens. This is solid indigenous knowledge. “Modern” thinking counters that knowledge by noting that a skewed nitrogen/hormone balance in the tree favours growth over fruiting. If left untouched, it will favour fruiting in time.

pear

Meadow Pear Tree

Indigenous Fruit culture in Hübli, Zurich Overland

The old way and the new are not in conflict. Pruning clippers are.

A Walk in the Fog

Boundaries show the limits of consciousness. When they are foggy, magic happens. Look how this grove inhabits the fuzzy boundary of the fog. It holds to itself and yet extends, not only across the pasture but into the fog. It makes sense. The grove is all about holding to itself and yet remaining open, drinking wind and eating light. Is it an active force? The question is absurd. It is a balance.p1300783

Now, look what happens when we pull back and include a human boundary called a wall. The tree is ‘contained’. It does its magic work within a human frame. That frame is what we call ‘civilization’. Note how it walls us out as much as it walls the tree in. To get to the tree we have to pass through the wall. We can be either on one side of it or another, but not both at once… unless we take the wall down stone by stone and carry them back to the quarry where they were once dug.

p1300780

Fortunately, we have other metaphysical technologies. The one below is called a “way” or a “path”. In North America, we would call it a “trail”, but that’s a peculiarly colonial word, as fragile and riddling as a wall. A path is better. A way that extends to no end, from no beginning. A dancing ground, so to speak.

p1300847

The trees know this. Look.

twist

These paths for water rising into the sky don’t dissolve with the seasons. The tree neither lives outside of them or only at their tips. They are not histories. They are moments of presence. Now, add the wild. In this case, an ibex. This non-human point of view makes the entire scene as wide as the universe. It looks back, not just out of this animal, but everywhere at once.p1300861

That looking and that presence is who we are. Walls have contexts. They are not the path.

p1300913

They are not the way.p1300903

The way is not through the trees. It is among them.

Flower Trees

In Germany and Switzerland, many garden walls are built quickly out of gravel dropped into wire cages. It’s quick, it looks better than military grade concrete, and it gets rid of rocks you might not know where to put. This post is about flowers, but to give you some context, here’s what the rock thing looks like:

Basalt in a Cage Limberg

On the way up to the ruins of Limburg castle, at the end of the Kaiserstuhl wine region, a huge pile of loess sitting in the middle of Upper Rhine Valley and called, in true Austrian understatement (yes, it looked East once), the Seat of the Emperor. Most cages hold much smaller rocks, but when you want to show off your volcanic past, this is a good way. 

A clever town gardener in Wald, Switzerland, has adapted the technique to a more horticultural end. Here we are in the middle of town…

Island of Flowers

Complete with vertical elements. And don’t worry about the metallic look. I had to work hard with sight angles and photoshop filters to get the metal to show up in the photographs. In the open air it largely blends into the light.

No more messing around with weird, bent, rusted and collapsing tomato cages or bizarre constructions of pressure treated wood, wire, and drip hoses that look best only when observed at speed. Here’s a closer look…

Any Plant, Anywhere, Anytime

An entire new landscaping palette! Instead of sprawling along the ground or blowing in the wind and getting ripped to shreds, plants can grow here in a protected, vertical space.

Who needs a house wall, even, for a vertical garden? Simple, readymade technology to the rescue! Entire garden walls can be built in this way, for a few weeks, a few months, a season, or permanently. The flexibility is almost endless. The use of space is inspiring. And no rocks!