I had the pleasure of recently reading a book by Philippa Lewis called, “Everything You Can Do In The Garden Without Gardening.”
Being a fan of gardening and enjoying a garden, the title alone piqued my interest. The book went into way too much detail of historical elements of garden useage for my impatient mind so I skimmed through and found some wonderful tidbits. If you have time to read it at length, and enjoy history, I recommend doing so. At my reading pace I was able to gather a terrific list of things that the garden is just plain useful for. These I’ll describe in the order Ms Lewis wrote them; it’s basically her table of contents with my editorial:
1. Escape: the garden is a place to leave people, technology, stress and more behind. Unless, of course, you invite someone to join you, then you both can use the garden for escape.
2. Inspiration: The garden has been a source of inspiration for painters, poets, and me.
3. Fresh air and exercise: There are some great (meaning “large”) gardens that were made for walking around in and can take a while to go through. I suppose you could run through a garden, too. Or do laps, although I think mostly children would get the most benefit from running around a garden, since they’re smaller than adults. Some gardens are made surrounding lawn bowling lanes, or you could set up a life-sized chess set in your garden. Bocce ball or croquet can be played in a garden as well.
4. Fire and water are elements that you can find in gardens. Ponds, pools, fountains are examples of water and a garden designed to sit in around a fire pit is the example of fire in a garden. So are tiki torches.
5. Sit and Relax: I think this speaks for itself. But you can also sit and relax and knit, read, draw, talk to who ever is joining you, work a puzzle, check your facebook page on your phone, talk on the phone, soak up the sun, plan a vacation, backyard birdwatch, darn your socks.
6. Eat, drink, smoke: these things are activities that you and your family and or guests could partake in without having to dig a hole in the dirt, unless you are digging a spot to put your exhausted cigarettes in. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, coffee, wine etc.
7. Love and flirt: Don’t a lot of movies place love scene’s in gardens? I thought so.
8. Children: a child’s garden could be anything from a sandbox surrounded by plants, a place that they dug and planted or a lawn area specifically for play. Oh heck, every yard should be a child’s play garden.
9. Party and perform: while you are enjoying a dinner plein air, why not add a game of charades or a little guitar picking and sing-along?
10. Birds and wildlife: some gardeners set up their gardens specifically as backyard habitats for wild animals they would like to attract. Bird feeders, deer feeders, flowers and other plants not only are enjoyable for the critters but fun to observe from a comfy garden chair nearby.
The book also explains the use of buildings in gardens. These could be sheds, cabanas, or any other covered and/or enclosed outside area. If you are enjoying your garden and a sudden rain happens upon you, a building of some sort is usually safer than sitting under a table umbrella.
I’d like to add #11. I love a garden with art in it. Whether is a simple bird bath, ornate metal work or a series of colorful plates set in the ground to outline a flower bed, I think a garden is a place to display art.
Ms Lewis wrote extensively on these topics, combining a lot of historical information, examples and anecdotes. It really is a fascinating book. As I said, I skimmed it well, got to the point with what I wanted to learn from an interesting non-fiction book. I highly recommend reading it.
I found mine at the public library but the book is available on Amazon.