Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime by Kenneth Helphand









Re my earlier post on the meaning of gardens: few gardens are so meaningful as those made under the most difficult of circumstances. The compression of time, place and emotion, the sense of imminent mortality of both the space and its makers, gives them an intensity beyond any analysis of layouts or plantings. My scholarly pursuits are mostly about the 'place' of gardens. But this book has made me think far more deeply about the 'act' of gardens.


"Defiant gardens accentuate the essential questions of garden meaning and the relationship between humans and the natural world. Gardens are always defined by their context...perhaps the more difficult the context, the more accentuated their meaning becomes. In war — the antithesis of the beautiful...the common garden may become the highest form of art. Such gardens promise beauty where there is none, hope over despair, optimism over pessimism, and finally life in the face of death. In trenches, ghettoes and camps, defiant gardens have attempted to create normalcy in the midst of madness, and order out of chaos"

Defiant Gardens has received numerous awards, and its author, Kenneth Helphand (lovely name, that) is continually updating defiantgardens.com with more resources and finds.

Read more in an article at the npr website.

images via pruned...captions from top to bottom:

(Photo by Simon Norfolk which appeared in David Rieff, “Displaced Places,” New York Times Sunday Magazine, 21 September 2003. At a camp in Ingushetia, Russia housing thousands of refugees from Chechnya, Mailia Huseeinova “built a makeshift garden with white stones and two summers ago she planted sunflowers that grew to drape over the roof of the tent. She says that though others in the camp think she's odd for doing so, she likes to surround herself with beautiful things.”)

(Army Warrant Officer Brook Turner trims his lawn with scissors in a camp north of Baghdad, Iraq.)

(A soldier poses in his trench garden at Ploegsteert Wood in the Ypres Salient, the scene of many horrific WWI battles. Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.)

(A bomb crater in 1942 London becomes host to a kitchen garden. Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.)

1 comment:

s said...

How inspiring...

Is there a larger version of the bomb crater garden anywhere?

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