Sunday Opinion: The Narrative

The posts of the past several weeks have a theme.  The winter season is holding on for all it’s worth.  Don’t believe me?  We have snow in our forecast for the next 2 days.  My last post, entitled “Holed Up” garnered a comment from Tara Dillard.  She is a person I have never met.  She is a landscape designer in Georgia who writes a blog-I read her blog, (  and she reads mine.  I leave comments for her every so often-she posts comments for me too.  This constitutes a relationship of a certain sort.  Though we have never met, I appreciate and am interested in her point of view.  I believe she has an interest in mine.  This is what I would call a narrative-a story.  Not a fancy story, not a dramatic or life changing story-just a simple story about two people who have a passion for the same thing.

She commented on my most recent post:

It’s ridiculous but the bench with the cat on it, and another underneath, melts my heart.

Most gardens never reach this level of narrative.


A photograph I posted of an English stoneware cat basking in a sunny spot in our greenhouse space prompted her to write.  Gardens and narratives-I have been thinking about this all day, thanks to her. A narrative is a story.  The beginning story of this post is about how a landscape designer in Michigan and a landscape designer in Georgia have an exchange of ideas.  This is a very modern, internet driven story.  I suspect that we are very different, and have very different opinions about a lot of things.  It is possible that we would have never made the effort to continue to talk, had we met in person.  But the internet has enabled us to meet, and exchange ideas.   Having made a commitment to write a blog on landscape and garden design,  I was not expecting back talk.  That said, the back talk is my favorite part of the writing.  Tara’s backtalk is of the most interesting sort.

There is a second story here.  Tara’s comment about gardens and narratives-provocative.  I have her to thank for explaining how interested I am in narrative driven design.  The land tells a story.  The plants tell their stories.  A client tells a story.  I have a story. I do believe that the most beautiful landscape and garden designs are generated by a story.  Should I have a concept that I wish to explain to a client, I create a story.  That story is a bridge between two very different people.  That bridge is a place where designer and client might meet, on occasion.

A garden or landscape that tell a story is a very powerful garden, indeed.  The story may be about a love for plants, or a love for a passel of children, or a love of design, or a love for nature.  The constant?  The story.  If I am able to encourage a relationship with a client that becomes a narrative, I know we will forge a relationship.

Thank you Tara. The landscape design that traces the narrative, creates a narrative, is a good design.  A design worth considering.   Every landscape should work.  Should grow.  Should prosper.  But every landscape of note tells a story.