The Garden Palette

You may recall that not that long ago, the Art Center hosted a Coffee Convo featuring Aubrey Cash of Dirty Dog Organics.  Almost immediately the question arose, “how is gardening related to art?”!  Our group quickly responded:  “in so many ways.”  Thus the idea for the Garden Palette was born.  Each month we will explore an aspect of gardening as art.  Our inaugural article will explore a definition of art.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines art as “something that is created with imagination and skill that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.”  Certainly, most of us reading this article find beauty in all plants, and I bet you have a favorite.  However, we may not have given much thought to a garden expressing important ideas or feelings.  Now you may be thinking that I am going to launch into the organic garden making a statement speech.  While that is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart, for this month we will explore the notion of the Victory Garden or War Garden as art.

Speaking in the early days of WWI, President Woodrow Wilson is quoted as saying, “Food will win the war.”  He appointed Herbert Hoover to lead the US Food Administration.  Hoover’s goal was to get Americans to produce more and consume less.  It is suspected that “Hooverizing” successfully avoided foot rationing during the years 1914-1918.  Coming together to plant these gardens allowed those at home to “express their ideas and feelings” of support.  Planting vegetables in the backyards, neighborhood parks and playgrounds. . .even churchyards and businesses allowed civilians to participate.  Perhaps some of you remember hearing stories from family and friends about local WWI (and even later WWII) Victory Gardens.    The Herbal Academy’s research has noted that this gardening effort was deemed so important that a United States School Garden Army was created and funded by the War Department.  Posters teaching citizens how to garden, preserve though canning, and save seeds for future cropping were springing up in every town. 

Today, perhaps in response to the movement to eat healthier by choosing local, a resurgence in interest for community gardens and edible landscapes has occurred.  Interested in creating your own Victory Garden?  Consider visiting in person or via the web the Fenway Victory Garden in Boston, the oldest and continuously operated victory garden (1942-present).  If travel is not for you, please know that initiatives are popping up in areas across the county, including local Lake County schools and communities.  So yes, gardening is art.  Gardening does express important ideas and feelings.  The WWI Victory Garden is just one example of how a gardener’s palette conveys important ideas—ideas that leave an impression just as valuable as a painting, sculpture, or drawing—those mediums that most think of as art defined. 

Until next month, keep planting. . .