(Gardening is Still)The Most Lively Art

By: Steve Gerischer

HorticulturalistLos Angeles, California…

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Gardening is many things—science, skill, exercise, recreation, education—but it is also an art

The Pacific Horticulture Society board works to sustain the mission and goals of our organization. Throughout the changes of our recent past, and as we approach our 40th anniversary in 2016, we’ve looked back at our history as well as our future. An editorial by Margedant Hayakawa, first published in 1979 when Mrs. Hayakawa was board president of the Pacific Horticulture Foundation has served as a touchstone and guide for our collective decision-making. The piece, reprinted in her honor in the 20th Anniversary issue in 1996—and excerpted here—continues to inspire our efforts.

Margedant Hayakawa Photo: PHS archives.

Margedant Hayakawa Photo: PHS archives.

“Gardening needs advocates and spokesmen. It needs a publication where important question can be argued: Should we have irrigated gardens in a dry country? How can the public landscapes of our cities provide a more wholesome environment and a closer sense of the natural world? How can smaller gardens, using less land, be made to yield greater satisfaction? In other words, what is appropriate horticulture for our time and place.”

Thirty-five years later, these questions still drive our explorations and frame our editorial content.

“The aesthetics of gardening should be discussed more broadly and deeply. We are a thousand years behind the Japanese in thinking about the garden as a serious artistic expression. I would like to see more theoretical discussion in Pacific Horticulture of space and shelter, form and color, rhythm, pattern, and design, with examples from western gardens.”

We couldn’t agree more. Planning is already underway for a series of articles and activities designed to take a closer look at the influence of Asia on West Coast gardens and public landscapes. Just one of a number of topics we’re investigating.

“Because gardening is also in part science, Pacific Horticulture has a role in keeping its readers informed on new developments and gardening techniques, always bearing in mind that our readers have varying interests and differ in their knowledge of special fields.”

That’s why you’ll always find pollinators, microbes, global climate shifts, soil science, and resource management techniques discussed alongside beautiful gardens and plant profiles. Seasoned pro or beginning gardener, our readers are profoundly curious about the natural world.

“The scientific, the theoretical, and the aesthetic are all important elements of a good horticultural magazine, but, most important, it should be about plants. A passion for plants is something all true gardeners have in common. … Not everyone will grow Myosotidium hortensia, but … we all feel enriched by the knowledge that a rare and beautiful plant like this Chatham Island forget-me-not has, through evolutionary elaboration, come to exist on a remote island off southern New Zealand, and that gardeners have studied its requirements and replicated them here—a labor of love and skill.”

Plants remain at the heart and soul of our every undertaking.

“How we regard plants is an indication of how we regard our own place in the universe.  Do we think of them as raw materials? Food? Encumbrances to be cleared away for civilizations? Foundation plantings to sell tract homes? Symbols of wealth?  Or a point of contact with the world of nature? The great interest in plants today is to some extent a recognition that we are part of the great chain of life, that we depend on the green world for oxygen and food as well as for beauty.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.