The Garden Community for Garden Lovers

What is a garden


By helen


What is a garden? If you stop to think, there are so many types of garden, that you can’t define a garden by describing one. Like the three blind men in the legend who described an elephant as a tree, a snake or a wall, depending which part they encountered, you would get a very different definition if you were shown only one garden and that happened to be a Zen garden in Japan, or an English cottage garden of the chocolate box type, or Versailles. So can you define a garden by its purpose? Pleasure, profit, aesthetics, hobby and self-sufficiency are just a few of the justifications for gardening, so function won’t do for a definition either.

If you come to think of it, defining a garden is rather like defining a poem: we all know what it is but there is no such thing as a standard model. Like the poem, the garden is an art form, with many forms, styles and purposes, and with an equally long history. Poems are not ordinary speech any more than a garden is natural plant life. Even if the first gardens were for growing food, the choice and arrangement of plants was an attempt to control and ‘improve’ on nature.

If you left your plot of ground in Nature’s care, you would, as all of us gardeners know only too well, have a wilderness. If you want a natural, ‘wilderness’ effect in your garden you will have to craft it very carefully and work hard to keep it in its ‘natural’ shape.

So now I think I’ve got it – a garden is an arrangement of plants (or occasionally rocks and water) in a definite order! What plants, what rocks, what water features, what order, and why, are all up to you. I hope you feel wiser now.

More blog posts by helen

Next post: Camellias, tea and me



Hi Helen,
This is a lovely muse on gardens, my garden is a lawn - just a place to spend time and relax. I just spent a weekend barging near Oxford and saw some beautiful canal side gardens, but I was amazed at the number of gardens actually on the narrow boats, and at the variety; some were highly decorative with bright colours and some were far more practical with pots of herbs covering the roof. It was my first barge trip and this type of garden, which I'd not seen before, made me think of your article and how gardens can be such different things to different people. Some of the gardens were stunning and really showed how creative people can be when there are restrictions on what they can do.

23 Apr, 2007


I think that a garden is something personal to each and every person - I love my garden - it is my stress relief (I look after my Mum and two teenagers!) the better the garden looks the more stressed out I've been! (its looking pretty good this year!) I love just pottering around - I would hate a low maintenance, do nothing kind - I love seeing what each plant is up to - they just seem to grow a little bit more each day. When I see my Mum smiling because a plant is flowering - I am happy!!

9 May, 2007


I used to stay with an old lady deep in the Hampshire countryside.Her philosophy on gardening was very simple, flowers were her friends & she filled her "patch" with them, a real country garden, where everything grew anywhere, the ivy wall was a des res for all sorts of bird life, you trod on the brick paths & the air was filled with perfume & the humming of bees taking advantage of the excess of pollen.

14 May, 2007


I think a garden is just what you want it to be.

13 Jun, 2018

Add a comment

Recent posts by helen

Members who like this blog

  • Gardening with friends since
    1 Mar, 2008

  • Gardening with friends since
    11 Mar, 2008

  • lyd

    Gardening with friends since
    3 Jul, 2008

  • Gardening with friends since
    24 Jun, 2007

  • Gardening with friends since
    22 Oct, 2008

  • Gardening with friends since
    7 Jun, 2017