In Community Design, Gardening

Luke is our outgoing intern and the 2011 Contest Winner for the Sunnyside Garden Centre Writing Competition: “How is gardening a form of artwork, and how does gardening build community?”. Here is his article. 

How is Gardening a Form of Artwork? 

Art gives people inspiration. It opens our minds and provides us with new ways of communicating, and new perspectives on life. Gardening, looked at as a form of art, could be seen as the coordination of an infinitely playing live orchestra. It is musical, flowing, and aesthetic in nature; when we look, we see still forms, though when we look again, it is always a new painting… a natural painting, painted on the lucid canvas of the landscape. It is the coordination of hundreds of plants, animals, insects, bacteria, fungi, climate factors, natural patterns, nutrient cycles, and on-site observations… However, though we may be the designers of the show, it is Nature in her grand mystery whom is indefinitely conducting the performance. 

A beautiful piece of canvas artwork will mature in our hearts over time, its form and structure will forever stay, however artwork in gardens is artwork expressed in both time and space, continuing ever after through generations, becoming a process of engagement and interaction with the very spirit of the Wild itself.

Life and the manner in which we live it is an artistic expression, and to garden is to entwine this individual process directly with vast and overarching ecological systems; the natural systems of this planet that in practical reality form the basis of our very survival… they form the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. Here is a final comparision between gardening and artwork: 

Gardening = Artwork
Paint = Plants
Brushes = Tools
Canvas = Land
Art  Show = Potluck Party
Beauty = Beautiful Life


How does Gardening Build Community?

In a day and age where so many people are feeling moved to explore new strategies for living their lives, and the current system doesn’t seem to be satisfying that loving, peaceful, free spirited nature innately inside of us, I see community development, and gardening, as newly relevant (though actually ancient) strategies that work to provide for that fulfilled, empowered, and meaningful life we all search for. 

When people work together to grow food it connects them in a meaningful way, because they have created their own survival together. It is gardening that reminds us that we cannot live this life as an island, for to meet the basic needs of food and shelter it makes so much more sense to develop trust with fellow humans, and work together, rather than to go it alone, or compete in a rat-race.

Gardening is one thing that can remind communities of people how truly powerful they are, when they congregate, and work together for common goals. Unlike our current political system, gardening encourages us to focus on the things that we can all agree upon, like delicious, healthy food, laughter with friends and family, beautiful pristine nature, relaxing in the sun, and drinking clean water. Gardening builds community because it directly connects us to the reality of our survival, and creates an incredible avenue for people to form genuine friendships, and working relationships. There is a definite sense of personal and community empowerment, and meaningful life purpose, which one may find in the garden.

The mystical planet Earth has cared for us for many years, and in communities and tribes we humans have cared for each other. Gardening is like the birth of a child, in that it is among some of the most mystical experiences this life has to offer. To share in this passionate work, can create bonds that run deeper than bloodlines, bonds based on the beating of our hearts, the breath in our lungs, and the creation of our shared survival; for now, and for future generations. 

Interestingly enough, the key and other items in the photo above were found buried under a lawn as the community transformed it into a forest garden.

So I will leave you with this thought: 

What sort of keys do you think you might find in the garden? The keys to life, to health, to fulfillment? Why not check it out? What if all this and more is actually awaiting you, back at home in your garden… just waiting for you to uncover it for yourself… 

Luke Kimmel 

(A note from Michelle & Rob – Luke is our outgoing intern. He has has been with us from August 2011 – February 2012. Please join us in wishing Luke all the best as he moves onwards and heads off first to Costa Rica for holidays, then back to build up his own permie business. It was great to have you on the Team Luke!)


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  • […] again to everyone that helped inspire the […] I wrote a blog for the Verge website on gardening in art and community. It is based on an article I wrote last year for a writing competition put on by Market Collective […]


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