Hold away despair, more than this I will not ask.”
-- Grateful Dead Lyrics, Terrapin Station
Funny thing about inspiration. If you’re actively looking for it, you’re probably not apt to find it.
This time of year, nearly everybody is looking to get inspired with ideas for their landscaping. Maybe it’s some ideas for new plantings. Or designs for a deck. Or patio layout. Maybe it’s a matter of selecting the materials that will go best with your existing architecture. Whatever the subject, we all need a little inspiration from time to time.
And that inspiration could come from a book, or television show, or a walk around a landscape supply yard. Magazines, museums, the internet, public architecture and gardens, local neighborhoods – the sources are endless.
My wife and I were watching a show on PBS a few months back. It was a documentary about the making of Simon and Garfinkel’s landmark album “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The show included a clip from the Dick Cavett Show circa 1970. Paul Simon was the interview guest, and Dick Cavett asked him where the inspiration came from to write the album’s flagship song, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
After stumbling over his response for a moment or two and giving some boilerplate answer about listening to a lot of gospel music, Simon finally just stopped himself and basically admitted that one night he just picked up his guitar and penned the song in about an hour’s time.
An instant classic to say the least. One moment the song didn’t exist, and the next moment it was out there.
And that’s just the point. Inspiration doesn’t have to be a laborious process. The best and freshest ideas often just come to us in moments of clarity.
Clients and prospects often ask me for ideas for their projects. To be fair, I always have a couple of ideas up my sleeve, a by-product of having been at this job for more than a dozen years. But I don’t have all the answers. After
all, what may appeal to me may not to the client, and they’re the ones who are going to be living with and using the yard on a daily basis (I hope so, at least).
Here in the Philadelphia area, we are blessed with a number of public parks and gardens. Winterthur, Longwood Gardens, Tyler Arboretum, Scott Arboretum, Ridley Creek State Park, Fairmount Park, to name a few. And we are also blessed with an amazing stock of 100-year-old, even 200-year-old public buildings and private residences.
Rid yourself of pre-conceptions and take a drive around. Or even a walk around your neighborhood. Hike a trail. Ride a bike. See anything you like?
Don’t look for specific things you THINK you may want included in your yard. If you’re looking for that perfect set of steps to match your existing ideas, you probably won’t find exactly what you’re looking for.
But if you erase your mind and take in the beauty around you, I’m sure you’ll see a few things you like.
Some of my best ideas come from right in my own backyard. Literally. Spend some time in your yard and look around. Soak in what you see. Kick back and relax. Have a drink. Read a book or the newspaper. Listen to the birds. Listen to the wind in the trees. Look at the yard and the surrounding neighborhood. Imagine what it must have looked like before the houses and fences were there. Look at the slopes and the berms, imagine how the water flows when it rains. Where do you typically walk through the yard? Is there a beaten path through the grass that gets walked on frequently? How would (or do) deer travel through the yard? The ideas will come. Trust me.
Here’s to hoping you find your inspiration, for whatever projects you may be considering.