Where did the "Gestalt Gardener" concept start?
Hunker down, folks, this might take a minute or two.
Years ago, while I was making a garden visit for diagnosing a landscape problem, the gardener (who was a practicing psychologist) casually mentioned that my holistic approach was "very gestalt." Pondering this later, I realized that I was indeed using some of what I had learned in college psychology classes.
Gestalten is a German word that means both "pattern" and "whole." Two maxims in Gestalt therapy are "What is, is" and "One thing leads to another."
So I started applying it to gardening, and came up with these general ways in which gestalt applies:
First off, it defines a garden not as a mere physical place, but a human concept in which we are free to choose among many ever-changing possibilities. That the garden is alwasy in relation to our perceptions of it.
It recognizes that we as gardeners - in mind, body, and spirit - are central to the gardening process.
This assumes that we are the creators of our gardens, and encourages us to be sensitive to the possibility of changes in the garden as we ourselves learn new things. A garden, after all, is not a freeze-frame photograph; it is our constantly-evolving creation.
The gestalt gardener will use an experiential approach, which means we make and act on decisions based on the present, but with an eye towards how what we do can have other effects down the road.
Yet because people tend to approach things based on past experiences, doing something new or "out-of-the-box" different can be a little unnerving. "Never did this before" and "What will the neighbors think" are powerful inhibitions.
Still, a gestalt gardener will accept personal responsibility to ourselves and our values, And to the environment which includes both ecology and to some extent to our neighbors' values.
i mean, shouldn't we leave the world a better place, and get along with others in the process?
Another thing: Ever hear about not being able to see the forest for the trees? The closer you look at something, the more detail you will see, but it can cause you to lose sight of the big picture.
The "left brain" science of production-oriented horticulture often muddles us with details, which can get in the way of our gardening just for the love of it. So the gestalt approach helps us find common ground and peace between the challenges of reaching specific goals (perfect lawn, freezer full of vegetables, Yard of the Month, etc.) and its never-ending tasks, and the equally important feel-good experiences (sound of a hummingburd, sharing with others).
It helps gardeners relax about - or even outright mock - some cherished horticultural and societal rules. It allows us to embrace wonder and humor, and even find ways to accept frustration, as relief valves for the anxiety that naturally comes from trying to do as we please.
The gestalt approach allows us to see gardens as personal places, rather than a series of detail-oriented things to do - which frees us to better enjoy what we are doing.
So... Instead of trying to "finish" your garden, learn to savor the process and the overall experience - including sorting out how it constantly changes as you yourself change.
That is the gestalt approach.