Over at Garden Rant, in a post entitled “Whimsy Must Die” and the follow-up “Couldn’t Resist“, people are going off, once again, about ugly, tacky gardens.
Despite the last fiasco (which I will not link to here), I find myself surprised by how many people take very real offence to a front yard covered in garden gnomes and other so-called kitsch ornamentation — most especially gardeners whose outdoor aesthetic choices are often unfairly subject to the neighbourhood judge and jury. If I came across any of the yards shown in the Garden Rant posts while walking around my own town or any other, I’d snap a few photos and walk away with a big smile on my face.
Look, I’m not above talking crap about an ugly garden (Hello, red-dyed mulch). We all have our own opinions and it’s okay to be decisive and critical about the things we see on display in the public sphere.
But at the end of the day, I’d defend the crassest, tackiest displays of pure cheese (within reason. eg. serious environmental concerns) on principle. I may believe that my own taste is IMPECCABLE and above snide remarks, but I don’t want to live in a kitsch-less world devoid of tacky ornamentation. Walking past the same tastefully designed front garden is BORING. In fact, this kind of homogenous tastefulness is slowly taking over the neighbourhoods surrounding my apartment as older Portuguese and immigrant families are being displaced by rich people who hire the same garden designers. The gardens look nice enough, but holy god is it ever getting dull.
Gone are the interesting religious shrines and tires painted white and cut into the shape of tulips. I miss them.
Case in point: There’s a garden around the way from where I live that looks like a dollar store threw up all over it. Imagine every single cheaply made plastic whirlygig and abomination on a stick you’ve ever seen — this garden has one. I’ve made many side remarks to friends in passing. “Dear god, look at all of the rubber ducks.” “Oh look, it’s got a dancing salmon, too.” Once the snickering is done, we always agree that if that garden was replaced by a cluster of ornamental grasses and some carefully arranged rocks, we’d be disappointed.
For me, it comes down to the fact that the artists behind these masterpieces are having fun. And they are fearlessly bringing their individuality out into the open to share with the world, good taste be damned.
Last week, while walking with a friend to the CNE — a yearly pilgrimage for purveyors of bad taste and even worse food — we chatted about gardening in the city and how one of the best things multiculturalism and immigration has done for Toronto (among many good things) is show the old guard keeping-up-with-the-Jones’-types how to let go a little.
A front yard slathered in melting stuffed animals fills me with as much joy and wonder as a well-tended bed overflowing with horticultural gems. What matters is the enthusiasm of the gardener and their willingness to put it out there. Call it tacky, tasteless, crass, kitsch, embarrassing, ugly, cheap, crude, or whatever you want, but the day whimsy is killed off for good will be a sad day indeed.