It is heartening when a landscape has an overall integrity, when we get a sense for each part contributing to the whole and where in some way the whole is expressed in the parts. There may be a core idea, a coherent intention in the minds of those responsible, but sometimes one can sense that there is much more to this than was originally conceived by the designer.
It can have its own evolving meaning, and we gradually discover more and more of it. This core idea, though, can still be a guiding principle to help find different qualities for different areas and allow the creative imagination to choose how to work with the hard and soft elements in each. Henri Bortoft explains the holistic approach well in his book the Wholeness of Nature, and in later writings.
A landscape as an organism
It can then become possible to see a garden or a landscape as an organism with its own organs. There is one element that is physically present in every organ, every organism, and that is water. Just as the health of a river in integral to the health of a whole valley so too the health of the water in a garden landscape is integral to the health of the whole garden.
As well as an individual character there are also universal aspects to such an organism. There will be a circulation system for both people as well as for water flow, this flow element connects and unites the wholeness. There can be an area more oriented around activity, perhaps where crops are grown or where sports are practiced.
This can be in contrast to a quieter space of a more contemplative nature. Often the circulation space for people is in the middle. These can be seen to correlate to aspects of our organism. The more active limbs and metabolic system, the less active but more conscious head and senses, and the breathing circulation system in the middle where rhythmic movement is prevalent and a feeling consciousness can be found.
Still water, moving water, and rhythmic flow
We can do things with water in all such realms of a landscape. The value of reflective still water for a contemplative space is easy to see. Vigorous water movements can enhance an area for purposeful activities.
In an area where people circulate we can also appreciate that a breathing quality may be appropriate and rhythmical water flow will support this. We often find birds and wildlife also are drawn to come and drink and bathe here and plants may develop more balanced form around such flow.
A doctor once reported that if his patients could be encouraged to spend five minutes sitting with the gentle rhythmic flowing water in the garden before a consultation, this consultation
would often take half the normal time.
These water sculptures engender harmonious rhythmic flow purely due to their shape. The principle was discovered by a sculptor, John Wilkes while making research with water flow in 1970. ( See his book “Flowforms , the rhythmic power of water”).Other designers have collaborated to create the current range of designs which embody many qualities of rhythmic flow.
Ebb and Flow is a company which been designing and working with these ideas since 1990. In collaboration with others we have developed Pond and Wetland Systems for water cleaning , working with domestic sewage and agricultural effluent. Some
Flowform designs have proved very valuable in the aeration of liquid manure turning sour pungent liquor into a sweet smelling compost tea supporting the soil biology and readily taken up by pastures and arable crops.
Maybe the most satisfying applications are when these sculptures find a role in supporting the activities of a therapeutic or an educational institution, where their artistic qualities and what someone recently termed their ‘dynamic tranquillity’ support people in transforming and developing their lives.
We are involved in running short educational courses, revealing the inherent nature of water and seeking ways to work in tune with this in different situations. The next one is on an organic farm in South Devon in July, entitled ‘Water and the Farm Organism’.
In this course we will engage with water both in table-top experiments and as it appears in the landscape of this small mixed farm.
We can often be amazed and baffled by the unfolding natural life around us, but it is possible that through direct perceptual experience of flowing water to get some inklings of nature’s secrets and at the same time realise how much more we do not know.