My muse and I

My muse and I

by Marlies Dekkers

"She reminds me so much of you," my lover said, as he proudly handed me a book with on its cover a matronly Victorian lady, staring at me sternly through her coke-bottle glasses. Hmm, was this his idea of a romantic gesture? As soon as I started reading the book - a biography of British gardening legend Gertrude Jekyll - I realized it was a very romantic compliment indeed! Like Gertrude, I sculpt my vision through color, shape and texture; but where I work with fabric, she used flowers, plants and soil to create her magical gardens.

For the first time, I could see gardening as a way to express yourself. Guided by the awesome female gardeners I was reading about - I jokingly called them my 'gardening angels' - I started turning my backyard into my own private paradise. Vita Sackville-West, the best-selling bisexual baroness with a passion for gardening (her love affair with Virginia Woolf inspired the book 'Orlando') motivated me to just dig in and learn by trial and error: “The only thing is to be bold; try the experiment; and find out.” Through Maxi’diwiac, the Native American woman behind gardening bible 'Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden', I became obsessed with organic soil and heirloom seeds. And dressed in a flirty, flowery dress that gardenista and Queen of France Marie Antoinette would have loved, I drove a hired van to my favorite nursery to fill it up with organic compost and other horticultural delights. Forget fancy spas; this was now my idea of a romantic daytrip.

There is something very erotic about getting your hands dirty and connecting with nature's lust for life: sprouts bursting from seeds, flowers seducing bees with their intoxicating perfumes. 'In gardens, the main business is sex and death. Beauty is just a by-product' I read in one of my gardening books. I couldn't agree more. But as I, quite literally, became a more 'seasoned' gardener, I learned to appreciate not just the colorful lushness of spring, but also the darker seasons when my garden recharged itself while new life was gestating underground. By surrendering to nature's rhythm, I learned to trust Mother Earth's intuition and reconnect with my own. Like the Romantics who turned their backs on rigid rationality during the early 19th century, I fell madly in love with nature's feminine soul. Through my garden, I found a new way to flourish.

You plant a seed, you plant hope. And for many female gardeners throughout the centuries, creating their own Garden of Eden, away from society's pressures, has been a radical act of hope. I thought of them often, as I sweated and pruned, using flowers and plants as paint, and soil and sky as my canvas. I celebrated their colorful lives and gardens in my collection designs. And when I felt that my paradise was ready, I asked my lover over for tea. While he looked around my garden, absorbing its colors, textures and scents, I asked him what he saw. "You; I see you," he said with a big smile and pulled me close. What happened next is between me, him, the birds and the bees... .

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