Years ago when I was working as an artist, I had a show of my collages at a local gallery. One of the attendees stood studying the pieces, then turned to me and said, “It must be a lot like cooking.”
His comment was spot on. I frequently remember this as I work in the garden, because like artwork, the way I approach garden design is a great deal like cooking.
First I decide what I want to prepare/plant. When you are just beginning it’s helpful to look at a recipe/gardening book for inspiration, but once you’ve become experienced with the ingredients you have a better idea about what components will blend well.
All of elements you’re putting together need to be in the correct proportion. Too much of any one ingredient has the potential to ruin the taste of the dish/look of the garden. A small amount of lemon/yellow is pleasing, for example, but an entire dish/flowerbed made of lemon/yellow wouldn’t be as nice.
Once the ingredients are mixed, it’s time to taste/look at what you’ve made and see if it’s agreeable. It might clearly need a large dose of herbs/under-plantings in order to make it more interesting. Perhaps a bit more of this spice/plant would add a needed, but subtle touch.
After all minor adjustments are made; it’s time to let your dish/garden cook/grow. Occasionally this is hard because I want to have the meal/garden now! Other times the aroma of the dish/development of the plants is satisfying in itself and I enjoy savoring what is being prepared.
At last the dish/garden is cooked/blooming, and I can enjoy sharing it with others. But the meal/flowering doesn’t last long, and I start to wonder how it might be improved. Do you think it would be more interesting and delicate if I just used less flour/flowers?
Some combinations of food/plants are always successful, and because they are repeated in many kitchens/gardens we get a bit tired of them. It has become fashionable to look to foreign lands for exotic flavors/flowers, and to combine them with the more tried and true American dishes/gardens. Fusion cooking/gardening keeps us on our toes and eager to be surprised, while including just enough of the familiar so we’re comfortable at the table/in the landscape.
I can think of one way that gardening is not like cooking. There is not, unfortunately, an Epicurious for gardening. A cook can go to this website and type in what ingredients you have on hand, and see the many ways you can make those items into a meal. There is no Horticurious where I might type Daylilies and receive a list of other plants that are pleasing when planted in with the Hemerocallis, or see photographs of various gardens that include this plant.
When it comes to new recipes/garden designs/websites, however, it is only a matter of time until someone puts it together. Once that meal/landscape/horticurious website is created, I’m sure that it will taste/look/Google well.