Sep 24, 2011

The Last Garden:
Danish Style

The Last Garden
Some people say how we live is how we die. 
In Denmark, it's where people die that has interested me. The churchyards of Denmark are windows into the souls of those who have died, but also ideas about what makes a garden.

Every garden "plot" must have a hedge.  I don't know the reason why, but none of these hedges are boxwood, which is what one would expect.  They are juniper, which obviously must be constantly pruned to maintain its neat and low shape.
Every cemetery contains tools to maintain your garden, watering cans and a compost pile.  This certainly makes good maintenance easy.

It's all very tidy.  Each plant is discreetly placed.  They often have no relation to each other.  All variety of evergreens are favorites as well as cotoneaster, heather and rosa rugosa.  It's a kind of gardening that has gone out of fashion in the United States. 
I've been asking Danes what accounts for the Danish reputation for great design, in objects, furniture, lighting, etc.  Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobson, Borge Mogensen, Verner Panton are only some of the iconic names in Danish Design.  One person gave me an answer that made sense:
Danes are home-centric.  They don't go out much.  There is no tradition of pubs as in England.  You invite people to your home.  Home is very important: the objects you surround yourself with are a reflection of your personality.  Being thrifty, the Danes are especially interested in good craftsmanship.  Hence, good design made to last.

This same philosophy, I think applies to these Danish cemetery "gardens".  They are a kind of home for those who rest beneath the ground, but also a home for those who tend these gardens.

"How much land does a man need?" Tolstoy asked, in his fable of the same name.  In Denmark a small enclosed plot cultivated by loved ones is all one needs.



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