March 7, 2011

The Borrowed View

While I tend and plant and design what I want to see growing in my garden, it's the borrowed view that draws my eye.  Especially from inside the house.  When I look out my windows I see the view in the near distance, and I didn't plant any of it. 

I have no mature trees in my yard, but I borrow this big old silver maple (Acer sacharrinum) growing wild in the pond area below our house.  It is my view out the living room window to the east.
The shot above, by the way, was taken from inside the house at 4:30 on an early December evening.  It's looking due east at sunset, out of my living room window.  We get incredible pink evening skies in the east on occasion.  We are between two low ridges, and when the sun sets, it reflects on the opposite side with pink and rose hues.  Out of habit now, I look east when someone says "nice sunset".

An ancient twisted white birch (Betula papyrifera) across the street calls to me from inside my house.  I notice it every time I look up and glance out the north windows.  I love it; the house and the overhead wires not as much.  Wouldn't that be a dramatic view with my green spruce in the foreground and the borrowed crooked birch behind it.... if only I could zap the house and street and wires.  That's one problem with views you don't actually own.

When we first moved in, all I had was a borrowed view, until my own gardens grew in.  And until other houses were built next to us. 
The ridge from our front porch initially.  Now a house is in that empty field.
My plants, framed by borrowed greenery from the woods beyond.  I love the intersecting angles.

Some borrowed views are expansive, like the hills that surround Carol at Flower Hill Farm in Massachusetts.  Her plantings are so much a part of the view that her garden is all one seamless fabric of tended hill and natural woods and wild meadow. 

The opposite is true of the borrowed view at Conrad Art Glass & Gardens in Wisconsin.  His beautiful garden is completely surrounded by farmland that features silos and flat open pastures.  The world outside his acreage is completely unrelated to the woodsy, enclosed, conifer-thick, birch shaded scenes he has created.
Even without a pink sky, I like this borrowed view in winter

My own borrowed view is a mix; no seamless blending of garden into hillsides, but I am not in an enclave of enclosed garden rooms either.

My view is a big old tree over there, a low ridge beyond, a rising slope, other old trees and vines over here .... and, distressingly, electrical wires, roads, houses and a playground down the street.  And much of the woods and ridgeline is covered with invasive plants and trash trees that I never would have planted.

I have to live with the scenes I don't like, and problematic plants that I see but can't do anything about.  But I'm fortunate to have the views around me that I do have... wild, beautiful, and borrowed.


  1. So many of my indoor to outdoor views are also borrowed from the hardwood forest surrounding our house. When snowcover is present it allows eased views of the 4-legged creatures living there. Now that rain has melted the snow my views have changed dramatically. It's important to keep borrowed views in mind when planning ones garden. You are lucky to have mature trees in your borrowed views.

  2. You are lucky, Laurrie, to have such interesting "borrowed" views. And you're right that they form part of the vista of our own gardens. I'm especially aware of that since we live on a farm, though close enough to town that housing developments form or interrupt part of my borrowed view. In summer I'm surrounded by a sea of green as the crops grow, and in the winter it's open fields that are often an expanse of white. I often think how thankful I am that my view on either side is not my next door neighbor's wall just 15 feet away:)

    Glad to see you had so many good suggestions for your Japanese maple; I hope the clamping works!

  3. I love your borrowed views, especially the silver maple. Often considered a junk or weed tree, it is the only large tree on our property and is cherished. How wonderful that you look east to the sunset! I must do the same, since our view to the west is blocked by large trees and houses, not large but still blocking. Thanks! :-)

  4. Hi Laurrie, Much better a borrowed silver maple than one sitting in your own yard! Your sunset is so pretty, and those angles you point out make the borrowed view quite interesting.

  5. Joene, How nice to have a hardwood forest surrounding your yard, and to be able to look into it in winter.

    Rose, a lot of farmland is becoming suburban sprawl, and when it is not your own land (or view) it's distressing to see it happen. I hope the area around you remains farms and open views.

    Frances, we have these big silver maples all around us, and they do tend to fall apart in any breeze. Messy branches and weak wood, but they do form a nice forested look.

    Cyndy, I am glad I don't have to pick up after any silver maples in my yard. My birch trees are messy enough with dropped branches and litter. The silver maples are much better in the long view!

  6. Too bad there is a house in the view now, looked nice with the field. Hope your neighbors are nice folks anyway.
    Silver Maples are Quite impressive when they reach full maturity, and yes it is great that it is at a distance. Growing near water is right where it should be though. Some how I always love to see a plant growing exactly where it "should" be.

  7. It really is advantageous to have borrowed views, with plants and terrain you might not want on your own property. Our neighbors have the borrowed view of the Niagara Gorge, and not one of they would likely want the big drop in their back yard.

  8. You are lucky indeed for these bits of borrowed views. In my garden there is no place to look without seeing a house close by. I have made my garden more of a cocoon trying to blot out the neighbors.

  9. I love your views and this post. My next door neighbor has the sweetest crepmyrtle~It adds a lot to my views. I do miss seeing the sun rise and set; this garden is situated in a very hilly and shady hollow! gail

  10. Chris, isn't that a great sight: a plant growing naturally where it grows best!

    Donna, wow, I can't imagine having a spectacular view like Niagara Gorge out my window.

    Lisa, you have created garden rooms, enclosed and private.. I like that!

    Gail, It's nice when the neighbors plant views for us to enjoy : )

  11. Laurrie, how smart you are to consider the views outside of your garden. That maple is wonderful. We have a beautiful empty field behind our house that creates a lovely green space but stressed that someone would plop a house on it. Thankfully we've now met the owners and they have no plans to build so I can enjoy their view for a while longer.

  12. Marguerite, I hope your empty field stays vacant and gives you open, wide views for a long time.


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