The Garden
“I have an emotional attachment to Earth that goes far beyond my ability to understand or explain. I believe that our species is no more special, in nature’s scheme of things, than any other, and that all life habitats should be treated with the same care, respect, and dignity with which we, in our best moments, treat our fellow human beings.”

-Freeman Patterson taken from Portraits of Earth

Freeman Patterson’s garden is a place where rain is as important as sunshine, where colours blend seamlessly with fragrances, imagination and dreams, and where everything that lives and grows also dies, but where the cycle of life continues.

Patterson has captured his five seasons with his arresting visual genius.

We begin in the misty mornings of early spring—the first green shoots against a soggy and grey landscape. Summer brings the riotous palette of hundreds of species of flowers and expanses of hay-scented ferns. Autumn juxtaposes close-ups of gold leaves against frost-gilded petals and berries, and a wondrous winter weaves a tapestry of white flakes, mid-brown grasses, and tiny black shadows.

In a “fifth season,” the book ends, where it began, and as all gardens do, with rebirth, a symbol of hope and new beginnings.

Freeman uses the symbol of the eternal garden as a vehicle for internal reflection. His intimate text applies the wisdom gained from observing a garden to real life—the delight of seed catalogues, keeping the deer away from hostas, the importance of having chairs in a garden, to the function of pathways; the beauty of roses in the soft, first light.

The Garden is a breathtaking accomplishment by a rare talent; it will delight, it will calm, it will inspire. (March 2003)


FREEMAN PATTERSON lives at Shamper's Bluff, New Brunswick, near his childhood home. He began to work in photography in 1965, and numerous assignments for the Still Photography Division of the National Film Board of Canada followed.

In 1973 Freeman established a workshop of photography and visual design in New Brunswick, and in 1984 he co-founded the Namaqualand Photographic Workshops in sourthern Africa. He has given numerous workshops in the United States, Israel, New Zealand and Australia, and England. He has published ten books and has written for various magazines and for CBC radio. He has received numerous awards including, in 2001, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the North American Nature Photography Association. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1985.

REVIEW by Jodi DeLong

'How can a person not garden in spring?' So asks photographer and gardener Freeman Patterson in his gorgeous new book, The Garden. Key Porter, 192 pp, 45.00 hardcover.

I defy the reader of The Garden to ever look at a garden in the same way again, as you savour Patterson's photographs of 'unearned and undeserved beauty.' This is a book for those who love fine art, photography, gardening, nature...and joy, as its pages encompass all these things and more. It's a book for anyone who cares about the natural world that surrounds us. Never preachy, the prose is elegant, thoughtful and cuts to the heart with its honesty.

After all, as Patterson observes, 'When you invite somebody into your garden you are inviting them to meet you.'

This isn't a book on how to garden, as such, although a reader can glean helpful ideas from the thoughtful passages that accompany each photograph. Patterson is an astute observer of the world around him, and encourages the reader of his book to take the time to really see. Whether observing the way dew catches on the silvery covering of emerging fern fronds, or a cluster of fallen leaves caught in a pond, or the impressionist beauty of dancing trees, we view his art and subsequently the world around us with fresh eyes.

Patterson savours gardens both formally created and those sprung out of nature. As he gleefully writes, 'If I like what's happening naturally in a certain spot, I simply proclaim it to be a garden, and put a bench there. Very labour saving and inexpensive!'

The joy of this book is a mirror of the happiness in Patterson's life, as he enjoys extremely good health following five years of being critically ill. He says, 'Gardens really are metaphors for how we live and what we consider important, and we learn the most about ourselves by observing what we have created.' It's no wonder, then, that his gardens are lavish celebrations of life, from the cultivated hostas, poppies and daylilies in planned beds to the splendidly wild hay-scented ferns, elderberries and sumachs in those 'proclaimed' garden areas.

Patterson takes us through five seasons of his garden, from spring through summer, autumn, winter and back to spring again, his favourite season. Each of the photographs is accompanied by a brief essay, not necessarily completely describing the scene but always complementing it.

One of the most effective, even euphoric photographs in the entire book is a shot of shimmering gold bursts of light with a muted background, ice-covered trees caught through Patterson¹s office window during a sunny moment in winter. The photograph shouts an exultation of light and colour; a frozen bit of midwinter magic.

Although joy is an underlying theme throughout, there are also pensive moments. Patterson admits to not doing well in winter, when he can't see the ground, and from suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. He writes frankly that he needs flowers around him, and has done so since he was a young boy. 'For me, not to garden would be saying 'no' to life itself.'

Nowhere is the text more honest and moving than where Patterson writes about his mother. He tenderly says, 'It is because of her that I have a garden.' The essay about how dying hosta leaves remind him of his mother in her last years moved me to tears. Patterson's mother was a deeply profound and positive influence in his life, and he says as he gets older, he realizes just how much this is so.

As a reviewer, I have the privilege of reading many books, some very fine, some less so. The Garden is perhaps the most splendid work of non-fiction I¹ve had the pleasure to review, and it ought to be a best seller and an award winner. See for yourself.

Author : Freeman Patterson
ISBN : 1552635171
Publisher : Key Porter
Sugg. Retail Price : $45.00
Available in Hardcover
Number of Pages : 192

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