CAITLIN ATKINSON is a photographer of places, spaces, and all things botanical. A child-hood spent in the Sierra Nevada foothills among trees, mountains, and rivers instilled in her a love of the natural world from an early age. She is the author and photographer of Plant Craft, and has been the photographer of several other books, including Dry Gardens, written by Daniel Nolan and Designing with palms written by Jason Dewees. Her insightful photography can regularly be seen in Martha Stewart Living, Better Homes & Gardens, Dwell, and Sunset magazines. When she is not busy photographing gardens, you can find her digging in her own patch of dirt.
For the past 2 + years, Caitlin you and I have been engaged in working together on a new book, entitled Under Western Skies: Visionary Gardens from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast.
I am so glad to have her with me today to share more about this project she conceived.
"I conceived of this book as an expression of my love of this place I call home. I wanted to capture real gardens and the stories of the people inspired by and deeply connected to our place on this earth. "
Caitlin Atkinson, Photographer/Writer
You can follow along with Caitlin's work online at: Caitlinatkinson.com, or on Instagram: @caitlinatkinson_photography
Join us again next week when we have the first of a two-part series celebrating the publication of Under Western Skies a new book conceived and photographed by Caitlin Atkinson, and published by Timber Press on May 11, 2021.
THINKING OUT LOUD this week..
As a gardener & writer, I’m most interested in that intersection between our gardens, the more-wild natural spaces beyond our gardens from which our gardens were carved & our prismatic cultures. I believe that thoughtful & intentional gardens/gardeners help to address challenges as wide ranging as climate change, habitat loss, cultural polarization & social justice, & individual & communal health & well-being.
I explore this weekly here on #CultivatingPlace. I explored it very specifically in the work being done by women around the world in The Earth In Her Hands. I explore these concepts ever more in Under Western Skies which celebrates innovative place-based gardens in deep & interesting relationship w/ the Western landscapes in which they are situated & from where(whom) they take their most profound direction & inspiration.
In some ways, our gardens are oases against the wider world. They are ballast, steadying us, masking the chaos, disorder, and stress of daily life—especially in urbanized environments. Our gardens help us to forget the world. In other ways, though, our gardens bring the world to us and are directly inspired by the wider world’s cultures, concerns, passions, and fashions.
The diversity of Indigenous peoples of North America are, and were historically, deliberate, conscientious, and judicious cultivators and managers of landscapes for food, utility, medicine, and ritualistic plants, as well as for water, fire, and game conservation. When Europeans first started gardening on this continent, the gesture was often one of control and an attempt to allay fears about survival in the face of so much wild. Thankfully, today many gardens of the American West fearlessly draw on the natural beauty of the physical places in which they exist and serve as oases for wild plants and animals, too. They highlight our commitment to the survival of these very wild things we have now come to love.
A garden can be the perfect crucible for signifying, holding, and even expanding on cultural meaning past and present.
To my mind and experience, most gardens are a three-part alchemy between the riches and constraints of the natural and/or cultural history of the place, the individual creativity and personality of the gardener, and the gardening culture in which both the garden and the gardener exist.
Each garden is a tapestry woven of these threads, whether intentionally or subconsciously. In some gardens, the warp or weft might be the thicker or thinner strand, leading to a different final effect. But there is always some particular beauty and particular lesson to be absorbed in observing how any garden’s twining, animating
forces are weighted and harmoniously interwoven to be in dynamic and interdepen- dent conversation with one another.
While the 40 gardens in Under Western Skies are based in the North American West, in these extreme times, the extreme conditions/biodiversity of these gardens have solid lessons for gardeners everywhere on how to partner w/ the land, cultures & history‘s of our places. This in turn makes for more symbiotic gardens/gardeners in tune w/ this generous, brilliant planet & all the lives and relational systems that make her so. And that, my friends, has the power to shift everything – to grow everything including us - in a better direction.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this? Do these ideas resonate with you? Can you see them playing out in your own gardens? In you? I would love to hear more about this if so – would love to compile like-gardened stories of this nature to share here with us all. IF you have thoughts – please share with me by email: CultivatingPlace@gmail.com...
And many many blessings of May to you in your garden no matter what skies you garden under – breath deep, be kind and remember to enjoy the joys…
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