Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set:
James van Sweden wanted his gardens to be a holistic experience, something to stand in the middle of, be enveloped by, residing somewhere between art and wilderness. Van Sweden wanted to design gardens that had the boldness of a wild landscape, lush and full and free, gardens that moved even when the wind wasn’t blowing, with dramatic contrasts of texture and height and color. Van Sweden thought a garden ought to have a powerful smell and include plants that you could stroke, like the velvety Stachys byzantine, which feels like the ears of a lamb. Touch was even more important to van Sweden than color, for human beings are tactile creatures. Time’s effect on the garden was paramount and each plant was carefully chosen in its relationship to the seasons. Some people thought Oehme and van Sweden’s gardens most beautiful in the winter. “Time is the gardener’s friend and foe,” wrote van Sweden, “always working its relentless changes. Gardening teaches us patience… But gardens can also teach us to live more in the moment — to listen, to watch, to touch, and to dream as the garden works its peaceful magic.” Van Sweden thought a garden could be experienced like a poem or a story. There was meaning in every lichen-covered stone, every changing leaf, and that meaning could emerge from the same mystery contained in wild nature. “Out of vast, unknowable nature comes the freedom to form new thoughts, or to notice some tiny wonder for the first time… It is not necessary that meaning be written in the garden, only that you discover personal meaning and be transformed.” Even a tiny garden plot on a tenement balcony could achieve the romance of a meadow, if given the right attention. Sometimes Oehme and van Sweden’s New American Garden style was also called New Romantic.