Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Monday, February 26, 2007

Outdoor Kitchens—WWWD

Garden rooms swing open the doors of perception and the gates of consumption.

imageServing it up

in an outdoor kitchen

Photo: Masonry Systems

As plant and hose and wicker companies know, the restive Northern gardener is gnawing on the curtains about now. Let the garden shows begin! At big city exhibit halls landscape designers and turf sellers work mightily to bring the outside in. There will be booths of flagstone appointed with wrought iron furniture, flowering plants, of course, and plashing fountains that sound strangely urinal within these echo chambers.

It’s not really possible to duplicate a cottage garden inside a convention center, but an “outdoor kitchen” with Viking Range and sink? Can do, along with just about any other sort of outdoor room you can dream up.

Jane Martin, Ohio horticulturist, writes, “Outdoor rooms are the spaces created among various landscape objects, whether fences, patios, plants or ponds. They have floors, walls and ceilings (overhead branches or structures).” (We haven’t yet achieved such architecture but do have a plein air Fibber McGee closetright out the back door.)

Joe Lamp asserts, “Just as we demand 12-month, 24-hour enjoyment from our indoor rooms, we now expect the same outside as well. Portable propane-fueled heaters tower over our heads like small trees, while all-weather lamps set the ambiance and illuminate the pages of our late-night reading.” Imagine the moths!

Valerie Easton sees in the shift from ordinary yards to outdoor rooms a generational difference: “The research says that Gen X and Y aren’t looking to study the Latin names of plants or spend every weekend weeding. They favor easy maintenance and instant effect. I worry younger gardeners will miss great joys and satisfactions,” she laments, “yet I admire their perception of gardens as outdoor living rooms rather than science projects.”

We’re less admiring than amazed, but we don’t think “younger gardeners” have anything to do with it. It’s marketers, whose “joys and satisfactions” come from filling our every inch and instant with more stuff.  Lamp reports that sales of ordinary lawn and garden products “remain flat,” meanwhile “homeowners are pouring money into expanding their living space outdoors.” He writes,  “The trends of 2007 for gardening and outdoor living continue to reinforce our need for instant gratification.”

That “trend” began with Adam or, certainly, Eve. It’s had a good streak since at least 1950, but okay. The question then becomes: What is it that gratifies you? Is it walking from the kitchen out of doors into another kitchen, with a sun-drenched stovetop and a second stack of dirty dishes?


Photo: Gregory Crewdson

The press for outdoor kitchens sent us to this photo by Gregory Crewdson,  from his collection TWILIGHT. A housewife, suffering from Epstein-Barr or perhaps an especially bad bout of indoor oven-cleaning, kneels in the kitchen. A garish plot of yarrow and gerbera daisies has clogged the breakfast nook, and David-Lynch lighting pours through the window. If an outdoor kitchen can provide “instant gratification,” why is it that this indoor flowerbed’s such a bummer? (We don’t believe Crewdson will be getting any commissions from Scott’s Miracle-Gro, but in this age of marketing-de-Sade, we’re probably very, very wrong.)

image“Mr. Wolf

eating by the chuckwagon”

Photo: Prairie Rose

All very perplexing—which leads us to ask WWWD? What Would Wishbone Do? He being, of course, the chuckwagon cook on Rawhide. Cowboys are well versed in plein air cooking and dining, after all—as well as bathing, defecating, and sleeping. In fact, they and other nomads may be said to have pioneered the outdoor room.

“Easy maintenance” is one way to look at this lifestyle. Furthermore, it may be within reach for those of us who’re not up to sink #2 and a patio refrigerator of brushed stainless steel.

Posted by Julie on 02/26 at 04:38 PM
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