Its birth would be impossible without all the adventures it had to go through: two journeys to Egypt, one to Holland. It admires Keukenkof and Amsterdam, Piet Oudolf and Marcel Wanders, Averkamp’s paintings and Indonesian cuisine. It managed to cross Germany on a train, to visit Provence (where it didn’t do anything at all), went to the Chaumont exposition and, fully inspired, was about to leave to the US but stayed and hid in an enormous safe during the Moscow summer heat. It was eager to take a trip on a steamer along Moskva-river but reasonably resisted the desire. Not every manuscript has such a long traveling experience, probably because most of the time it lived its own life only hinting me from time to time that it was ready to become something more than a manuscript. But all in its time. Mark Twain said: “The book has to get tired…. it’s reluctant to go on working before its strength and interest are reanimated after a good rest”.
Of course it suffered because of my slowliness, I was writing it in parts, from time to time. I didn’t have a separate notebook for it where I never wrote with a black felt-pen that Tarantino usually uses for his sacred scenery writing act. When he’s about to start he buys a notebook with 80 – 100 pages, 3 black and 3 red felt-pens - an entire ritual. “I’ve always said that poetry can not be written on PC, instead I can take my notebook anywhere – to the restaurant, to my friend’s place, I can write in bed or in any other position elsewhere” –Tarantino says.
I don’t know why I started to immediately think about the book cover. I terrorized my friends asking for their opinions. They differed drastically: the cover has to be bright; of course red! no, pastel; it should reveal the contents; it has the decisive role – it has to attract the reader… I appreciated and considered every opinion, analyzed, made notes, tormented myself. Finally Tania Lebedeva managed to stop all that. She sent me all the wonderful covers that you can see here. It was a Superpresent. This is the way my friends make jokes. I calmed down, stopped worrying about the cover and continued my work.
My summer was influenced by Woody Allen, his movies and sceneries. I was surprised by his ability to work (to say nothing of the talent). His new movie appears every autumn. That’s how he depicts his way of work: “I wake up early in the morning, have my breakfast and get down to work. Generally I work by myself, but sometimes I invite co-authors. I go to the backroom or stay in the living-room and start thinking. I walk all the place round, go up- and downstairs, to the terrace and back, walk in the street…. Then I have a shower and think again. All the time. And at times after hours of torments something occurs to me. People who don’t pass through this – the majority – can not understand how inspiration works.
Every day I’m at work. Even if I myself don’t my subconsciousness does, because the process is already started. Sometimes I tell myself: “Stop! I’m tired, put this all away and have a rest!” I go upstairs, play the clarinet, watch a movie, try to amuse myself, but even when I try not to think about the scenery – the subcounsciousness goes on filtering all that can be related to the plot.
As I get down to work all the difficulties are in the past. It’s a pleasure –waking up in the morning and remembering that today I will start writing. By this time all the work is done, all the torment part is over. It’s just wonderful to put down already formulated thoughts”.
Of course everybody had his “piece of cake”. Every five minutes I called the editor for botany, Marina Mezlikina and asked her something, and then called again and asked if she was sure of what she said, and then I called Galina Degtiarenko, the best maker-up of the publishers, who after the long page proof and remakes wants to take up landscape design as a hobby; and Marina Latsis that hated me already for my slowness and I sent her messages asking why I was still alive? (with the allusion to the episode that occurred to Mark Twain when he worked as editor of a newspaper and once received a letter from a reader with a most illiterate poem in the end. Its title was: “Why am I still alive?” Mark Twain responded to the reader in the next edition: “Because you didn’t bring the poem to me in person”). In my case there were less mistakes but a lot more days hat exceeded the time limit; and Natalia Kazimirova who managed to arrange my site drawings in the way that anyone can understand them now. We met once a week and discussed the schemes and plans and the three-dimensional image, and then she created her watercolors (at night or on Saturday). Then we discussed it again. You may notice that the flower-gardens don’t represent a certain season, a seasonal scheme – they are the image, the concept, that’s why in some cases the colors are intensified (like in the Secret room) or restrained.
When the book was all made up I understood I didn’t like the photos we had. So I decided to substitute some of them and asked Serguei Karepanov to help me to make new photos and to choose the missing pictures for the book. Each time I said I liked the picture and decided to take it, and each time I called him next day and asked for new ones.
I gave each project a name in order to evoke associations with some memories, plants, episodes of life… For instance the project “Fire Bird” was first called “Belgian Village. Red flower-garden.” When I read Kandinsky and saw the word fire I watched the plan and renamed it immediately because it looked like the wing of the marvelous bird.
The idea of “Maple Wood” occurred to me while waiting for my turn in the French Embassy…
“Colorful Shells” were influenced by Dan Pearson’s “Moon Garden” that I saw on an exhibition in Chelsea. “Revenge to the Lawn” proves my dislike for green space and my solidarity with Piet Oudolf’s words: “Do you prefer to mow the lawn in your garden instead of having a rest there?”
The “Russian Garden” was inspired by the Parisian park Bercy that I visited for the first time in 2003. I keep coming there with my tourists to show them the sceneries and the shady nooks of the admirable place.
In the “Windows” and the “Sunk Garden” I confess my love to forget-me-nots. Valerii Obodzinsky’s song “Fresh Autumn” suggested me the name “Eternal spring” (allusion to Bressingham). “Pink Wind” is the exciting recollection of how we planted a flower-garden in the park of the north river-station in Moscow. The roses were stolen the day after we planted them – I said it was the pink wind that took them away. But every cloud has a silver lining – we planted spireas instead of roses. They looked quite as stunning. The “Secret Room” reveals my passion to mirrors and the purple color. “Mr.Orange” is a tribute to Tarantino and his Reservoir Dogs: the red-haired cop by Tim Roth.
The book is based on my lectures. I wrote it in parts, sometimes skipping from one chapter to another. It’s easier for me to do several things at a time. Meticulous and monotonous work is very hard for me, that’s why my personal greatest achievement is the alphabetical index.
I did enjoy writing about gardens. It’s not less amazing to describe the process than to participate in it. Being a cinema fan I thought it would be interesting to read the making off (like they do in movies), that’s why I’d like to introduce to you some participants of the story. For you to see how it was happening…
It’s easy to get on with authors if you like kids.
A triumvirate is a political regime dominated by three powerful individuals, each a triumvir (pl. triumviri). Usually it doesn’t last for a long time
Dank Amsterdam in spring. Low leaden clouds driven by the gusty wind above the narrow streets. The tiny hotel (5-7 rooms) hidden in the maze of side-streets where life dies away on Friday at six sharp when everybody leaves for the weekend – to the football Eindhoven, artistic Arnhem or Edda with its spirit of hay and manure…
The room is typical for the hotel – in size it could be compared to the interior of your car; without special facilities, but clean. And of course there’s a French balcony along the entire wall opening on the courtyard. A perfect place to observe the wrecks of rusty bicycles and wet shiny ruberoid roofs with well-groomed cats in collars of all colors.
Wine, cheese and the obligatory Dutch herring. A triumvirate still life on yesterday’s newspaper… There are three of us as well. Our triumvirate consists of me – the editor, Tatiana – my author and he – our torturer, the Manuscript. Having signed the non-aggression pact we bricked up in the room for a week promising not to return without the book finished. This was the last measure, because all the efforts to concentrate on the book in Moscow failed. When we reappeared in the world (hating the wine – cheese – herring trio) the main work was done – we got a crystal clear idea of the book’s main ideas and structure.
Believe me, there are very few people in this world with whom I’d spend an entire week in one room. Well, even an hour in some cases is too much… My theory is that 15 minutes are optimal for a conversation with 99% of my regular interlocutors.
The inhuman torture by the gastronomical triumvirate, spiced by words, written and unwritten, made me rethink Quentin Crisp’s saying: “ There are three reasons to become a writer: first – you need money; second – you have something important to say to the world; third – you don’t know how to amuse yourself during long winter evenings”. Our case didn’t correspond to any of these!
Well, exceptions only confirm the rule – Tatiana turned out to be a wonderful author, me – a satisfactory editor and the manuscript… grew into splendid book. That’s it and that’s all.
P.S. one more thing for those who aspire to master the art of landscape design at the level of Tatiana by means of her book. She hasn’t disclosed her main secret, but I got it and I’ll tell you – Tatiana simply addresses the genius loci (the spirit of place) directly, and it’s he who tells her how to select and combine the plants in the most natural way. Apparently one more triumvirate is in action: between her, the spirit and the plants.
The process was long and hard, and I remember the book earnestly and with love as if it was an adopted child. I would have written my own book in a different way. Before mine appears I made this one good, I tried my best.
I started the correcting of botanical names when the idea of the entire book wasn’t quite clear to me. And I did it thoroughly. Paradoxically, when the book was ready to appear I understood that I was even too pedantic, because it wasn’t merely about plants and gardening. It’s an essay about gardener’s lifestyle, like thoughts about plants, that is closer to fiction. Fiction with valuable advice and recommendations that proves that landscape design is the sphere of extraordinary and strong people to whom undoubtedly belongs the author.
Experiments in the garden are harmless, but they do bring creative satisfaction. I regard this book as an appeal to start the creative work with no fear of mistakes. Besides the book brings a supply of energy, experience has shown that.
I’m in a sphere that stands far from landscape design and stuff of the kind. But I happened to spend a week in France with a group of obsessed gardeners. The head of the group was Tania with her book. First – because she was the organizer, second – because she was the most obsessed. With her book.
We visited plenty of gardens walking in and out with cameras, notebooks etc while Tatiana never lost hold of an enormous paper pile. I didn’t know what it was yet, but just took note of the fact. Then I discovered that the book was her continuation, like her arm or her leg. They never stopped their interaction wherever they found themselves – in the car, in the gardens, in the fortresses… Or the book claimed for her attention, or Tania asked her advice.
The book is lucky. Her author is a person obsessed by what she does. Nothing can convince better than sincerity, persistence and full dedication. Only strong people can live that way. And besides they can make complicated thing simple, involve the indifferent, infect with their enthusiasm. I tell you!
The French journey is over, but I keep in touch with Tania and her book. The process of creation (whatever it is – books or children) is fascinating, and many authors noticed that sometime their heroes become independent and determine their life all by themselves. They just become co-authors. I look with admiring envy on those for whom life has in store the meeting with the animated images of this book. And I wish myself more meetings like that…
I thought it would never be over. She was mocking at us. At all of us – Marina Latsis convinced her, Marina Merzlikina checked her, Galia Degtiarenko made up again and again, Natasha Kazimirova made the paintings at night and I tried to reason her: “Tania, they don’t have to suffer, you’re breaking all the deadlines, brace yourself, summon your strength!” She said: “Ok!” and disappeared.
We talked it over with Marina and condemned her slovenliness:
– Don’t you think she already behaves like a recognized genius? – Undoubtedly! – And no one has seen her genius work yet! – She’s just mocking at us! – Yeah…
And next day again we stirred her up…
Frankly speaking, in this entire epic I had the most pleasant role. I didn’t have any responsibilities, but I couldn’t stay indifferent because it was all about my closest friends.
I was the “anxious spectator” of the play, which rushes to the stage to save his favorite character in danger. In this case they were numerous: Tania’s book (we couldn’t help loving it because we saw its birth), our friendship, my tranquility after all. And I rushed to the stage as an unnoticeable extra-player and arranged the course of the events so that nobody was hurt.
Sometimes the heroes of the play left the stage to tell me everything they couldn’t pronounce on stage: “If I only knew it would take so much time, I would have never started”, “I can’t stand it any more, what is she thinking about!”, “She’s not on schedule, again!”. And sometimes Tatiana herself called me in the night asking unexpected questions: “Tell me, how should I write “existential”?” or “What is triumvirate?”
But most of the time during these two years we talked about cinema and cooking, and such matters as soup recipes and Bergman seemed to be of major importance. And that’s while everybody knew that the book was being written at that very moment. And the deadline was postponed for half a year again.
And then those hen parties at my place – everybody abandoned their work and families and came by for a couple of days. Thus in the summer of 2010 we used to have long talks, submerged in my pool with a glass of rose champagne.
A couple of tearjerkers, a good dinner, more champagne and by the end of the second day there came a flash of inspiration! We formulated a profound philosophical maxim, a perfect collective truth about the hard women’s lot.
And then again we parted and got back to our jobs and families and only found time to call each other:
– «How’s it going? Are you writing?». – «I am».
Time went by, we all worked a lot, kept the house, got sick, left and returned, found new hobbies, and still waited for her book because no one was in doubt that she would do it, that she had something to say. There was the only question – when?
Each one made his contribution, we shared experience, gave advice, tried to help, and sometimes it seemed to us that we were more anxious about the book than Tatiana was. And again the deadline was postponed.
And then she just “burst out” and we didn’t know how to stop her. She burst out writing and decided to rewrite the book from the very beginning. No one expected that, we needed to stop her and found new arguments: “The book has to appear by the New Year,” – Marina said. I backed her up: “It will be a gift edition with a fancy cover. Come on!” Tatiana responded with the decision to rearrange all the pictures in the book and change the layout!
Oh no…. it will never be over! Everybody nagged at each other and I already saw our friendship fall apart at the seams! Problems were coming. The theater was crashing and the actors stopped listening to each other!
And then Marina played her last trump card – the fatal blow that from her point of view had to put the end either to the endless writing or to the friendship. By the time everybody was just indifferent towards the outcome – it was postponed so many times.
“The book will not appear. The publishers decided to close the project.” A short pause followed and then… nothing! Tatiana continued her work maintaining her pace. L’enfant terrible wasn’t going to change!
This was how the book was finished. When all of us were warn out and exhausted. Now we feel happy it exists. And even a little sorry that all that is over. But somehow I feel it’s not the end…
How did I meet Tatiana Koysman? Frankly speaking I already knew about the enigmatic and mysterious institution named “Gertruda”. This name makes all the garden amateurs feel awe. When I only started my photographic career I called “Gertruda” and stuttered: “By chance, do you need a photogra….?” “No, we don’t” – her stern voice didn’t let me finish the phrase.
A few years passed and I advanced in my art. And there was a phone-call and I herd a pleasant woman’s voice. Apparently “Gertuda” was looking after my progress all these years and she called at the moment when I was quite mature. To tell you the truth I was flattered. Tatiana Koysman, it was she herself, asked me to take pictures of her gardens for her future book. That’s how we met.
And this is the way I imagine a person that creates gardens: a slender woman wearing by all means a dress, with rosy cheeks and a sharp tongue, with artistically disheveled hair and a stubborn lock on the forehead. Tatiana perfectly fit the image. In a contest where winners are the most charming and open-minded she would have obtained the first prize. She isn’t afraid to show her helplessness in some cases, and that wins hearts. She accepts her mistakes and asks sometimes naive, even childish questions if she doesn’t understand anything. I liked working with her because she appreciated good pictures, although our opinions didn’t always correspond.
I know why the publication was postponed so many times: she tried to find the best picture for every page of the book. She was not satisfied when the photo didn’t reveal exactly what she meant in her flower-garden. She chose the pictures that transferred her mood, her sensations while creating. I think it’s the peak of professionalism. And one more thing. Though not without false modesty she used to tell me that she was not a grind and didn’t remember the names of all the plants, at a glance she identified the plants and flowers I had taken pictures of in England (when I didn’t know how to assort them). Like all creative people she’s sort of distracted, used to loose the pictures I gave her or forgot their names.
What can I say about her flower-gardens? Well, my evaluations can be considered objective, because I am not a landscape designer, I am a photographer and my specialization are gardens, I make reportages from gardens and try to impartially convey what I see in JPEG files. During the last 4 years I have taken pictures in more than 220 European gardens. I am working as well in different Russian gardens – in those of oligarchs and common people. The main difference between our gardens and those abroad is that Russian gardens are all “planned” and “laid out” while the European give the impression of having grown and developed by themselves, like a cherry ripens on the branch. The thing is that a mere plan or project don’t work, you must feel the place, the shape and the color, anticipate the future development. Only this way you can catch the dynamics of what the garden’s formation. Tatiana is no doubt a master of all these magic methods.
I don’t know how much I’ve contributed to the creation of the book with my photos, but I tried my best, I did make the best of my cameras and lenses. Tatiana is easy-going, so I could completely fulfill myself, show all my skill. I enjoyed taking pictures of her gardens, without hurry, trying to cognize their souls. I tried to understand their essence and Tatiana’s essence as well, because one thing is impossible without the other. She didn’t tell me what to photograph, when and from which angle. Either she bore me up in this way trying to tactfully deal with a stubborn photographer or she did like all my work. If in other books by Tatiana Koysman you see the words “photo by Serguei Karepanov” it means she is really satisfied with what I do. Anyways, I really enjoy dealing with her.
Finally, one more thing. Which photo do you think I consider the best of all the 250 in the book, the picture which really reveals the soul of Tatiana Koysman’s flower-gardens? I bet you won’t guess. It’s the small picture of Tatiana herself on the cover. It reflects all the naturalness, sensuality and fascination of her flower-gardens.