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Updated: Jan 30, 2023

Seemingly every season, I design with random leftovers. Working with leftovers, I usually pull off a decent design. I thought this backyard window box turned out especially nice--and Instagram agreed.

Looking at the design, I wondered what exactly it was that made this design so visually pleasing? I was thinking about a grad school semiotics course that I audited my senior year. You may remember the da Vinci Code, where the story centers around hidden meanings in signs and symbols all about us; and, I'm looking at this particular design and seeing a representation, two actually, speaking to me. The first is a theological representation of what many of us learn early in life; the second, a pagan representation of which the author, Dan Brown, argued that that theological representation is based.

There is a comfort in stories told over time and storytelling need not be limited to words. Stories can be remembered with just a fraction of information, a shorthand, if you will. We can summon a whole story from its fragments; or, we may not remember the story but still have a "feel good" sense of familiarity. I think humans, from primitive societies and their cave drawings to contemporary humans with their symbols and logos--such as the bitten apple--take comfort in something that is both immediately familiar and also mysteriously resonates.

Of course, we all know Apple Computers and their iconic logo. We see a bite in an apple and recognize a thousand's year old story. It is the biblical tale of Adam and Eve; it is the story of knowledge. One sees the logo and an entire mythology resonates. These symbols and the stories behind them lie subconsciously in all of us.

As with Apple Computers retelling a biblical story, I too, in my design was retelling that same story. The windowbox tells this creation story: God is represented on top in the wreath, the perfect circle, the halo; just below God lies the first humans, Adam and Eve which are represented in the form of two pine cones, and below that, the multitude that is humankind.

When I started designing my windowbox, I didn't have some conscious plan to create anything more than a pretty windowbox. It was pretty much a process of naïve intuition. It was only after I finished, that I realized I was telling this ancient story to an audience both religious and not. I think the universal knowledge of that story somehow had an invisible hand in my design, and I think the popularity of that design rests in something we all recognize.

If you're thinking Howard is seeing Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich, then part of me is laughing with you, but I'm telling you this story for three reasons: the first is because having shared this realization, both of us can now replicate a similar design should we desire. The second, is everything we learn finds its way into the art we create and will resonate with a certain audience, and most importantly, I think we need to think about container gardening as the art form for which it is.

Let's talk about how a composition works. Let's talk about our inspirations. Let's talk about the process! Discourse is community and container gardening is an art discipline worthy of criticism and exposition.

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