In his book Second Nature, A Gardener’s Education, Michael Pollan suggests that the reason that Americans are so noticeably disinterested in flower gardening (in comparison with the counterparts in Western Europe and especially Britain where I come from) is due to their veneration of Henry David Thoreau and the influence of his book Walden. It is noticeable how it is not just those with land who grow flowers in Europe, even apartment blocks have window boxes filled with plants outside them and courtyards are routinely filled with planted pots.
It is not absent altogether in the US but it is less prevalent. A walk around the suburb in the town of Nashua in New Hampshire where I live will reveal much less careful cultivation for the beauty of it than you would see in its British equivalent. In my experience, the American mindset is one that perceives ‘unspoiled’ nature and wilderness as the model of beauty, and anything affected by man as unnatural, and therefore less beautiful. The assumption behind this is that man is not ‘natural’, or modern man at any rate, and so his work with nature is almost automatically detrimental and destructive to some degree.
This is not the orthodox Christian view of man and his relationship with the natural world, though I have met orthodox Christians who believe it. As I have described before, man is made to work the land and not only for cultivation for food, but also for beauty. You can read it here in the article, Come out of the Wilderness and into the Garden.
At our very beginning Adam was a gardener in Eden, the risen Christ was mistaken for one and the New Jerusalem our final city dwelling described in the Book of Revelation contains beautiful gardens. In the Song of Songs the lover describes his love as a ‘garden enclosed’. The beautiful garden is here used to illustrate the depth and passion of love between man and woman, which is in turn an allegory for the love of God and his Church. Ultimately this points, as all consideration of love does, to Love itself in the mystery of Trinity, whom Augustine characterizes as Lover, Beloved and Love.
In his encyclical on Catholic social teaching Leo XIII stresses the importance of man having access to the land and cultivating it. One surprising consequence of this is to create a fashion among Catholic academics (Read More)