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Fractals in the Garden

[the leaf]

[the Mandelbrot set]

Given the amount of time that I must currently spend in the lab, (and I do in fact write this from beside the RF-magnetron sputter coater) it is perhaps not surprising that my garden-thinking is addled with science, and turning at present to fractals.

The fractal is an astonishingly efficient way to build space. You only need one equation, which can be thought of as one geometric shape, or in the physical realm one mechanism, to make something at increasingly larger and larger scales.

Fractals are called 'self-similar' or 'recursive', because of this quality. In the growth of a tree, branches form on branches form on branches, from twigs to trunk. The individual leaflets of a fern are nearly identical to the whole frond.

If you google 'fractals', you'll get alot of computer-generated art, but I don't have much patience with it, preferring to appreciate naturally occuring fractals instead.

So what does this mean to the garden? It's thought that we have a natural affinity for the self-similar; that our native conception of beauty is tied to this idea of observation at all scales.

This is perhaps why the cottage garden, with a plethora of detail at the scale of a flower blossom, needs its topiary. The topiary provides something for the eye at the big end of the scale. And why minimalist gardens can be oddly disappointing to experience. Their smooth surfaces and sleek constructions can leave a blank at the 'small' end of the scale; when you come close there is no longer anything to see.

I'm thinking of my garden as a fractal today.

Love to all from the lab.

[The cyclamen-leaf-I-wish-I'd-found and other photos are from the blog orso]

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West Coast Island Gardener said...

I have known about the fractals in trees and their branches and enjoyed seeing it but was blind to it elsewhere. Thanks for opening my eyes to the fascinating world of fractals in my garden.

Martha said...

The natural balance in the fractals really does relate to balance in great gardens, doesn't it?

I envy your being in the learning stage of life and appreciate your willingness to share your insights with us all.
love to you from the lab of life

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