You can assess Pollok-Morris's eclectic take on the garden in his book "Close: Landscape Design and Land Art in Scotland" (Northfield Editions, 2010) and in an exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden near the Capitol.
Close, as in near, is an old Scottish term for a landscape that is so inspirational, "it's as if the heavens are closer to Earth," Pollok-Morris said in an interview.
Through his lens, a garden is many things, but not amorphous. Indeed, he has captured the work of some of the most focused minds in the landscape world today, and yet you come away from the show realizing that the old barriers between flower gardens, landscape gardening and land art are as artificial as gardenmaking itself.
Pollok-Morris said he is open to various interpretations of his chosen terrains. In each, he says, he strives "to convey a sense or an experience of the place."
Some of the landscapes are distinctly of their region. Others offer universal inspiration. From a purely horticultural perspective, Scotland is an engaging place to garden. The west coast is wet, the east coast is not (so much), the days extend into the night in the growing season, and the amazing temperance of the Gulf Stream is countered by the effects of the coastal winds. It is a land of the north, and even after six years on the project, the 38-year-old photographer is still amazed that a country sharing latitudes with Alaska can support such lushness.
A few of the featured landscapes really grab me, in different ways. Andy Goldsworthy has elevated the high craft of dry stonewalling into an art form. (His exhibit "Roof" was installed in the National Gallery of Art's East Building in 2005.) Near the village of Penpont, Goldsworthy assembled an egglike sentinel recalling the ancient Celtic stone piles or cairns. It is another installation of his that I find mesmerizing: a brownstone arch emanating from the opening of a stone barn. The arch seems to provide a symbolic link between the stone of the barn and the soil whence it came. The muscular arch itself is vernacular in form and material, and yet its use here is strange. The resulting tension is incredibly effective.
Pollok-Morris said he was most inspired by Little Sparta, the art garden near Edinburgh devised by the late Ian Hamilton Finlay and known for its gardens, sculptures and monuments inscribed in "concrete poetry": poetic quotations carved in stone and wood and given heightened meaning by their placement in the environment.