Whoever sees a farmer's garden stops and marvels. Whoever owns one will never again suffer from boredom. Farmer's gardens stand for far more than just idyll and have a thousand-year-old history.
Like everywhere else, they have become rare in the Bergisches Land. Photographer Eberhard Vogler has tracked them down and put their essence into pictures: Growing and harvesting, flowers and fruits, use and beauty.
Farmer's gardens have existed since people began to settle here. For thousands of years, the farmer's garden was dedicated exclusively to self-sufficiency in fruit and vegetables, in good times and bad. Most of them were terrible. Then came industrialisation. Fruit and vegetables were now available in supermarkets. For a while, it seemed that the farmer's garden had lost its reason d'être. It gave way to lawns, car parks and garages. But in recent years there has been a new interest in the old kitchen garden.
When Eberhard Vogler set out to capture the farmer's gardens in Bergisch for a book project, the task proved difficult. "Many gardens are hidden," he says "I was dependent on recommendations and word-of-mouth propaganda. He contacted communities, museums, private people, associations of rural women, conservationists and tourism, wrote emails, telephoned, drove through the area. Not infrequently in vain."
Then the announced farmer's garden had become weedy, given way to a pond or disappeared altogether," he says. In the last three years, Vogler drove 7,950 kilometres on the traces of the Bergische Bauerngärten, shot 2,500 photos and stopped counting the hours at some point. Out of 50 visited gardens, he chose 20, which are spread over the whole Bergische Land. At the same time, he learned about the nature of the farm garden and the life of its gardeners.
He found gardens that were strictly laid out according to monastic patterns and others in which nature was allowed to seek its own paths. The history of the farmer's garden is mostly in the dark. What is certain is that it was influenced by monastic and urban gardens, but also by worldwide trade. Immigrated plants like the sunflower, the dahlia, the tomato and many other vegetables are so perfectly integrated today that hardly anyone suspects their foreign origins.
Eberhard Vogler kneeled in beds, climbed ladders and left when he got calls like "Mr Vogler, if you're not coming soon, I've dug up the potatoes."
"All garden owners were very hospitable and helpful", he says, "and I met many interested and interesting people".
Many of them have rediscovered self-sufficiency. The organic trend has contributed its part to the resurrection of the farm garden.
Increased awareness about the environment, nature and variety has awakened again the desire to work with one's own hands enabling people to live out creativity, to spend one's leisure time sensibly or the need to find a piece of self-determination and peace in a fast-moving world. Or everything together. The motivations are as varied as the gardens. They don't care about the motive. They grow and blossom and give everyone who passes by a haunting greeting from nature, to please preserve them.
The Bergisches Land is a low mountain range region within the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, east of Rhine river, south of the Ruhr.
The landscape is shaped by woods, meadows, rivers and creeks and contains over 20 artificial lakes.