Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Garden Places in Second Life

They are one of the most ordinary of elements in second life, whenever we teleport into an outdoor spot we are most likely to encounter them. As the site begins to rezz, we see sets of palms, leafy oaks, flowering apple or cherry tree’s as they come into our view. As we approach a residence, or place of business, flowering or leafy shrubs appear along with roses, Black-eyed Susan’s, Marigolds or Chamomile, some of which even appear to be swaying in an imaginary wind. Their appearance and order are not random, someone has made a conscious decision to create a garden space. A special area for their home or business place in which flowers, trees or shrubbery have been prominently displayed, dedicated to their own enjoyment or to that of their guests and visitors.

Why gardens? Of all the things that could be done in SL to use the Prim’s available to us on a 512 Sq. Meter site or even the prim’s available on a full SIM, we still choose to have our gardens. One reason may simply be that the Linden’s have included them in our inventory of items; our libraries contain a Landscaping folder for use in our second life homes and businesses. It may be that they have perceived our need to create our environments in SL to be as familiar to us as it would be in our real lives. And it’s not just the Lindens who have done so, but there are a host of commercial sites within SL that cater to that need. Gardening centers in SL that provide all the elements that can be used to personalize our space and demonstrate that even in a simulated world, the need to have simple items of nature present as a means to comfort us and connect us with that place SL’ers call real life.

Gardens were among the first of many areas that I’ve explored in SL, and I have chosen to start off Lane’s List with my picks for SL’s Gardens. I must confess to a little bit of influence here, a mentor in my second life introduced me to gardens shortly after my arrival. Her influence affected my decision but it wasn’t the deciding factor. When not in SL, I am most likely to be found in my own garden.

I started my SL search easily enough; using the search function available in SL, by typing the word “Garden” and hitting enter. The results came back with slightly over 500 places listed. This would be a lot to explore even for an addicted sl’er like me. So my first impulse was to limit it to the sites with the most traffic, picking the top ten or fifteen. So off I went, visiting the first place listed only to be disappointed. Yes, there was a garden, but it was small with very little variety and it was really only the entry point to the rest of the SIM and its commercial locations. The same was true of the second and third sites visited. A bit disappointed, I determined that a set of criteria would need to be used to evaluate and select the garden places to visit and ultimately the one that would appear on Lane’s List. Here are the criteria I used to narrow my list and to choose the sites I would visit and write about.

· Garden plan, the site must be a truly be a garden and designed as such

· It must contain the elements of a garden. Plants, trees, shrubs and the outdoor structures that enhance or emphasize the garden space such as terraces, paths, ponds, and gazebos

· Uses of the garden. A place to relax, meet friends in a community space, where one can enjoy its simple beauty or provide the SL’er with an opportunity to learn

· The variety of plants used and space utilization for themes

· While some commercialization was acceptable, it wasn’t the prevalent theme of the site

With these criteria in mind, I went back to search and looked at the high traffic sites once again, and narrowed the list down to about a dozen places to explore. Over a period of about week, I managed to have visited each, made some notes and contacted listed owners to chat with them about their gardens. So without further fanfare here’s Lane’s List of Garden Spots in Second Life:

1. SL Botanical Gardens - Whether alone or with friends, there is much to see and do. It occupies its own island, and full exploration may require several trips or a several hour excursion. I’ve visited multiple times and have been delighted with each visit to find something new to see and study. As you arrive at the entry point, a notecard dispenser will provide you the necessary information to guide you through your visit, and includes the developer’s favorite spots. In a true Botanical Garden fashion, there are plants and trees from nearly every creator in SL. Location: The Botanical Gardens 194, 60, 38

2. Midsomer Isle- Step Into The Dream – “A Paradise of Hideaways, Mountain Pools, Garden, Dancing, Dinner, Chess, Shopping, Relax, Romance, Love, Cuddle, or Just Dream”, is what one finds when entering this enchanted space. While exploring one will find pools of water at each waterfall, terraces for reflecting alone or enjoying with someone else or simply viewing a sunset, a bell tower that tolls each hour or one may just relax and sit in the park feeding the birds. This garden is a continuing work in progress so each new visit may introduce something new. Location: Midsomer Isle 149, 124, 27

3. The Lost Gardens of Apollo – The heaviest trafficked garden site in my search list, is a beautiful spot for romantic private moments, or if alone for just plain relaxation. The outdoor features such as the terraces, gazebos, sculpture, waterfalls, and domed pavilion alone may take several trips or one extended visit to take it all in. The terrace facing south west provides the ultimate in SL sunsets and is a must for all who visit. Location: Apollo 194, 105, 58

4. Tranquility Garden – As the name bespeaks, was the most tranquil of the several places I visited while exploring and the first place in SL I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon fishing. It is also the smallest of the several visited, but in the small space, it managed to pack in a host of flowers, trees and secluded spots for quiet conversations or if alone for quiet reflection in tranquility. Location: Achemon 70, 122, 109

5. Fairytale Gardens of Shinano – Start your visit by walking through this garden space enjoying the vista of the river valley, the double arched lighted bridge, the English style cottage with its garden of pink and purple flowers or the autumn like setting with colorful leaves on oaks and maples. Location: shinano 128, 128, 24

More to follow on gardens, with interviews and pictures.

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