I find that the best way to understand a space is to be in it, to move through it in three dimensions, so I visit gardens every year–sometimes as many as twenty or thirty in a given season. I have visited great country gardens, pocket gardens, newly planted gardens, abandoned gardens, personal gardens, and public gardens. Each one that I have spent time in has taught me something about space.
The patio (in private garden in Bucks County, PA) above was just an expansive ‘hallway’, but with careful planning and a custom built table it became a functional entertaining area for a large party. Creating enough space for people to comfortably gather in is important in any garden.
On the covered patio above, the relationship between the seating area, the garage to the left and the garden on the other two sides is human scale. Portland, Oregon based landscape architect Michael Schultz manipulated the space further by adding a funhouse mirror. (I would never think to do that…but loved it when I saw it.)
A lovely perennial border above in Chester, NJ is flanked by two benches. People sitting on these benches can’t have a conversation – they’d have to yell across the lawn. A spatial solution could have been found that would have allowed for a similar vignette of two benches but would have taken people’s use of the gardens into consideration.
There are those who come to design from a planting perspective, I don’t. I know plants and revel in their beauty, but I make gardens for people, not for plants. Some gardens are designed to be viewed rather than experienced. Experience trumps a pretty picture for me every time. Books and magazines can be inspiring, but they don’t really give a sense of space. For me, as a designer, that’s what it’s really about – how people interact with and move through a space. To understand that I have to physically be in a space.
To read what other designers think about gardens they’ve visited, click on the links below…