Garden Designers Roundtable: Garden Visits and Lessons

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.

Even a narrow patio can seat 16

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.

Complex spatial relationships on a small patio

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.)

Not set up for conversation!

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…

Fern Richardson : Life on the Balcony : Orange County CA

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque NM



11 thoughts on “Garden Designers Roundtable: Garden Visits and Lessons

  1. I hear you on “the space”, over gardens for plants-sake. While plants can provide a meaningful sense-of-place, that is still only with design for the people to experience it. The relationships between spaces that you note seem to be the “ahhh” factor that some gardens bring people to exclaim, when I catch others’ reactions on garden tours.

    The funhouse mirror…that is almost up my alley! And since my area really doesn’t get hail, it is giving me some ideas…..

  2. The beauty of design, whether interior or exterior, is that the end product makes both the client and designer feel comfortable and excited. Whew… not at all an easy task.

  3. You are right that nothing teaches better than actually visiting lots of gardens. That’s my favorite pastime!

    As for that last garden, it’s set up more like a public park than an intimate back yard, isn’t it?

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