Somehow it seems appropriate in this season of new beginnings to share with you that I should like to take a tour of the great public gardens of the world before I die.
I could provide a list, but it is my hope that this post will inspire you to take a little deep dive into these exquisite garden spaces and the extraordinary people who dedicated their lives to their creation, sometimes pouring decades into the transformation of one single plot of land.
If you asked, I would tell you that the garden is my favorite room of the house. When it comes to shelter, there is no delineation in my mind between canvas umbrella or tiled roof—Sanctuary is where one feels most at home.
As you can see from the images, my own little plot of soil is undergoing a sizable transformation. When I’m in the midst of a renovation project, I always start with what surrounds the home—color, texture, and light, particularly in the garden, not only awaken my creativity but inform every design decision toward creating a seamless experience from the outside in.
No life is well-rounded without the subtle inspiration of beauty—Beatrix Ferrand, American Landscaper
I am known for saying that everywhere we look there is evidence that God is mesmerized by beauty for its own sake. But I think it’s more than that—
Beauty is meant to bring humanity more joy.
Did you know that after the 911 attacks more than 7.5 million daffodils were planted throughout the five boroughs of NYC? Hundreds of volunteers planted bulbs of this delicate flower—symbolizing remembrance and a poignant reminder that winter ends—infusing a simple tenderness into the neighborhoods in a time of unrelenting heartbreak and loss.
There are few things that punctuate the relationship between humans and nature more than the concept in Landscape Architecture known as the Desire Lines.
Considered an essential aspect of garden design, the principle mandates that those with an obsession for plants and planting spend hours observing people instead.
Humanity and nature are inexplicably intertwined. The gracious interdependence of soil and soul is as profound as the notion of an afterlife, and as ordinary as every day.
The landscape architect knows that the enduring garden, great or small, must be inspired by what we pedestrians do without taking even the slightest notice—how we meander on campus, walk from library to retail store…where we choose to sit and chat, or seek the shade when enjoying an afternoon meal. These are the Desire Lines that set the framework for the makings of a memorable day and a timeless public space.
The notion that nature benefits humanity in indefinable ways makes me wonder…When is the last time your bare feet touched earth? We awaken to carpet in the morning and walk on concrete throughout our days. Yet, research shows that the extraordinary theory of Grounding provides electrical nutrition that lowers stress, inflammation and pain.
The great landscape architects have always known that healing is right there under our feet. Those like Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the creators of Central Park, intrinsically understood that their masterpieces would bring a literal breath of fresh air to the urban jungle’s relentless chaos.
The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it—Frederick Law Olmsted, Father of Landscape Architecture
Our gardens, even our private ones, are not simply a means of escape, but a reconnection with the most creative aspects of ourselves.
Visit your favorite public space and sit under a grand old tree. Likely, it was planted precisely there decades ago to give shade to those who came before you. Those irresistible garden paths and blooming vines climbing the wall were sketched and then painstakingly engraved into the earth with you in mind—
There is no more breathtaking example of legacy than the willingness to plant a seed and believe that the impact of your imaginings will realize their loveliest potential after you’re gone.
What is the path you most often take? Observe the beauty you’ve been missing there.
What are the habits you have formed without taking any notice? Is it time to turn left instead of right?
How can you make the world more beautiful by contributing to the places you most often inhabit?
How can the places you visit inspire and awaken the creative spirit within you? Observe the Desire Lines in your family…how can you design your spaces with those you love in mind?
This is my typical afternoon when in Paris and precisely what public gardens are meant to be… places to linger, kiss your lover, and squish your toes into the grass. Let the world’s breathtaking gardens inspire the creation of yours.