“I think that if ever a mortal heard the voice of God, it would be in a Garden at the cool of the day.” f. Frankfort Moore ~ A Garden Of Peace
Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I lived a relatively “normal” middle class suburban kids existence … school, piano lessons, park district sports, mowing lawns, summer vacations, etc.
What wasn’t at all normal was that within my neighborhood block right behind our house were 3 vacant home lots…..an overgrown woodland world perfect for a young boy and his friends. For us, this place was transformed into a wonderland. A special place where the imagination came alive….where a large fallen tree became an amazing play structure, where paths through tall native grasses led to nowhere and anywhere at the same time, where over grown shrubs and hedge rows became secret caves and tunnels, and where a large tree branched all the way to the ground provided the perfect hide out from whoever or whatever needed to be hidden from…..and where the foundation of my passion for gardens was stirred.
A garden should be that place where wonders come alive, where we get lost and it doesn’t matter, where we enjoy and pretend, and where we escape from the troubles that surround us….that’s how the garden was at the beginning and it is what we long for it to be today.
A garden should be thought of as more than a collection of plants. It’s a place where time slows and we become quieted long enough to actually notice and appreciate the uniqueness of all of the elements in the garden. It should be rest for the soul…a place where memories are created. A garden should evoke a very emotional, personal and visceral response.
Today, I know what all of those plants were and, while there are three homes on those lots, the memories are not lost. I marvel at the majestic oak that became a whole new world for me, the little bluestem that might as well have been 10′ tall to a young boy, the overgrown forsythia massing that became an amazing tunnel of yellow each spring, the grouping of three enormous mockorange shrubs that became a white flower covered cave- begging for you to crawl into its intoxicating world of fragrance….a smell that still takes me back today, and, lastly, a mulberry tree with such a spread that it felt like you could live underneath it! It was there in those vacant lots that my understanding of place was formed.
A garden to me is a very personal space that should make a difference in the lives of those who experience it. It should leave an indelible mark and draw one back into a place either physically or in memory …this is what we should strive for as designers- a transformed garden space that touches and changes lives.