A garden is…

"Oh I have wordy definitions of a garden, al right.  Lots of them.  I even like one– particularly the one about a garden’s being sculpture.  Not ordinary sculpture, of course,  Not the kind of sculpture that someone makes in a studio and then you walk around it and admire it from all the different angles, and mostly you have to think away everything else, to see what the sculpture had in mind.   I don’t mean that kind of sculpture.  A garden is much bigger.  Bigger in size, at least.  You can walk thru it.  You are inside something.  You have to feel you are inside something, even though you are out of doors, instead of being outside of something trying to think everything else away.  A garden is sculpture from any place you are in it, even while you are in motion, and there’s nothing outside that has to be thought away because that’s part of it too –just as you are." -James Rose,

Gardens Make Me Smile


To paraphrase Rose -- the trouble is that even the best definition of a garden through a photograph, video or illustration is not the thing itself –  it is not the experience. 

James Rose w. design maquette,

Isamu Noguchi w. playground maquette,

Isamu Noguchi Foundation

Isamu Noguchi has stated that “many landscapes are intentionally designed to communicate via a range of senses, which are absent when presented only two dimensionally. Does a two dimensional photo, illustration or painting capture the essence of a rose garden in June.

You can visualize it, but can you smell it?” 1.


David Hume

writes that the sense of experience, the perception of space through our “visceral interaction with the world forms our ideas about it. Like other art forms landscapes don’t always carry literal messages, but can trigger sensations.”  

Experiences based upon two-dimensional representations do not tell us much about first hand experiences with three dimensional landscapes and the specific attributes of these experiences.

Many preference studies are based upon peoples experiences with two-dimensional pictures rather than experiences with actual landscapes, so they omit powerful dimensions of landscape experience, such as thermal comfort, smell sound, and tactile sensation.

Children experiencing Charles Jenck's Garden of Cosmic Speculation

Back to James Rose..

“A great garden is more like silence that like speech. It’s the luxury of not saying something.  It’s the “something” between the lines.”


Isamu Noguchi, A Study of Space

, Ana Marie Torres

     Monacelli Press, 2000