As an American overseas, if I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard this ten times in the U.K… "Why do Americans refer to their outdoor planted spaces as yards?"  "Aren’t yards where cars are put up on blocks? Where railcars are stored?"

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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


On a trip to the New Museum several months back I encountered the sculpture of Urs Fisher
The physicality of these pseudo-organic large objects and voids I passed thru evoked images of a surreal garden with these masses of space representing the hanging limbs of trees, shrubs, man-cured hedges or topiary as positive spaces to the negative i passed through.
One begins to notice that Installation art is going some way towards re-integrating sculpture with its surroundings as sculptors have for years taking an interest in garden design.

Perhaps this finds its suggestion in japanese garden design with an emphasis on abstract compositional harmonies, rusticity,  borrowed views and  assymetrical configuration of design elements.  patterns and textures play their part as well.. a Shinto shrine exists as a space in nature.

However, It could be argued that "traditional" sculpture is considered three-dimensional, yet landscape design or gardens are more complex in that they have a fourth dimension... time. 
Perhaps there is a category, somewhere in-between the two disciples, where you place installation art, experimental gardens, etc., where  they truly merge? Herbert Bayer was perhaps one of the first to merge multiple visual disciplines.

The Marble Garden, 1955.  Slabs of unpolished white marble, found in a nearby quarry are arranged on a 38' square platform with interesting spacial relationships created due to shadows, shifting wind patterns and a fountain jet of water in the center. 

Bayer's influence is evidenced in successive modernists such as Ernst Cramer's "Poet's Garden".  Within a decade after this garden was exhibited at the 1959 garden Exposition in Zurich Switzerland it had a profound effect, maybe a "tipping point" on landscape designers and architects who then began incorporating landforms + earth sculptures into their body of work.


If you were to venture to the Conservatory Gardens at 104th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan, and walk through the Vanderbilt wrought iron gates, you will come upon arguably most the verdant, bucolic and gorgeous 6 acre spot in all of New York City.  This jewel is the work of Lynden Miller who raised the money, renovated and redesigned the space in the mid 1980’s with the Central Park Conservancy.

In her own words, “Parks and beautiful places, lots of trees and year-round plantings raise public morale by making people feel that their city cares about them.  And in turn, business improves” She has “proved her conviction that these beautiful outdoor spaces, maintained to the highest standard, contribute greatly to the quality of life in a city.”

Ms. Miller is an inspirational gift to Manhattan, it’s residents and visitors through her advocacy and rejuvenation of the Conservatory Gardens of Central Park, Bryant Park, Madison Square Park and Wagner Park.  You can also find her designs at the New York Botanical Gardens, Columbia University, SUNY @ Stonybrook, Princeton University and the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

Next up for Lynden Miller is the Heather garden of Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan.  If you don't have the opportunity to see her speak, here are videos from YouTube (1 + 2) and an article from Fine Gardening.  But try to see her in person... she's charming and a living legend.


A prolific English poet and author, most famously known for The Jungle Book, and Just So Stories, who is often associated with romantic British Imperialism, specifically in the Indian subcontinent.
Kipling was a lover of gardens and a maintained a luxurious estate in England, presently preserved and part of The National Trust (as pictured below).  Homes in Vermont and Mumbai have also been preserved and turned into museums.


 A favorite of mine, this poem attributes the garden as a telling part of the culture and heritage of the British Monarchy, it also remains inspirational to the present day reader.

The Glory of the Garden, Rudyard Kipling, 1911
Our England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.

For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You will find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all ;
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dungpits and the tanks:
The rollers, carts and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.                                 

And there you'll see the gardeners, the men and 'prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise;
For, except when seeds are  planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.

And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing:--"Oh, how beautiful!" and sitting in the shade,
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives

There's not a pair of legs so thin, there's not a head so thick,
There's not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick.
But it can find some needful job that's crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.

Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it's only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner in the Glory of the Garden.

Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener's work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hand and pray
For the Glory of the Garden, that it may not pass away!
And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!