Sharing our landscapes with friends is one of the pleasures of gardening. Nature opens the mind and relaxes us; it takes us out of our inner world. It enhances conversation.
One of my goals for the garden I am working on is to create several areas to entertain in. I want intimate areas for smaller gatherings; a large space for big events.
As I look to other gardens for inspiration, Frank Lloyd Wright reminds me of the power of building destinations in the garden, and spaces to facilitate conversation.
Wright was a master at working contrasts. He famously created tight, compressed, entry foyers that opened up to dramatic living spaces.
The garden around his home at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin uses these techniques. Front gardens are subdued, mono-cultured beds of ferns and blocks of ground cover. But in the back, there is a more private landscape: with places to relax and perennial borders full of color.
Wright Fellow Frances Nemtin channeled Wright’s approach to gardendesign for over 30 years. Nemtin, who passed away last April, "was instrumental in developing flower gardens and restoring prairie habitat at Taliesin." Fortunately she wrote about the gardens and spoke frequently about what inspired them. For example, she shared her perspectives in an interview with Wisconsin Gardener host Shelley Ryan:
“One of my favorite places in the garden, [is] the tea circle. It's a curved stone bench underneath a giant burr oak, which grew here until a 1998 storm took it out. That was where we had daily tea with Mr. and Mrs. Wright and their guests, who might include Paul Robeson, Georgia O'Keeffe, Bucky Fuller...Dorothy Leavis, many creative people whom they attracted.”
In Frank Lloyd Wright and Taliesin, Nemtin explains, “Trees on the crest of the hill were cut to open up the view. …a female statue with the Wordsworth poem ‘Flower in the Crannied Wall’ inscribed in its base stood… nearby.”
An over 200 year old oak centered and shaded the stone bench until a strong storm took it down. Nemtin wrote: “Its cantilevered branches floated forty feet over the flowerbed and led one’s gaze directly to the front entrance. It added a special magic and mystery to the space and was an essential element in the composition. Its loss is a poignant reminder of our dependence on the strength and beauty of great trees.” The photos above show that the new replacement tree is thriving.
The Tea Circle at Taliesin provides a wonderful example of creating a destination in the garden. It offers a place to take in a view for quiet reflection or to enjoy conversation with friends.
Taliesin Preservation maintains the 900 acre property to “preserve the cultural, built and natural environments that comprise the Taliesin property and to conduct public educational and cultural programming that provides a greater understanding of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and ideas.”
What are your favorite garden destinations?