The garden as influence

In a crowded and busy world, says new blogger Christian Barnard, the garden refuge offers an important state of reconnection for people to the natural world. And now more than ever, there is a hunger for that reconnection—be it through public park spaces or private garden escapes.

Credit: Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

Gardens are the link between people and the outside world. As a culture, we have felt the need to reunite ourselves with our surroundings and have created gardens to fulfill these aspirations and values. The creation of the private walled gardens of a busy city, the design of new and avant-garde public parks, and the action of lawn space turned over to cultivate food are a few of the responses by humans to the ever-increasing pace at which civilization and technology are developing.

It is therefore not surprising that there is a greater interest in private gardens and public green spaces today than ever before. In a crowded and busy world, this garden refuge provides an important state of reconnection for people to the natural world. This relationship permeates human interaction on three levels: personal, community, public. 

Ian Bradshaw
Bronx garden: A private New York garden serves as retreat
from the bustle of the city. Photo by Ian Bradshaw.

The private garden contributes to meeting many human needs. Basic requirements of security and privacy are offered and create a withdrawal from busy life to allow the family to play and grow together. To the inhabitants of the garden, it also affords a place for creative self-expression and an important reconnection with nature.

Ian Bradshaw
Bronx garden 2. Photo by Ian Bradshaw.
A small London terrace provides the owner
with a garden and a place to unwind.

From private gardens an appreciation of community begins to evolve. Vegetation and the coverage of mature trees presents a sense of place, increases opportunities for creative children’s play and instills a consciousness in community worth. The sounds from local birdsong, rustling leaves and creaking branches form memories and evoke insight into nature and its cycles. While there is high value on our own private paradise, we also need to hold equal value in our shared green space. Here the urban dweller can find a place to refresh, reduce stress and recreate.


Creative hard landscape in combination with a quality planting strategy, can achieve aesthetic and innovative design goals, providing an abundance of diverse, multi-layered plantings that contribute to local biodiversity.


Atelier Dreiseitl
Hyde Park, London, UK.
Tanner Springs Park, Portland, Oregon:
This park functions as a biotope: rainwater is collected and purified
in a water filter system and a special selection of plants reflects
the richness of wetland vegetation.
Photo by Atelier Dreiseitl.

Dutch designer and nurseryman Piet Oudolf displays his naturalistic planting style
at the Lurie Garden Millennium Park Chicago.


Curb extensions constructed and planted to manage surface water
that would normally flow directly into drains after a heavy rain.
Photo via


Cornelia Hahn Oberland
Green roof Vancouver Public Library. Project by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander.

In the years to come, there will be a deeper understanding and commitment to the space we are given. As the population grows and the technological world expands, the garden will continue to provide balance and impart knowledge. The natural world provides a slowing of frantic pace and rewards us on many levels.

The garden’s influence extends well beyond tangible materials; it is an extension of our house, our lives, our community and the world.