Today’s guest post is written by former Garden Design editor Sarah Ristorcelli, who is working on an outdoor living book for Timber Press.
What are origins? Somebody somewhere did something for their own personal use or enjoyment and the word never got out, or it got out incrementally, or a version of the story became a legend.
That’s how I think about the beginnings of the “outdoor living” movement. We can’t really pinpoint the origins.
Trends, however, are different. The trend of outdoor living gardens is bigger than what one person created in their backyard. In this case, a prolific influencer created many outdoor living gardens in many backyards, and that guy was Thomas Church.
In Church’s 1955 book, Gardens Are For People, he documented the advent of the trend he pushed forward so successfully.
He first addressed the blending of the formal and informal as the sweet spot for American gardens of that day. Through the centuries, rigid, uncompromising gardens had given way to very loose, naturalistic gardens, until landscape designers observed that above all, But, whichever time period he was considering, Church recognized that one garden element emerged as central to design.
The terrace, in all periods of gardening, and whether called the atrium, close, promenade, or lanai, has been an obviously man-made part of the garden. It has been used to extend the architectural lines of the house and supplement the activities of the occupants. Today, the “terrace” area is for outdoor living.
Church wrote about Pompeii’s first century gardens, which featured enclosed indoor courts with planters. The sound of fountains tempered street noise. Later, Spanish patios were adjacent to the house, and let in sunlight and air. In large, formal French gardens, terraces created a transition between the house and sprawling parterres, and gatherings there could be as small as a family breakfast, or as grand as the party Louis XIV hosted on the terraces of Versailles for 3,000 people, lasting three days.
Now, we still have terraces or patios outside our back doors, before we get to our yards, and this is where we spend most of our time when we’re outside. Since Church’s time, there’s been a firm expectation that gardens will always have a place not just for plants, but for people. That’s how outdoor living shifted from a favored trend to an essential part of the program for virtually every garden built today.
Read more from Sarah on her blog, A Blog Called Plot.
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