Even for those of us who would rather garden than watch a ball being thrown around it is hard to think past Brazil and the World Soccer Tournament fever at the moment. But PBS has succeeded in some small measure, in part, because the local stations recently aired a charming film on the accomplishments of Frederick Lawn Olmsted. We at the Dunn are particularly interested in the said FLO because it was his vision that guided his heirs in their planning of the Gardens. Certainly the philosophical underpinnings espoused by the Father of American Landscape Design are in evidence when you visit the Dunn. Fair warning: we will be celebrating them fully next year when we observe the Dunn Gardens centennial.
If you keep an eye on this spot we will share these Olmstedian beliefs about gardens with you over time.
The first is that ‘genius of the place’ is to be observed. What Olmsted meant is that the design should take advantage of the natural attributes of the property. Individual sites have unique qualities and these should both guide the planning and be enhanced by it. The impact of this is a feeling of naturalness and grace since there is nothing forced into a garden site.
This principle is exemplified at the Dunn Gardens in the placement of the Great Lawn, which dips down to the trees at its edge. It functioned initially as a place for social gatherings and when viewed at particular angles, as an open meadow. Thinning of the trees at the edges allowed for the development of smaller more intimate spaces. When curving paths were added around the lawn and through the woodlands the space felt more like 100 acres, rather than the original 10 acres. It was the Olmsted genius that unlocked the genius of the Dunn Gardens.