7. Innisfree Garden

Photo courtesy Dutchess Tourism

Located in Millbrook, the Innisfree Garden is a masterpiece of art, a multi-decade passion project by Walter Beck, his wife the heiress Marion Burt Beck, and Lester Collins, a Harvard graduate who would later become Dean of Harvard Graduate School of Design’s landscape architecture department. Beck was initially inspired by the 8th-century Chinese garden designer, poet and painter Wang Wei. According to the Innisfree Garden website, “Beck observed that Wang created carefully defined, inwardly focused gardens and garden vignettes within a larger, naturalistic landscape. Wang’s place-making technique — christened ‘cup gardens,’ by Beck — influenced centuries of Chinese and Japanese garden design. It is also the principal design motif in the Innisfree landscape.

Collins would write in his book, Innisfree: An American Garden, published posthumously in 1994, “The garden, like a stage set, is there in its entirety, its overall design revealed in a glance. The traditional Chinese garden is usually designed so that a view of the whole is impossible. [It] requires a stroll over serpentine, seemingly aimless arteries. The observer walks into a series of episodes, like Alice through the looking glass.” The garden within a garden concept allows for an infinite number of micro-experiences at multiple scales, which connect but can exist independently from one another.

The garden was open to the public in 1960, following the death of Marion Beck, and Collins was instrumental in transforming the private garden into a public one.

The Innisfree Garden is located at 362 Tyrrel Road, Millbrook, NY 12545.

Also check out Dutchess County’s 2018 Digital Destination Guide.

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