Touring a Serene and Immersive Garden Oasis

When you first arrive at the home of Curtis Steiner, you’re not exactly sure you’ve found the right address. His storybook home sits off the main street, and the entrance is only accessible from a small alleyway that is not large enough for cars. But once you open the tall front gate, you are immersed in a purely magical garden oasis filled with whimsy and plants of every imaginable shape and color. The fact that you’re in an urban setting is instantly forgotten thanks to the dense foliage that envelops you from every angle.

A history of connecting with nature

In his article How to Design a Serene and Immersive Garden Oasis, Curtis gave some background about how he was initially bitten by the gardening bug: “I was painfully shy as a child, often taking refuge in the forested greenbelt adjacent to our suburban backyard. It was the early 1970s, before children were kept on a short tether, and I was allowed to wander so long as I was home before dark. I would explore paths and climb trees, collecting nature and memories as I went. The forest of my youth was mostly conifers, where an occasional mother tree would establish her dominance, reaching out with a great protective canopy underneath which little could grow. I would adopt the ground beneath and ‘park it out.’

Curtis Steiner“This meant remov­ing debris and creating a garden of collected flowers and plants (sometimes with roots still intact), along with laying small circles of stones. I would sit in the mossy solitude on the forest floor with my back against the trunk, feeling safe in the dappled light. It was an idyllic refuge of my own creation, all done on a five-year-old’s salary.”

Later in life Cutis became an artist who turned his creative sensibilities toward his immersive landscape. “I grew up to become a painter, a sculptor, and a curator. And with adulthood came the realization that a garden could be a work of art as well as a refuge—a stage where I could create a picture, a mood, and a story. Over the course of 20 years I’ve transformed my small urban lot into a living art installation. It is filled with an array of textures and forms, with visual jewels around every corner and the peaceful serenity that makes it a true oasis. (Doesn’t everyone want that from their garden?) And it has all taken shape under the canopy of a mother tree reminiscent of my youth.”

A balance of hardscape and plants is always a challenge in a small space. Patios and pathways were not thrown by the wayside in this tiny plot. They help define garden rooms, draw visitors from the house out into the garden, and give a spot for the eye to rest.

In this video, Curtis walks us through the imagination and magic he employed to create this incredibly immersive garden.


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