Beauty & Sound of Water In A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Water features abound at Innisfree (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Imagine a garden designed to delight us visually and sensually, as well as addressing the often neglected sense of sound.  Using a story high fountain, rambling brooks tumbling over carefully placed stones and a gorgeous forty acre lake; the sound of water soothes visitors, while the reflective surfaces incorporate the sky and surrounding hillside into this breathtaking atmosphere. 

Ivy Covered Steps in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Ivy covered steps lead to a panoramic view (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Innisfree’s creation started with the vision of an artist, Walter Beck, and his heiress wife, Marion, who wanted to make their Millbrook residence into something extraordinary.  In the late 1930’s, the couple entrusted their dreams to landscape architect Lester Collins, which resulted in a 185 acre stroll garden designed with a compilation of Modernist ideas, and Japanese and Chinese principles. The property surrounds a glacial lake and along its shores, as well as throughout the rolling landscape, you will come upon a series of “cup gardens”; areas with natural stone forms, sculpted landscape terrain, various water features and distinctive plantings.  Mr. Collins also considered long term care for the gardens, thus developing environmentally safe, cost effective techniques for preserving the garden well into the future.

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Mossy Trunk in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Mossy trunks and roots adorn the trails (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Upon entering the garden, what I found most enchanting is the total lack of faux embellishments.  Instead, this is a park-like design where informality and embracing the natural are front and center.  You are meant to meander at a slow pace (something usually hard for a speedster like myself) and once you quiet your mind and conscientiously remove all stressors to hurry, you’ll really begin to absorb what Innisfree is all about.  The spirit of these tranquil grounds cannot be captured in words or images (although I took over 300 in an attempt to do so), rather the atmosphere is absorbed through all of your senses, not just visual.  Although you can certainly gain a lot of inspiration by viewing the grounds, if you can take it to a deeper level you’ll get so much more from your experience.

Turtle Rock & Owl Rock in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Turtle Rock & Owl Rock watch over the lake (photo: Kathy Diemer)

I chose to start the two mile walk from the left side of the lake, which allowed me to take in and translate the more subtle aspects of the landscape before reaching the designed gardens. As you begin the stroll along soothing moss covered paths, trees and stones randomly crop up around you.  Benches and smooth stones are gently placed in special contemplation areas, encouraging visitors to stop for a moment and take in the surroundings.  Although  it may seem similar, with careful observation you’ll find each “cup garden” is as individual as the trees and plants that cohabit there.  When you reach the climatic point; a series of rolling meadows decorated with specimen trees and upright boulders, terraced gardens, a shooting fountain, multiple water features, natural wetland areas and a patio featuring Dragon Rock, Turtle Rock and Owl Rock, feelings of awe and wonder waft over you.  And you gain a great appreciation and understanding of what Lester Collins wanted to express with his design techniques: a surreal celebration of peace and harmony.

Curious Lolly-pop flowers float In A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Curious Lolly-pop flowers floating along (photo: Kathy Diemer)

As I sat in the picnic area overlooking the glacial lake, enjoying the sounds of birds frolicking, wind whispering through the trees and waves ruffling the water’s surface, I realized how lucky I was to be blessed with such a glorious day.  How fortunate I am to have a place such as this to come and visit and clear my troubled mind.  And how grateful we can be to people like Walter and Marion Beck who pass on such precious legacies for us to enjoy in the years to come. (for more info visit:


  1. What a Beautiful Place!! Wonderful job with the pictures and story, it makes people want to go and visit!

  2. Thanks for reminding me of this lovely place. I have visitors coming next month that I think will enjoy coming here.

    • Thank you, Jean. I’ve been to Innisfree several times, but always have a different experience with each visit. I’m sure you’re friends will appreciate the experience as well. Thanks again for sharing and for reading my blog~Kathy

  3. I visited Innisfree just after they opened for the season this year, a fascinating garden. Quite different from what I am used to. I think I would need many visits to really get a feel for how it works, at all seasons and times of day. It is definitely worth the visit for those of us interested in landscapes!

    • Yes, Innisfree is definitely a garden that can be visited many times. After several trips, I still find new experiences and ideas. Yet, it’s also a great way to wind down and reconnect with nature as well. Thanks for writing!

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A Garden for All