I will arise and go now,
and go to Innisfree.
W.B. Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” (1888)
Recognized as one of the “world’s ten best gardens,”* Innisfree is a powerful icon of mid-twentieth century design. Over fifty years in the making, it is the work of landscape architect Lester Collins, FASLA (1914 – 1993), with important contributions by his clients, artist and teacher Walter Beck and gardener and heiress Marion Burt Beck. At its core, Innisfree is about the individual’s experience in nature. Inviting exploration and even contemplation, Collins’ sweeping landscape merges the essence of Modernist and Romantic ideas with traditional Chinese and Japanese garden design principles in a form that evolved through subtle handling of the site and slow manipulation of its ecology. The result is a distinctly American stroll garden — a sublime composition of rock, water, wood, and sky achieved with remarkable economy and grace.
*Rory Stuart, What are Gardens For? Experiencing, Making and Thinking about Gardens (2012)