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Cascade Garden

We’re making history by relocating, reconstructing, and preserving this prized space as part of Longwood Reimagined: A New Garden Experience. The Cascade Garden will open in its new custom-built, stand-alone jewel box in fall 2024.

Created by renowned 20th-century landscape architect, artist, activist, and botanist Roberto Burle Marx (1909–94), the Cascade Garden is a vibrant tropical oasis reminiscent of an Amazon rainforest. The only existing Burle Marx garden in North America and one of his final completed works before his death, this living work of art beautifully embodies the characteristics that define Burle Marx’s revered design sensibility and style, as its visually captivating orchestra of interwoven elements—including exuberant plants, moving water, and sculptural rock—together create a multi-sensory experience.

As part of Longwood Reimagined: A New Garden Experience, we’re making history by relocating, reconstructing, and preserving this prized garden to a new 3,800-square-foot custom-built, stand-alone jewel box. A historic garden has never been moved as a whole and preserved in this way, and we are honored to work with a team of scholars, landscape architects, preservation experts, and the Burle Marx Landscape Design Studio while doing so. Preservation is paramount for this spectacular garden that not only stuns with its beauty, but beautifully represents Burle Marx’s passion for environmental conservation.

History of this Garden

Originally an extension of the Fern Passage, this area at the far west end of the Conservatory later became the Desert House in 1957. The cacti and succulents used in the Desert House were eventually incorporated into today’s Silver Garden.

To create the Cascade Garden, Burle Marx collaborated with landscape architect Conrad Hamerman in its design, using hundreds of plants, 35 tons of rock, and 3,000 feet of heating cable in this highly vertical space. Burle Marx encased the space’s steel structural columns in wood frames, covering them with halved tree-fern trunks, further achieving the illusion of increased height by incorporating 16 waterfalls that cascaded into four pools. The walls of the garden were made from a blend of shredded tree fern, vermiculite, and cement, while 35 tons of Pennsylvania mica were mined from local quarries to create the garden’s flowerbed retaining walls. The garden’s cascading water, clear pools, and richly textured plants, nestled along a curved path, together served as an artistic expression of elements found naturally in the tropics of South America, while its constant humidity level of 80 percent emulates a tropical climate. The Cascade Garden officially opened January 14, 1993, with Burle Marx in attendance.

The Cascade Garden incorporates all of the elements that have come to define Burle Marx’s renowned design style, including the addition of plants displayed vertically on columns and the use of freestanding sculptural elements interspersed within the plantings; in the Cascade Garden, these sculptural elements are in the form of upright clusters of rocks that emerge from the beds amidst the plants. Burle Marx’s signature high level of craftsmanship is evident throughout the entire garden, as is his exhaustive attention to every detail. We are honored to continue his vision and his work in the new Cascade Garden.

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