Cascade Garden

As part of Longwood Reimagined, this garden space will open November 22, 2024.

Two people on a curving path bordered by stone walls in a tropical indoor garden, graced by colorful blooms, air plants, bromeliads, and waterfalls.
Iconic, Lush, Modernist
Best Seasons to Visit
Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn

Every moment spent here is an invitation to pause, linger, and revel in the palpable vitality of this intimate garden experience. Inspired by an equatorial coastal rainforest, elemental simplicity reigns—plants, water, and stone come together to envelop the senses. Gentle humidity softens the air, while the rhythm of trickling water inspires a mood of contemplation and appreciation for Burle Marx’s innovative, dynamic artistic vision. 

About This Garden

The Cascade Garden is a rare work of landscape art that gathers all the iconic elements of a Burle Marx design, reflecting his love of the natural world and the beauty of Brazil’s native flora and landscapes. This expertly crafted environment is home to dozens of species of plants, primarily from the bromeliad (Bromeliaceae) and aroid (Araceae) families, as well as other plants typically found in association with bromeliads in a tropical rainforest. Sweeps of single species create broad brushstrokes of vegetation, vines wind up and around vertical elements, and epiphytic plants cover the columns and walls, giving the impression of being in a dense, tropical rainforest. Waterfalls, an ever-present element of sound and movement, splash the nearby plants, forming tranquil pools within their bases. A curving path meanders through layers of green amid eye-level, intimate views of the sweeps of tropical plants. The immersive nature of this singular garden is intentional—and impossible to resist.

The Cascade Garden gathers all the elements that have come to define the design sensibility and the style of Roberto Burle Marx … it is a microcosm of his life’s work.

Anita Berrizbeitia, MLA FAAR

About Roberto Burle Marx

Landscape architect Robert Burle Marx stands in front of a green plant in the Cascade Garden
Roberto Burle Marx

Roberto Burle Marx (1909–1994), is widely regarded as the father of modern landscape design, a transformative figure whose innovations redefined the global design ethos. Born in São Paulo, Brazil, Burle Marx relocated to Rio de Janeiro when he was four. At nineteen, a year spent in Berlin with his mother and father proved to be pivotal; there, while studying painting and opera singing, he frequented the Dahlem Botanical Gardens. He encountered an exhibition of Brazil's exotic flora, which inspired a profound reconnection with the botanical heritage of his homeland. This experience expanded his artistic sensibilities, and upon his return to Brazil, Burle Marx enrolled at the National School of Fine Arts in Rio. He resumed his study of painting while integrating his interest in the plants with which he’d fallen in love. The result was, literally, groundbreaking.

In the early 1930s, under the guidance of esteemed modernist Brazilian architect Lúcio Costa (1902-1998), Burle Marx began his illustrious career in landscape architecture. The collaboration with Costa began with a commission to landscape the private garden of a residence that Costa was designing. There, he began his exploration of the relationship between abstract art and the landscape, moving away from traditional models of European garden design that filled the parks, gardens, and boulevards of his city. His innovative approach gained immediate recognition, and within six years of his first project with Costa, he was commissioned to design the gardens for the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio.

Throughout Burle Marx’s prolific career, he orchestrated thousands of landscape projects across 20 nations, from the iconic mosaic sidewalks of Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro to the serene gardens of the UNESCO headquarters. His affinity for abstract art, sculpture, and mosaic composition was flawlessly interwoven with his passion for botany and ecology. His pioneering incorporation of native plants into his modernist designs was entirely new—and in 1965, the American Institute of Architects awarded him with a fine arts prize that credited him as the creator of modern landscape design. While his work has been featured in numerous architectural exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) over the years, it was in May of 1991 that MoMA launched a landmark solo retrospective, “Roberto Burle Marx: The Unnatural Art of the Garden.” This exhibition, the museum’s first devoted entirely to landscape architecture, highlighted the breadth and impact of his sixty-year career.

Unlike any other art form, a garden is designed for the future, and for future generations.

Roberto Burle Marx

A Bit of History

Commissioned in 1989, the Cascade Garden is the only surviving design in North America by Robert Burle Marx. Many individuals and teams came together to build this singular interior landscape. Conrad Hamerman (1922-2014), an esteemed professor and historian of art, architecture, and landscape design, collaborated briefly with Burle Marx in the mid-1950s, and in subsequent years, he opened his own landscape design firm in Pennsylvania, making him a natural fit to represent Burle Marx’s interests in the construction and installation of the Cascade Garden. Burle Marx was insistent that Hamerman receive credit for his contributions to the garden, including the sculptural walls and cascades, as well as selecting and placing the stones which were sourced from a local quarry. Representing Burle Marx was Haruyoshi Ono (1944-2017), who began working with him in his Rio-based studio in 1965 and remained in close partnership with Burle Marx until Burle Marx’s death. Lucy Landon Scarlett, Design Coordinator and Display Specialist at Longwood Gardens, led the effort to engage Roberto Burle Marx to design the Cascade Garden. She traveled to Brazil to see his designs and shape the scope of work for what would be called the Cascade Garden.

The Longwood Gardens Horticulture Department worked closely with Burle Marx’s entourage, performing almost all of the construction work in-house, building custom details for the garden. Burle Marx traveled to Longwood for the planting of the space, and on January 14, 1993, the Cascade Garden officially opened. 

In 2021-24, Longwood undertook the preservation and reconstruction of the Cascade Garden in a project that is unprecedented—both in horticulture and in landscape architecture. A historic garden has never been moved as a whole and preserved in this way, and we were honored to work with a team of scholars, landscape architects, preservation experts, and the Burle Marx Landscape Design Studio while doing so. The teams studied and documented everything—from the overall composition and use of the space to the long-term effects on the plants. We numbered each plant and stone, mapping the exact location for the next phase. Finally, the garden was carefully de-installed and cataloged. With the utmost care and precision, our team reconstructed the Cascade Garden in its new home—stone by stone, plant by plant. The new 2,800 square-foot, custom-built, stand-alone jewel box will allow more room for the plants to flourish and to ensure enjoyment for our guests for years to come.

From Nature we can accept with humility its laws and suggestions, always acknowledging it to be the greatest artist of all, with more to teach than one can learn.

Roberto Burle Marx

From Our Blog