Roberto Burle Marx, Brazilian landscape designer

We can learn more about the use of color in the garden from the designs of famous Brazilian landscape designer, Roberto Burle Marx. Learn more...

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Photo: Halley Pacheco

Roberto Burle Marx has been described by the American Institute of Architects as "the real creator of the modern garden."

June is the month of the Summer Solstice when the sun is farthest north of the Equator for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere. This means that our gardens are at their peak and full of colorful flowers.

While Japanese gardens rely primarily on the subtle variations of foliage colors, with contrasts and variations that are more nuanced, American gardens tend to use exuberant color combinations and many flowers.

“The Real Creator of the Modern Garden”

We can learn more about the use of color by studying the designs of a famous Brazilian landscape designer who was celebrated world-wide for his talent in combining vibrant colors. His name was Roberto Burle (pronounced bur-lee) Marx.

He died in 1994, but Marx has been described by the American Institute of Architects as “the real creator of the modern garden.” He was also an early champion of the Amazon Rainforest and had more than 50 different species of plants named after him.

When we arrange plantings in geometric shapes or display abstract art in our gardens, we are echoing the design motifs Burle Marx pioneered. Since he gardened south of the Equator in Brazil, he had access to a great many colorful tropical plants. And he used them massed together in blocks to maximize the impact of the colorful flowers.

He was admired for creations such as walls, which he planted so that a riot of color existed in more than one plane, and for the joyful feelings he evoked through his innovative interrelationships of colors and shapes.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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