In 1996, my wife and I were spending our honeymoon in France, in the Loire Valley, when I came across an entry in a guidebook about a Festival of Gardens at Chaumont, only fifteen minutes away. We were curious and, even though we were not quite sure what to expect, we made our way there that same day. We stayed four hours, amazed and delighted. We had never seen anything like it. It was not until three years later, during the course of a long walk in the Napa Valley, that I began to wonder why a similar festival didn’t exist in the United States. I was between projects and I thought this would be a wonderful endeavor to get involved in. Of course, such an endeavor involved a lot of work, and it was five years before Cornerstone Festival of Gardens was ready to open. We wouldn’t have a festival without all the help we received from the design community. When we began work on our nine-acre site, we never really knew for sure whether the landscape and garden-design profession would take the time to create the gardens for us. I always thought this would be one of the most difficult parts of the project. Instead, it proved to be one of the easiest and the most gratifying. In two months we had promises from 16 landscape architects and garden designers, some of the most acclaimed in the world.
As you stroll through the art installations at Cornerstone, remember that each designer was given just one simple directive: “to invent, inform, and create beautiful and compelling gardens that engage and inspire the viewer intellectually, emotionally, and aesthetically.” You will see that some of these delightful creations are serious—while others are anything but. The gardens are always evolving. Some of these walk-in art installations are temporary, lasting less than a year. Others are more permanent. New gardens will be added to the collection each year. We trust that this guide will enhance your enjoyment of Cornerstone, a museum of gardens where you can see first-hand the work of the leading landscape architects and designers of our time.
-Chris Hougie, Corner Stone Founder