The garden that friends built

Do you ever wonder how your friends would honour you after you were gone?

In Palm Desert, California, friends and co-workers of horticulturist and landscape designer Eric Johnson designed a garden in his memory after he passed away in 1999 at the age of 86. What makes it so significant (and touching) is that they used the same design principles that Eric had evolved over 60 years of creating gardens in the Southwest. What a great way to be remembered!

Eric Johnson was known as the “landscape guru” of the Coachella Valley because he was passionate about designing gardens for the desert environment using drought-tolerant plants in association with the dramatic use of water and boulders.

According to information stones placed around the garden:

  • Ron Gregory, Eric’s friend, with whom he worked on many design projects, said they liked to refer to the designs as “landscaping in the desert” rather than “desert landscaping.” This emphasized their awareness that they were in the desert, and their job was to create a harmonious landscape in which humans and nature could co-exist.
  • Randy Myers, nursery owner and Eric’s long-time friend and associate, remembered Eric’s love for colour and his desire to create planting palettes based on colours found together in the natural landscape.
  • Dave Heveron, friend and fellow plant curator, felt that because Eric was an advocate of water-efficient landscaping, he believed appropriate “water effects” could enhance desert gardens.
  • Ron Gass of Mountain States Nursery, Eric’s close friend and fellow plant innovator, said “Eric’s imagination and creativity allowed him to visualize desert plants in landscape settings that previously had been completed only with traditional material.”

The Eric Johnson Memorial Garden at the corner of Highway 111 and El Paseo was opened in 2006 and expanded in 2008. It currently incorporates freestanding art from the Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden, part of the adjacent Palm Springs Museum of Art in Palm Desert.