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garden, Cheryl Lerner, architect on demand, advice without strings

Imagine being in a glorious garden. Dazzled, you are focusing on the landscaped grounds. The fascination and excitement you feel remind you of being a small child. You are not worried about the past or the future. Mindfully affecting the present, you are completely engaged and involved with life as it happens.

Living in the now, you are giving meaning to the immediate experience. In his classic book titled Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes: “Feeling a breeze on a hot day, seeing a cloud reflected on the glass façade of a high-rise, working on a business deal, watching a child play with a puppy, drinking a glass of water can all be felt as deeply satisfying experiences that enrich one’s life.”

Csikszentmihalyi illustrates how a positive state of mind can be controlled, not just left to chance. Cheryl Lerner does it so gracefully. She is a true inspiration. I regard her as my garden guru.

It’s not just visual

Cheryl Lerner, is a garden designer extraordinaire. Cheryl’s own garden is paradise. It is intended for enjoyment. Here’s a chair to read the morning paper. This particular spot features cool playful shadows — mornings are the best time to be in this part of the garden.


Photography: courtesy of Cheryl Lerner.

Here’s a designated area with a glider for the afternoon relaxation with ice tea. It’s nestled under an olive tree. What a life!

Cheryl combined different plants in the most unusual and unexpected ways. There is a sense of surprise and fluidity here, as objects, such as empty pots, are constantly rearranged to invite boundless possibilities for creating visual pleasure.

Cheryl Lerner created her own garden to indulge all of the senses

All five (+) senses are entertained. Japanese bells make marvelous music with a slight wind. When Cheryl walks along the grounds, she touches various leaves that give out fragrance. She picks fruit right from her fruit trees and eats them on the spot. It’s all here for her satisfaction and delight.

All sorts of wires and conduits run above, but they don’t bother Cheryl; she doesn’t notice them. They disappear — there’s no point in focusing on them. Instead, one can look at the beautiful things, like purple plum trees.

Surprisingly, Cheryl’s house is only ½ block from a very busy street. 25 years ago, Cheryl created her front garden as a buffer, like a big and welcoming front porch. It’s a place to interact with neighbors, etc. Its colors, textures, sounds, and aromas greet people walking by. Giving them a chance to stop, admire, and soak in.

In fact, we all yearn for new sights, scents, tastes, sounds, environments, and sensations. Would you agree that a garden might be an ideal place to satisfy these needs? Please let me know if you would like to get in touch with Cheryl Lerner here or leave a comment below.


  • Mia Kazovsky
    August 9, 2016

    I certainly agree that a garden is the perfect place to satisfy the yearning for “for new sights, scents, tastes, sounds, environments, and sensations.” I feel inspired to plan a trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden! Thank you for being a constant source of inspiration!

    • Alla DIY Ally
      August 9, 2016

      Thank you, Mia! As I’ve admitted many many times before, being a source of inspiration for my own daughter is the highest honor. It truly validates all of my efforts. So grateful to have been able to raise such inspired human beings, like you and your sister. Love you.

  • Cari Markell
    August 31, 2016

    I have been lucky to have spent many pleasant hours relaxing in Cheryl’s garden, basking in it’s splendor, quietude, and graciousness as a refreshing break from an otherwise hectic world. It is indeed a peaceful and inspiring respite, a place to delve inward with and return outward with renewed energy and inspiration. Cheryl has created the perfect retreat which she generously shares with fortunate friends.

  • August 31, 2016

    Poetic description, Alla, and all true! A slice of heaven. Cheryl and her brilliant garden design is a testament to the amazing possibilities of what one can create in a small garden/space for a true escape even in a busy city.

    • Alla DIY Ally
      September 1, 2016

      Gigi, I agree. Cheryl’s work is truly wonderful. I am so grateful to her for my own garden, my own slice of heaven!

  • Kari Strutt
    September 7, 2016

    Cheryl’s garden has been a source of wonder and amazement to me for decades. It’s been a long time since I lived in LA, but I can still remember the scents, odors at times., and the peculiar sense of humidity she created in such an arid landscape…and the shapes, and the levels…the clever structure of objects and tones. Nothing was too old to be included, and nothing too young.

    I would love to move through that garden again.

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