Transformation: A Parking Lot becomes a Paradise


Sitting within the Flower Garden
Sitting within the Flower Garden
Before the Transformation from parking lot to Beautiful Garden Park
Before the Transformation from parking lot to Beautiful Garden Park

Let me tell you the story of a plot of land in Carlisle, MA.  Mostly a parking lot, there was some open grass, miscellaneous woodland, a fence to prevent you from driving in, and trash barrel.

It wasn’t a place you were likely to hang out.  Nothing to draw you in-it was basically a parking lot.

The process of transforming it to a park was the vision of a woman named Sabrina Perry as a memorial project inspired by her late husband. She gathered a coalition of people dedicated creating a beautiful public park in 2006.


TRANSFORMATION: Through the Eyes of a Designer will be held on Friday, November 15, 6-8pm, at the historic Lexington Depot, 13 Depot Square, Lexington.  $10 advance, $15 at the door. Light appetizers. Music by LHS Jazz Septet.

The story telling event will be in PHOTO FLASH format or, A Design Showcase in Rapid Images!  This year, COG showcases the work of landscape designers, contractors, and artists who have rejuvenated abandoned and tired spaces into public places which inspire hope and delight! Maria von Brincken, APLD, of Maria von Brincken Landscape Garden Design will participate by telling the story of her community project. It’s the story of how a parking lot became the Carlisle Center Park, located in Carlisle, MA.

Meanwhile, back to the story. Lowell Robinson and Pliny Jewell III, landscape architects, created the preliminary design. It was a lovely basic green space with perimeter screening, granite curbed parking lot, the low fence, granite post marking handicap and non-handicap entries, and a shaped lawn with three memorial granite benches. The vision was a simple green space.


Then I entered the scene and my vision enlarged that to a garden park.  Inspired by the work of Lyndon Miller, a Public Garden Designer in New York City, I knew that this place could be really special.


Early Spring at Carlisle Center Park
Early Spring at Carlisle Center Park

Asked to design the island and perennial border entry gardens indicated on the park plan, I expanded the idea of a perennial border to a mixed border.

I added shrubs to anchor the gardens for winter interest, create structure, and abundant flowering masses.

I envisioned a conversation grouping in the middle of the flower border– essential so that people sit within the garden, hold conversations looking at each other, or a family could picnic.

I choose wooden benches with backs. Unlike the lovely granite you can sit comfortably on wood benches in the late fall and early spring on a cool, but sunny day. It’s perfect place to perch to listen to the rustle of leaves, the song of birds, and smell the flowers.

Then the rocks were found.  I placed them in the perfect little lawn nook–I personally call them the sentient rocks.

Rock Sculpture --also works for sitting and crawling over
Rock Sculpture –also works for sitting and crawling over


During the installation process of the original gardens, I suggested to Sabrina that the flowering plantings could expand to flank the parking area and to embrace the open lawn space. The beds could be filled with flowering shrubs and massed perennials to create a feeling of peace and abundance. Massed plantings would also cut down on weeding and mulch applications once the plants grew in. Sabrina then proposed the ‘5 year Plan’ to accomplish this.


Each year, on Carlisle’s ‘Old Home Day’,  the Friends of Carlisle Center Park host birthday party to celebrate the park and spread the word about its existence. They serve ice cream and cake, and a live band plays. Last June was its sixth birthday celebration.

Park Birthday Celebration
Park Birthday Celebration



Carlisle Center Park is a special place. A parking lot becomes a paradise. I think of it as a public back yard–a flowering and a peaceful oasis available to all. Visit it when you’re in the old town center.

Autumn Leaves
Autumn Leaves




Leave a Reply