Thursday, January 2, 2014


1913 Galva IL Central Park - now called Veterans' Park

When is the last time you promenaded?  There are some words that are so fun to say I have to let them run off my tongue and “promenades” is one of them.  Not that I’m given much chance to use it in conversation, as it’s one of those words that’s gone by the wayside.

Promenade is sometimes interchangeable with Esplanade (another word you may never use.)

For those that don’t know what a promenade is, I’ll let our old friend Webster do the explaining of the main defination:

Galva IL Park District - Current
"A leisurely walk, especially one taken in a public place as a social activity." (In this context, most of us do this every July 4th.)

Promenading was a social event only for royalty until 1661 when Charles II opened St. James Park in London to the common folk.  It was also the first time the word “park” was used. 

The idle rich used the parks to play and it is then Charles II initiated the new social ritual of the promenade.

Strolling up and down The Mall (or walkway) was a routine whereby polite society took the air and exchanged gossip from midday until the time to change for dinner.  The socialites could be in nature, which was fashionable and pleasurable.   

The rich and famous didn’t just pull on a pair of shorts and play a little Frisbee, they dressed to the nines.  Both men and women would use this occasion to display their most beautiful clothes.  It was the red carpet of the day.

This is promenading.
The “help” would bring the blankets, picnic baskets full of food and drink, parasols, top hats, and chairs for the more mature.

What’s promenade’s relationship to gardening?  Creating a walkway through your gardens is a splendid way to enjoy your entire yard and entice strolling around the various plantings. 

Although not necessarily on the grand scale of Charles II’s parks or the current promenade on the waterfront in Stockholm Sweden, it isn’t all that hard to develop a plan to satisfy the size, budget and landscape of your yard.

Pathways should be smooth enough to provide safe casual walking and wide enough for at least two people to comfortably walk side-by-side.  A nice smooth grassy path works fine.

In fitting with the idea of “see and be seen”, providing seating along the path is essential.

The second most important aspect of a promenade is the views it provides without ever leaving the path.  Does it take you beside a pond, a patch of wildflowers, a sculpture or your favorite perennial?

To work at it’s best, a promenade needs to be planned:  a beginning, a scenic middle and an end.  Two of Galva’s parks have excellent examples of planned promenades:  The walk through Veterans’ Park starts at one end, has specific visual highlights along the path and ends at the other end.  The Park District’s promenade starts at the road, has several scenes or views and ends at the pool.  Both parks have provided seating.

We are fast approaching the part of winter where gardening is all about dreaming and planning.  Perhaps a little promenade is in order or enhancing that path you didn’t even realize was a promenade.   Or the next time you visit the Royal Palace of His Majesty the King of Sweden, plan to see and be seen on his promenade.  It’s what we locals do when promenading.


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