Our History

The Late Simon Downs – Landscape Architect

The idea for creating a network of gardens first came to Founder Laura Dorsey during the Vietnam War, when she traveled to Japan to care for her husband, who had been wounded in combat. During her three month stay, Dr. Dorsey discovered small and large Japanese gardens as places to separate herself from the stress and rigors of a military hospital.

The importance of gardens to the Japanese made a lasting impression on the young Dr. Dorsey and later in life, as she visited gardens in other countries, she realized that the feelings we get from gardens transcend world conflict and that time spent in gardens provide moments for personal reflection, meditation, and a strong sense of renewal.

The significance of those moments stayed with her for many years before the idea of an international network of gardens took shape. After sharing her idea with family members in 1984, and gaining the support of friends and community leaders, she began taking the steps necessary to make Gardens for Peace a reality.

Those steps included organizing a Board of Directors and soliciting the initial funding that would enable Dr. Dorsey to bring her idea to fruition. As word passed from friend to colleague, and as Dr. Dorsey shared her idea with people the world over, the significance of the idea took root. Simon Downs, a fellowship student from England, provided the original research under the direction of Darrel Morrison at the University of Georgia College of Environment and Design.

Soon, a group of Founding Members had provided the funds needed to move the organization forward and the first garden in the international network was dedicated on April 22, 1988, on the Swan Woods Trail at the Atlanta History Center. The ceremony was not only the first garden dedication, but the first announcement of an unprecedented sculpture exchange with one of Atlanta’s Sister Cities, Tbilisi, Georgia (in what was then the Soviet Union).

Over the next 18 months, the sculpture exchange was completed. The second Garden for Peace was dedicated in the main square of Tbilisi on May 24, 1989 with the unveiling of a bronze entitled “Birds” created by Sergio Dolfi. “The Peace Tree,” a lifesize bronze sculpture by Georgian artist Georgi “Gia” Japaridze, stands in the Atlanta Garden for Peace.

On November 7, 1991, the third garden in the network was dedicated on the grounds of theory Botanical Garden in Madrid, Spain, and features a statue of a child holding a dahlia, which was commissioned for that garden and created by artist Julio Hernandez.

In 1992, the first garden in the college category was dedicated on the campus of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA.

In May of 1998, Gardens for Peace celebrated the dedication of its third U.S. garden on the grounds of Lakewold in Tacoma, Washington. Since then gardens have been dedicated at the Pastoral Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, (March 13, 1999), Columbia Theological Seminary (March 30, 2000), the Oakhurst Community Garden (May 6, 2000) and on the grounds of the Sarah P. Duke Garden October 14, 2000.

Also the Logo was recognized for excellence in 1987 Printers Regional Design Manual.

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Throughout history, man’s view of his position in the universe has been expressed through the garden. During much of this history he has been at peace neither with himself, not with the rest of nature, but has still created gardens as sanctuaries from the rest of the world. The garden has thus become one of the most universal symbols of peace.