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News: From The Garden Club of America Collection at the Archives of American Gardens


August 27, 2019

Is it a Patio or Terrace?

The source of the overlap between the terms patio and terrace appears to be etymology. Patio is Spanish for courtyard, which can have different connotations from the English use of the word patio. In A Glossary of Garden History,¹ Michael Symes mentions that a patio is sometimes referred to as a Spanish-style terrace! However, terrace is derived from the Latin “terre,” meaning earth and is most easily identifiable in terrace gardens, where the landscape is manipulated to have multiple levels of planes.

The Garden Club of America Collection at the Archives of American Gardens includes thousands of images that showcase garden ornaments and structures. Accurate and descriptive image captions are the most important means of identifying these garden features for the benefit of future researchers. What is evident to us today may not be to someone a century from now.

Some terms have been used interchangeably for similar, though different, garden features. Providing the proper term in the documentation aids the Archives of American Gardens staff in cataloging the images correctly and helps preserve our garden heritage.



Left: CO029 El Mardon, Colo. Springs, CO. Suzanne DuBois, photog. Right: TX011 Steves Garden, San Antonio, TX. Sally Walker, photog.

Some distinguishing features of a patio include furniture, proximity to the home, and a paved surface. A terrace, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a raised garden walkway often with sloping sides faced with masonry or turf, or a level surface formed in front of a house on naturally sloping ground. Terraces typically feature stairs.



Left: NC034 Untitled Garden, Wilmington, NC. Henry Rehder, photog. Right: VA257 Grelen, Orange, VA. Suzanne Breese, photographer.


1. Michael Symes. A Glossary of Garden History. 3rd edition. Buckinghamshire, UK: Shire Publications, 2006.

All images are from The Garden Club of America Collection at the Archives of American Gardens By Carolyn Chesarino, AAG/GCA Garden History & Design Intern. July 2010.



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