Real Realty: American Landscape Icon

Beatrix Farrand

Independent/Sue Daly

This past spring, the Horticulture Alliance of the Hamptons hosted three events that celebrated the gardens of the local New Yorker and landscape architect, Beatrix Farrand. She was the only woman among the 11 founding members of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1899. A film documenting her ascent as one of the most influential landscapers in the nation, “The Life And Gardens Of Beatrix Farrand” was screened in March at LTV in Wainscott. It was followed by a Q&A with the award-winning filmmaker, Karyl Evans, and a reception. In June, HAH also hosted a guided tour of Bellefield, a charming garden designed by Farrand, in Hyde Park.

“I admire how Farrand’s garden designs have withstood the test of time, as some of her gardens have existed for over 100 years. Her gardens engage all the senses, and there’s something for gardeners to learn by visiting a remarkable landscape,” said Sarah Alford, who spearheaded the trio of Farrand events that the HAH held this year. “Bellefield in New York and Hill-Stead in Connecticut feel like stepping back in time. The hush of the mossy woodland gardens with Asian sculpture in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller garden in Maine feels more modern,” Alford added.

Farrand, the niece of Edith Wharton and lifelong friend of Henry James, was immersed in beauty from birth. Her family members were known to claim they were “five generations of gardeners.” Her expertise is undoubtedly celebrated not only for its sublime beauty but because the gardens have lasted a long time, with some that were planted over a century ago. There are also those that were restored using Farrand’s notes and plans, of which there were more than 200, that were designed for public gardens and private homes.

Independent/Courtesy Online Archive Of California

She was an early proponent of the native plant revolution, which understood that nature knows more than we do and used its knowledge by often executing her designs with local flora. Ferrand was the master at playing with height, color, and scale that evoked the work of another landscape architect, Gertrude Jekyll, the master of the English garden, whose gardens she visited at Munstead Wood in Surrey.

Her handiwork is painterly. Lush flowers and shrubs are bedded in sequences to outlast the seasons. Once spring blooms ebb, the summer blooms planted expertly behind them begin their show. It’s nature’s choreography.

Notable landscapes include the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden; the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Bar Harbor, ME; various gardens on the campuses of Princeton, Yale, and Occidental; and Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C.

For the White House, the first Mrs. Woodrow Wilson had commissioned Farrand to design the East Colonial Garden (now redesigned as the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden) and the West Garden (now the redesigned White House Rose Garden) in 1913. Farrand was recognized for her landscape design for the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden in 2014. It won the “Built by Women New York City,” a competition launched by the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation during that autumn to denote superior and diverse spaces designed, engineered, and built by women.

To view the trailer or learn more about the documentary, visit www.beatrixfarranddocumentary.com. To learn more about Ferrand, visit www.beatrixfarrandgardenhydepark.org.

ty@indyeastend.com