Tech

Meet the unsung heroine of America’s most famous gardens

The leading landscape architect of the turn of the 20th century had a client list that reads like a who’s who of the Golden Age: JP Morgan, Theodore Roosevelt, First Lady Ellen Wilson, John D. Rockefeller Jr., the rich and powerful That the late 1800s and early 1900s shared the same designer in the outlying American upper class is perhaps not entirely surprising. But the fact that this designer was a woman certainly is.

blank
Beatrice Farrandaround 1943 [Photo: Beatrix Farrand Society Archives/courtesy Monacelli Press]

Over a five-decade career built on in-depth horticultural knowledge and a style-agnostic approach guided by in-depth interaction with her clients, Beatrix Farrand has become one of the most celebrated landscape designers in the world. It’s an unlikely story told in the bio Beatrix Farrand: garden artist, landscape architect, by Judith B. Tankard, available today from Monacelli Press. If some consider Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted the father of American landscape architecture, Farrand could easily be called the mother.

blank
[Photo: courtesy Monacelli Press]

Farrand began her work as a designer in New York in the 1890s. The booming last few decades of the 19th HBO series about the era The Gilded Age). Farrand was born into one of the wealthy families of the period. One of her aunts was Edith Wharton, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and well-known upper-class observer of New York’s Golden Age. This upbringing helped Farrand become the ideal garden designer for a growing class of wealthy industrialists and celebrities who have the means to own lavish private gardens.

blank
White House in the East Garden, 1913 [Photo: Environmental Design Archives, Beatrix Farrand Collection, University of California, Berkeley/courtesy Monacelli Press]

Some of her most famous works are Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Maine, and the old Princeton University campus, all of which still exist today. 1899 she was the only female founding member of the new American Society of Landscape Architects, and she became one of its most successful practitioners. In total, she had more than 200 commissions in her 50-year career.

blank
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden [Photo: Larry Lederman/courtesy Monacelli Press]

“To me it’s absolutely amazing,” says Tankard, landscape historian and author of 10 books on gardens and garden designers. “There have been other landscape architects who have done it quite well, but Beatrix Farrand is way ahead of the rest.”

blank
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden [Photo: Larry Lederman/courtesy Monacelli Press]

Tankard notes that Farrand participated in the social life of the city’s rich and established, even being included in the famous list of 400 members of affluent society, created by socialite Caroline Schermerhorn Astor. But she wasn’t primarily interested in other leisure ladies’ cotillons and parties. Farrand began an informal education in horticulture and garden design, traveling to major gardens across Europe to hone her own design tastes. Her connections to New York high society were certainly part of her early success, but Tankard argues that her happy upbringing had little to do with the achievements she was able to achieve throughout her career.

“I think whether she was wealthy or not had little to do with it. It was 99% talent,” she says. “I think she was lucky with the environment she grew up in and the connections she had, but I think it was basically the talent that pushed her forward.”

blank
[Photo: courtesy Monacelli Press]

Her most famous project is Dumbarton Oaks, the expansive gardens and landscapes on a 53-acre property in Washington, DC owned by American diplomat Robert Woods Bliss and his wife Mildred. “She got the call from Mildred and Robert Bliss saying they bought this wreck of a property and needed Beatrix to sort it out,” says Tankard.

blank
[Photo: courtesy Monacelli Press]

It was a project that began in 1920 and continued into the early 1940s and is known for its unique blend of garden styles, ranging from formal English patios to recreational spaces and ecologically inspired informal wilderness zones. According to Tankard, this is as much a testament to Farrand’s dedication to design as it is to her skills as an ego-free collaborator. “She had the ability to maintain a great relationship with her client for over 20 years,” says Tankard. “I think there are a lot of architects and landscape designers who would have a hard time saying they could do the same.”

blank
Dumbarton Oaks [Photo: Roger Foley/courtesy Monacelli Press]

It was a project she enjoyed working on, even while relocating 3,000 miles away. In 1927, seven years after designing and planting Dumbarton Oaks, Farrand’s husband accepted a statewide position in San Marino, California, as the first director of the Huntington Library. Farrand’s connections and success on the East Coast did not follow her West, and she only secured a handful of projects in California. “She spent most of her time on the train going back and forth to the East Coast to mentor jobs like Dumbarton Oaks,” says Tankard. “She was a hardworking woman. She probably didn’t go to bed at night. But it was a masterpiece and it is still maintained today and is still open to the public.”

blank
Dumbarton Oaks Lovers Lane Pool [Photo: courtesy Monacelli Press]

Another notable project is the garden she designed in Seal Harbor, Maine for John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Tankard calls it a combination of elements that Farrand has come to love: “a woodland setting, native plants, stunning floral borders, beautiful architectural features, and personable customers.”

Farrand’s influence extended beyond her gardening and campus advisory work. She was an early advocate for working women and helped expand the ranks of women practicing landscape design and landscape architecture. “She encouraged other women to work in this field. When she had women in her office, there were schools like [Harvard University Graduate School of Design] who started to open up and let women in, study and get degrees,” says Tankard. “I think her legacy opens the door for women to become accomplished landscape designers.” A protégé, Ruth Haveyopened her own landscape architecture practice in New York in 1935 and went on to have a successful career as a designer.

Farrand was a pioneer life, one that went against the social norms that, up to that point, had kept most women out of jobs like landscape design. It’s the story of a time of great change in professional design in the United States, which Tankard says wouldn’t look out of place in the new HBO show about the Gilded Age. “I’m sorry Beatrix wasn’t there.” Maybe she’ll make an appearance in season two.

https://www.fastcompany.com/90735607/meet-the-unsung-heroine-of-the-nations-most-celebrated-gardens?partner=feedburner&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feedburner+fastcompany&utm_content=feedburner Meet the unsung heroine of America’s most famous gardens

JACLYN DIAZ

USTimeToday is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@ustimetoday.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button