Probably the first thing I knew about Beatrix Farrand is that she was the niece of Edith Wharton, and designed the approach to Wharton’s home, The Mount, in the Berkshires. Although she did not have anything to do with the rest of the gardens, I cannot believe that Aunt and Niece did not sit together and talk about what might be done during the years she lived there, 1902-1911. When you have talent in the family, surely it would be used. Visitors to The Mount today will enjoy the beautiful house, and the gardens that have been undergoing restoration for several years now. If you are in the Berkshires you should not miss the opportunity to visit.
Beatrix Farrand (1872-1959) was one of the earliest women to work professionally as landscape designers. Most of her work has disappeared, as gardens can do so quickly. Still, Dunbarton Oaks and the old campus at Princeton, as well as a few others bear her stamp to this day. A new book, Beatrix Farrand: Private Gardens, Public Landscapes by Judith B. Tankard, gives a full view of her life and work.
Relatively close to me (I could go there and back in a day) is the Bellefield Garden in Hyde Park. This garden is now under the supervision of the Beatrix Farrand Garden Association, Inc. The garden is open every day from dawn to dusk.
It is not surprising that many of the private estate gardens Farrand worked on are in Maine. Her family had a summer estate in Bar Harbor and she lived at Reef Point. After a fire she took many plants from Reef Point and moved to Garland Farm on Mount Desert Island. She lived there until her death.
Garland Farm is now the home of the Beatrix Farrand Society. Work continues to restore the gardens. This summer a number of events will be held including programs by Dr. Douglas Tallamy the author of Bringing Nature Home and Barbara Damrosch, author of A Garden Primer and a Maine neighbor.
One of the important influences on Farrand’s work was the famed Bristish gardener, Gertrude Jekyll. They did meet and Beatrix visited several of Gertrude’s gardens, but it was mostly the books that she read and studied that taught her about Gertrude’s work and principles. Wood and Garden, Lilies for English Gardens, Wall and Water Gardens, and Color in the Garden were all on Beatrix’s library shelves.
In 1948 when Beatrix was 76 she bought Jekyll’s papers including garden plans, working drawings and correspondence, which gave her great pleasure in her later years.
The April issue of Garden Design magazine just arrived with an emphasis on California gardens including the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden which was founded in 1926. Beatrix joined the Board in 1938 and worked on the Master Plan with Lockwood deForest, Jr. Her approach was more formal than deForest’s but their collaboration was easy, perhaps because they were both devoted to the use of native plants.