Groundbreakers: Great American Gardens and The Women Who Designed Them

May 28, 2014 by
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AgricultureDesignHistory

Between 1900 and 1930, landscape design developed into a sophisticated garden culture in the United States. Estate owners created lavish flower gardens, cities landscaped public spaces, and magazines and newspapers began promoting garden design to a new growing audience.

Leading this burgeoning field was a group of groundbreaking women who emerged as some of the greatest professionals in landscape architecture, garden photography, and garden writing, of the 20th century.

The works of these pioneering women can be seen in the current exhibition Groundbreakers at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), which pays homage to the significant contributions these women made to American history and culture.

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Among the highlights of the exhibit is “Mrs. Rockefeller’s Garden”, a garden display that evokes the garden designed by Beatrix Farrand in 1926 for the summer home of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in Seal Harbor, Maine.

16JPBOTANICAL5-superJumboIn addition the large garden displays, there is an accompanying photography exhibit, “Gardens for a Beautiful America: The Women Who Photographed Them,” featuring a collection of vintage photographs, photo equipment, photo-illustrated books, and a simulated “Magic Lantern” slide show, highlighting the landmark work of female photographers, Jessie Tarbox Beals (1870–1942), Mattie Edwards Hewitt (1869–1956), and Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864–1952).

Other works include large-scale reproductions of portrait photographs, biographical profiles, and images of the work of landscape architects Marian Coffin, Beatrix Farrand, and Ellen Shipman, all of whom completed projects at The New York Botanical Garden during their careers.

Sam Watters, author of Gardens for a Beautiful America, the book which inspired the exhibition, provides perspective on the influence these extraordinary women had on society, “Garden club women, inspired by the garden photos they saw, started going to prisons. They put a rose garden in the courtyard of Sing Sing. A big formal garden with a fountain was put in a prison in Michigan. And they planted gardens around train stations across the country. It really was landscape gardening as social activism.”

Women inspiring women… a very WYSKy trait!

The exhibition will be open until September 7. Visit NYBG for tickets or more information.

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Images via NYBG

  • Sue Wilson

    Oh my goodness, this is incredible! I totally want to see this exhibit. What an amazing thing to honor these women!

  • JoJo

    Beautiful, just beautiful! The colors in the pictures are so vibrant, I can just imagine how incredible the colors are in person.