Beatrix Farrand Society Seminar

The Green Door brought to Garland Farm from Reef Point
The Green Door brought to Garland Farm from Reef Point

The Beatrix Farrand Society  (  held it’s first ever seminar last Saturday, July 27.  I was among the attendees from 15 states  who gathered in Bar Harbor, Maine to enjoy  Preserving Beatrix Farrand Gardens, a day devoted to discussion of Farrand’s private gardens.  The seminar, organized by Judith Tankard,  landscape historian and Society member, with  sponsorship from The Garden Conservancy  (  was held to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Society with the 2003 purchase of Garland Farm, Farrand’s final home in Bar Harbor.

The panelists were:

(Listed in order of presentation)

Judith Tankard – Opening Remarks

Paula Deitz – 1980 Farrand Seminar at Dumbarton Oaks

Bill Noble –  Garden Succession in Garden Conservancy

Elizabeth Mills – Restoring the Farm House

Katherine H. Kerin – Bellefield Restoration 

Melanie Anderson Bourbeau – Restoring Hill-Stead’s Sunken Garden

Carole Plenty – Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden

Gail Griffin – Dumbarton Oaks in the 21st Century

Ann Aldrich & Rebecca Trafton – Restoring Dumbarton Oaks Park

An intangible but very real benefit of attending such a seminar is not just the exposure to the information presented. It is to sit in a room, collect together for lunch, and gather together on the Terrace Garden at Garland Farm with scholars, hobbyists, gardeners and fans of Beatrix Farrand and share the collective knowledge and enthusiasm for the work of a woman who hugely influenced the course of American Landscape design in it’s nascent years in the early 20th century. Not quite a lovefest, but more than a seminar, last weekend in Bar Harbor reflected the high level of admiration and devotion of Farrand cognoscenti. Farrand was  highly respected and sought after professionally in her day,  and she continues to inspire loyalty among garden historians and enthusiasts who have gone to great lengths to preserve, restore and chronicle her work.

The last event of an eventful day was a reception at Garland Farm.  On a perfect midsummer evening we gathered  to admire the newly restored Terrace Garden, a labor of love accomplished by Master Gardeners over a period of years (2007 -2013), view the Herbarium on display in the barn, pass through the beloved green door which Farrand brought with her from Reef Point, and walk among the rooms where Farrand walked. The talk was of gardens: how to preserve them, how to document them, how to restore them, how to do them. I believe Mrs. Farrand would be pleased.

Terrace Garden Looking into Mrs. Farrand's Room
Terrace Garden Looking into Mrs. Farrand’s Room
  Terrace Garden

Terrace Garden
Terrace Garden
Terrace Garden
Terrace Garden
Terrace Garden

Beatrix Farrand Colloquium



I was delighted to be able to attend the recent Beatrix Farrand Colloquium “Working with Farrand/Farrand at Work” at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown on March 8, 2013. The all day colloquium was a veritable who’s who of Farrand experts, including world-renowned landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, and eminent Farrand scholar Patrick Chasse. The topics ranged widely from a straight forward biographical presentation by Judith Tankard on Farrand’s later years and her move from her home at Reef Point to Garland Farms, her last home, both on Mount Desert Island Maine, to an original concept by Robin Veder, Assistant Professor of Humanities and Art History/Visual Culture at Penn State Harrisburg, on the kinesthetic experience of walking through landscape using Farrand’s design at Dumbarton Oaks as an example of such an experience. Dennis Bracale spoke softly about Farrand’s relationship with the Rockefellers while designing the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor, Maine and touched on the spiritual that is present in that garden. Thaisa Way, Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington discussed Farrand’s relation with emerging ecological practices in the early 20th century, introducing the delicate subject of imposing contemporary concerns on historic events. Bestsy Anderson, a PhD candidate at University of Washington and an up and coming scholar to watch in the world of landscape history, spoke on Farrand’s involvement in the design of Edith Wharton’s, Farrand’s aunt, country estate, The Mount, in Lenox, MA.

Each presentation was as interesting and compelling as it was different from another. It would be impossible to choose a favorite or “best in colloquium” presentation. Thaisa Way inadvertently introduced an issue that subsequently predominated the colloquium. In her presentation, the first of the day, Ms. Way consistently referred to Mrs. Farrand as ‘Beatrix Jones Farrand’. This caused some consternation among other scholars who took every opportunity to point out that Mrs. Farrand never used her maiden name, Jones, ever after she was married and in fact went out of her way in her lifetime to inform others that her name was Beatrix Farrand, no other. Several presenters made references to examples of Mrs. Farrand correcting others on her preferred name, the most compelling being a letter that exists from Mrs. Farrand to Princeton University specifically telling them that her name was Beatrix Farrand. Some of the more lighthearted of the scholars could not resist commenting that given the amount of air time devoted to the discussion of her name, Mrs. Farrand would be appalled if anyone at the colloquium called her “Trixie”, a name she allowed only a few intimates to use.

Of all the knowledge and scholarship I was introduced to, and the little I took away with me, Michael Van Valkenburgh’s presentation on his firm’s work on the Princeton University campus resonated because of a question he asks. His presentation did not appear to have the level of preparation as the other presentations, his approach appeared more to be an ad lib commentary on a collection of slides. However, in discussing how his firm addresses the issue of designing the 21st century campus while remaining sensitive to Farrand’s designs from the beginning of the 20th century, he observed that rather than having his designs be directly influenced by Farrand’s designs, when designing at Princeton he asks himself “would Mrs. Farrand like what we’re doing?” And if he thinks she would approve, then he considers that all the permission he needs to design the campus as he sees fit.

I ask myself would Mrs. Farrand, nee Jones, have liked the colloquium “Working with Farrand/Farrand at Work”? I think she would have been delighted that her work, her scholarship and her name lives on.

Installation at Dumbarton Oaks

Here’s an interesting article on the latest installation at Dumbarton Oaks. Although the article talks about ‘Cloud Terrace’ it really highlights John Beardsley, the man in charge.
‘Cloud Terrace’ and other works put Dumbarton’s gardens in a new light

By Adrian Higgins

Ten thousand lead-crystal pendants dance beneath a cloud of scrunched-up chicken wire. Suspended on nine poles above a fancy patio, the art installation “Cloud Terrace” captures the stark, cold winter light and throws it back in flashes of color, intense bursts of orange, scarlet, indigo. John Beardsley has been drawn to this spectacle over and over since it went up in April and has found it to be a siren with many songs. “The piece has different moods,” he says, striding toward it. “When the shadows come, the crystals are like dew on a spider web. When the sun comes out . . .” The sentence is unfinished, but we know what he means. It’s dazzling.

Here’s the link:

Garden History Symposium

The weekend of March 18 & 19th  I had the very good fortune to attend a University of Pennsylvania School of Design  Department of Landscape Architecture  Symposium on Garden History. The symposium was titled Foreign Trends on American Soil and it was wonderful! There 16 main speakers,  a number of moderators and a welcome  by Dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor.  A sampling of papers include the following:  From Capability to Peculiarity: Adapting British Principles to American Practice;

Kubota Gardens and Bloedel Reserves: Two Japanese Gardens, Two Inscriptions; Traveling Landscapes: Richard Neutra as a Landscape Architect; “Tree Foreigners” in Nineteenth-Century America.  Speakers were from all over the U.S and  London, Paris, Italy and   Scotland and each was as interesting as the other. The audience was asked to participate and I tell you it is a thrill to be able to ask some of the best minds in Landscape Architect a question. I loved the informality of the event where there were no nametags, everyone was treated as an individual.

The main reason I went was to hear John Dixon Hunt speak. He is Emeritus Professor at UPenn. He is a prolific writer, I have all his fascinating books. I had the opportunity to speak to him privately during a break and he was very gracious and generous, which I was thrilled about after the fact because I wasn’t so sure what he would be like to speak with. But I told him I used a lot of his ideas in my last paper and he replied that was the whole point, to take ideas and to use them in a new way. A true gentleman and scholar.  I would love to learn more from this man.

The next Garden History Symposium I plan to attend is at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown. It is entitled “Landscape and Technology”. I will keep you posted.