Women in History. Women Contribution to American Garden Culture. NYBG

Women in History. Women Contribution to American Garden Culture. NYBG
Yareah Magazine

Women in History: Women Contribution to American Garden Culture at the New York Botanical Garden. Groundbreakers. May 17–September 7, 2014.


Two Sisters (detail) by Renoir

The New York Botanical Garden Will Celebrate Great American Gardens in the Early 20th Century and The Extraordinary Women Who Designed Them.

Between 1900 and 1930, landscape design achieved a new prominence in American life as estate owners created lavish flower gardens and cities landscaped public spaces. The New York Botanical Garden’s exhibition Groundbreakers: Great American Gardens & The Women Who Designed Them will explore this burgeoning age of gardening and the contributions of American women who emerged as influential professionals in the fields of landscape architecture and design, garden photography, and garden writing in the early 20th century. Opening on May 17 and running through September 7, 2014, the multifaceted exhibition will examine how the work of Marian Coffin (1876–1957), Beatrix Farrand (1872–1959), Ellen Shipman (1869–1950), and their contemporaries helped define American garden design at sites such as Winterthur (Winterthur, Delaware), Dumbarton Oaks (Washington, D.C.), Longue Vue (New Orleans, Louisiana), Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden (Seal Harbor, Maine), and The New York Botanical Garden. Visitors will learn why their stories are important to American history and culture as they experience the many components of the Groundbreakers exhibition at various locations throughout the Botanical Garden.

An Iconic American Estate Garden Evoked in the Conservatory.

“Mrs. Rockefeller’s Garden,” a gorgeous horticultural exhibition inside the Seasonal Galleries of the landmark Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, will feature an evocation of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Maine. This elegant American estate garden was designed by Beatrix Farrand in 1926 for the Eyrie, the summer home of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Farrand’s design for the garden combined a traditional summer garden palette of annuals, perennials, and bulbs with Asian architectural and sculptural elements all set within a clearing in the coastal Maine woods. The exhibition will pay tribute to the sophisticated plantings and landscape features of the iconic Rockefeller Garden, including colorful flower borders, a mossy woodland, and Asian-influenced Moon Gate and tile-capped enclosing wall.

Women’s Contribution to American Garden Culture Explored.

“Gardens for a Beautiful America: The Women Who Photographed Them,” a historical exhibition in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library’s Rondina and LoFaro Gallery, will feature a collection of vintage photographs and equipment, photo-illustrated books, and a simulated “Magic Lantern” slide show, highlighting the landmark work of pioneering female photographers—Jessie Tarbox Beals (1870–1942), Mattie Edwards Hewitt (1869–1956), and Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864–1952). Visitors will see how, through their pictures and interactions with garden designers, writers, patrons, and the media, these photographers played dynamic roles in popularizing the landscaped garden and defining landscape architecture as a profession.

“A Pantheon of Gardening Women” in the Mertz Library’s Rotunda will feature profiles of prominent women from across the United States who influenced garden design, media, patronage, and education during the early 20th century. Large-scale reproductions of portrait photographs and biographical profiles of Jessie Tarbox Beals, Marian Coffin, Beatrix Farrand, Mattie Edwards Hewitt, Frances Benjamin Johnston, Louisa Yeomans King, Ellen Shipman, and Florence Yoch will illuminate their interrelated roles in the American landscape movement.

An Exciting Array of Programming Throughout the Garden.

Developed in partnership with the Poetry Society of America, curated by Eavan Boland, and located in the outdoor gardens adjacent to the Haupt Conservatory, “The Edna St. Vincent Millay Poetry Walk” will present works of American poet and Pulitzer Prize-winner Millay (1892–1950), a leader in her generation of poets known for employing traditional poetic forms to convey modernist messages in a uniquely American voice. Many of the poems, displayed on more than 15 poetry boards set within the Botanical Garden’s landscape, reference plants and flowers found in the Garden’s collections during the peak flowering season.

On Saturdays and Sundays in the Ross Hall during the Groundbreakers exhibition, “From Ragtime to Jazz: The Roots of Pop” live music performances will feature a trio of artists—including acclaimed ragtime pianist and scholar Terry Waldo—performing popular works by Scott Joplin (1868–1917), Irving Berlin (1888–1989), George Gershwin (1898–1937), and other great American composers of the era.

“Focusing on Nature” will offer hands-on learning activities and interpretation accessible to young visitors in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, a 12-acre indoor/outdoor science center. During select summer weekends, “SousaKazooza” will highlight the compositions of John Philip Sousa (1854–1932) and two of America’s distinct musical instruments, the brass sousaphone and the beloved kazoo. At the end of summer, participants are invited back to take part in “SousaPalooza,” a performance in Ross Hall for families and friends.

“The Groundbreakers App” will enhance the visitor experience through a mobile application-guided walking tour. Available for free download on iTunes and The New York Botanical Garden’s Web site, the app uses “augmented reality” to highlight the many gardens and collections designed by women throughout the Garden’s National Historic Landmark landscape, including the Farrand-designed Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, the Coffin-designed Benenson Ornamental Conifers, and the Shipman-designed Ladies’ Border. Standing at these collections and holding up their mobile devices, visitors will be able to see historical images of the landscape—before, during, and after these magnificent gardens were built.

Images will be accompanied by narration and quotes from the designers’ letters and papers discussing their design processes and inspirations. Mobile media is sponsored by Bloomberg.

Additional programming during Groundbreakers will include a poetry reading of Millay’s work, Jazz Age Garden Parties with live music and dancing, as well as public lectures and a symposium featuring scholars who will discuss the impact and influence of women on landscape architecture in America.

An unforgettable departure from the everyday, The New York Botanical Garden is America’s premier urban garden. Its special exhibitions, seasonal programs, and engaging activities inspire visitors of every age and interest. The Botanical Garden is an ever-changing living museum, and a showplace of natural beauty and wonder. For more information, visit or call 718.817.8700.

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