The rose garden at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) is incredible. I visited the garden a couple weekends ago in the middle of August, and almost the entire garden was in bloom. And, robust. Roses were spilling over pathways with lush foliage and a profusion of blooms. The fragrance alone was intoxicating, reaching me before I even entered through the arbor. I used to hate rose gardens. I thought they were boring and ugly. But, the display at the NYBG made me a believer.
There are over 600 varieties and 4,000 plants on display, blooming for six months out of the year. The garden was originally designed by Beatrix Farrand in 1916 and recently renovated in 2006-2007. It’s been voted one of the most beautiful rose gardens in the country and also one of the world’s most environmentally friendly gardens.
The garden’s push towards sustainability involves selecting roses for disease resistance, evaluating them constantly, and using organic sprays before synthetic sprays are needed. The gardeners use an in depth evaluation system to determine which roses can remain in the garden, and which get replaced, which they conduct each month.
There’s so much more to read about the subject, and the next post (NYBG Rose Garden Wins Award for Sustainability) picks up where this leaves off. Also, if you happen to subscribe, The American Gardener published a great article about the garden renovation and move towards sustainability in their March/April 2011 issue.
Dumbarton Oaks (aka the D.O.) was also on the list. I love the D.O. I sort of grew up here, too. My mom worked as the Administrative Assistant at the D.O. for ten years, and so I spent my formative teenage years rambling in the garden. From around age 13 until my college years, we had the run of the place - swimming in the pool every summer; picnicking in every garden nook; and daydreaming the hours away. Needless to say, I memorized the place.
And yet I still discover something new every time I revisit Dumbarton Oaks. Like the detail and ornament. Within the Horseshoe Fountain (see above), Equisetum stood out against a backdrop of cattails carved in stone. The North Vista culminated in an ornamental rail with a marine motif of shells and snails designed by landscape architect Ruth Havey, an associate of Beatrix Farrand.
Repetition is also used beautifully throughout the garden. Take the ellipse, for example. I think there were 3 or 4 places where I discovered ellipses in the garden - the Lovers’ Lane Pool, Cherry Hill, within the various stonework, and obviously The Ellipse.
The garden was designed by landscape architect Beatrix Farrand. She was hired by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss in 1921, one year after they bought the 53-acre property that sits at the highest point of Georgetown. The Blisses had a unique relationship with Farrand in that they worked in close collaboration for almost thirty years. Mildred Bliss and Beatrix Farrand planned every detail of the garden together, including each terrace, bench, urn, and border.
The Blisses gifted Dumbarton Oaks to Harvard University in 1940, complete with the grounds, buildings, library, and art collections. Harvard continues to operate the institution with the mission of “supporting scholarship internationally in Byzantine, Garden and Landscape, and Pre-Columbian studies through fellowships, meetings, exhibitions, and publications.”