Theodate Pope’s vision for Hill-Stead was not limited to the buildings and architecture. She was equally interested in the surrounding landscape and took special care when designing the gardens. The original gardens included an earlier version of the Sunken Garden, as well as the now-overgrown Walking Garden. These natural spaces provided outdoor areas for entertaining family and friends.
In the late 1980s, the Sunken Garden was restored according to a plan drawn by Beatrix Farrand (1872-1959), one of the first female landscape designers.
The garden remains an integral part of Hill-Stead, providing a spot for quiet meditation, a gathering place for visitors and school tours, and a site for weddings and other special events, including the annual Sunken Garden Poetry Festival. View upcoming garden events
Hill-Stead Plant Book
For a copy of the Hill-Stead Plant Book: Beatrix Farrand’s Sunken Garden (Hill-Stead Museum, 2009), visit our Museum Shop.
Volunteer with the Garden Gang
The Sunken Garden at Hill-Stead is maintained with the help of volunteers who meet on Wednesday mornings throughout the season.
The fun begins in the spring when the Garden Gang gathers to “Wake the Garden.” Plants are thinned and divided. Some are potted to be sold at May Market, while others are moved to keep them in their correct position – as defined by the 1920s era planting plan by Beatrix Farrand. Finally, the beds are readied for the myriad annuals that will be planted when the weather warms a bit.
The season winds down in late October, and the Garden Gang is there to “Put the Garden to Bed” for the winter. Perennials are cut back, annuals are removed and tulip bulbs are nestled in their beds for a vibrant show of color the following spring.
The garden thrives and flourishes today through the generous efforts of faithful volunteers. If you would like to join this dedicated group of volunteers, visit our volunteer page.