Beatrix Jones Farrand (1872 – 1959)

Beatrix Farrand, 1943. Beatrix Farrand Society Archives.

Beatrix Farrand, 1943. Beatrix Farrand Society Archives.

Beatrix Farrand, the designer of the Sunken Garden at Hill-Stead, is considered by some to be the finest female landscape designer of her generation and a pioneer in the field. Born in 1872 to a wealthy and privileged New York family – Edith Wharton was her aunt – Farrand’s love of gardening began alongside her mother at her family’s summer home in Bar Harbor, Maine. As no formal schools for landscape architecture existed, Farrand was largely self-taught, learning through her travels to Europe where she saw first-hand the work of designers she admired, such as Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson. She also trained at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum and was one of eleven charter members of the American Society of Landscape Architects. By the end of her career she had designed over 200 gardens including parts of the Yale and Princeton University campuses, and private estates throughout the Northeast.

Beatrix Farrand and Theodate Pope Riddle: Ahead of Their Time

original planting plan

Beatrix Farrand’s original planting plan for the Sunken Garden, undated. Department of Landscape Architecture, University of California, Berkeley.

While Beatrix Farrand and Theodate Pope Riddle travelled in similar circles, little is known about when or how they first met. Their working relationship seems to have begun with a collaboration on the Westover School in Middlebury, Connecticut. Theodate Pope designed the buildings in 1907 and Farrand did the plantings in 1912. In 1917 they submitted plans for the Connecticut State Farm for Women in East Lyme, although their design was not the one chosen for construction. It was likely after this that Farrand drew up plans for a revision of the then-current sunken garden at HIll-Stead.  Whether the new garden plan was ever carried out remains a mystery.

Gardens Designed by Beatrix Farrand

In addition to the plan for the remarkable Sunken Garden, Beatrix Farrand is best known for the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. and the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Other Farrand-designed gardens open to the public include the Promisek Garden at Three Rivers Farm in Bridgewater, Connecticut, the West Garden at Harkness State Park in Waterbury, Connecticut, the Beatrix Farrand Garden at Bellefield in Hyde Park, New York, and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor, Maine. Her own small garden at Garland Farm in Bar Harbor, Maine has been recently restored and is also open for visits.

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