Francis H. Cabot (1925-2011)
Frank Cabot described himself simply as a "horticultural enthusiast" but was better known as the "the ultimate plant perfectionist," per House Beautiful magazine, and as a “tireless advocate of our living horticultural heritage," per House & Garden. Perhaps Gardens Illustrated described him best: "part eccentric, part scholar; a thinker, a gatherer of ideas, a plantsman, and a patron... above all, as is essential to all great gardeners, he is a visionary."
Among his many awards and recognitions, Cabot received the Garden Club of America’s 2006 Achievement Award for “the greatest horticultural accomplishment in America in the last half-century.”
Frank Cabot founded the Garden Conservancy in 1989 after a visit to Ruth Bancroft's stunning dry garden in Walnut Creek, California. In 1988, Frank and his wife, Anne, visited Ruth’s garden and Ruth expressed concern about the future of her garden. Frank later reported, “...much to my great surprise, I remember actually shivering at the beauty of it. As we drove away, I said to my wife, ‘We have to find some way to help this woman.’ And she said, ‘Why don’t you start a garden conservancy?’ ”
His life and accomplishments are summarized in his official obituary, published upon his death on November 19, 2011:
"...born in New York City on August 6, 1925, a graduate of St. Bernard’s and Groton Schools and Harvard College class of 1949 where he was a founder of the Krokodiloes, [Francis Higginson Cabot] served in Europe and the Far East during World War II with the Signal Corps. He worked initially for Stone & Webster Inc. and subsequently as a venture capitalist in New York. His overriding interest in horticulture consumed his later years when he was active in the American Rock Garden Society, the Friends of Horticulture at Wave Hill, New York Botanical Garden, and the Garden Conservancy, which he founded in 1989. During these years, he and his wife, Anne, created Stonecrop Gardens, now a public garden for plant enthusiasts in Cold Spring, New York; founded the Aberglasney Restoration Trust to rescue and restore a sixteenth-century garden in Carmarthenshire, Wales; and enlarged his parents’ garden in La Malbaie, Quebec, into what has been described as the most aesthetically satisfying and horticulturally exciting landscape experience in North America.
"His book, The Greater Perfection, received the Council of Botanical and Horticultural Libraries’ 2003 Literature Award, and was described as “one of the best books ever written about the making of a garden by its creator” by The Oxford Companion to the Garden (2006).
"He was the recipient of numerous awards from horticultural societies, including the Gold Veitch Memorial Award of the Royal Horticultural Society. He was also named a Chevalier of the Order of Quebec as well as a Member of the Order of Canada in recognition of his efforts, through his family’s Quatre Vents Foundation, to preserve the patrimony of Charlevoix County, Quebec."
The Garden Conservancy is very much in Frank Cabot's debt for his vision and leadership, and especially for the inspiration he continues to offer to us and thousands of other gardeners and garden-lovers.
Envisioning a Greater Perfection: A Garden Conservancy Tribute to Frank Cabot was held at the New York Botanical Garden on April 30, 2012. You can listen to documentary videos of remarks by Angela Lansbury, Barbara Paul Robinson, Dan Hinkley, Marco Polo Stufano, and others; or read the printed program, with 24 pages of stories and commentary.
The Gardener, a documentary film by Sébastien Chabot, was released in Canada in 2017 and in the United States in 2018. Visit thegardener-movie.com for more information.
Quatre Vents DVD, an illustrated talk in both French and English, narrated by Frank Cabot. Listen to a short snippet below and order your own DVD here.
The Greater Perfection, The Story of the Gardens at Les Quatre Vents, (Hortus Press, 2001), by Frank Cabot
Stonecrop Gardens, Anne and Frank Cabot's garden in the Hudson Valley at Cold Spring, New York, now a public garden
Aberglasney, a garden in Wales, UK, whose restoration Frank Cabot had championed
Frank Cabot and Ruth Bancroft in her garden, 1989