Grant Helps Restore Historic Swan House Boxwood Garden in Atlanta

On November 19 in Atlanta, the Garden Conservancy and the Atlanta History Center announced a Garden Conservancy grant for the restoration and replanting of trees at the iconic Swan House Boxwood Garden, a key design component of the 1930s design by Philip Trammell Shutze. The Swan House property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been owned by the Atlanta History Center since 1966.

The walled Boxwood Garden was designed by Philip Trammell Shutze (1890-1982), one of Atlanta’s most prominent 20th-century architects, known for his neo-classical architecture and landscape design. As he did with all of his projects, Shutze designed Swan House as well as the surrounding landscape.

The Boxwood Garden is situated on the cross-axis between two facades of vastly different architectural styles—one Italian Baroque, the other neo-Palladian—and serves as the critical transition between the two. The garden features an elegant flight of stone stairs, quadrant parterres, a central fountain, and perennial beds lined with mature crape myrtles. A central path leads to a native woodland beyond.

Discussions about this garden began in the spring, when the Conservancy’s Society of Fellows visited Swan House during our garden-study tour of Atlanta. In June, the History Center submitted a detailed proposal and obtained approval from the City of Atlanta. The grant was supported by participants in the Fellows tour.  

Circle of redbuds discovered
Sarah Roberts, Director of Goizueta Gardens and Living Collections at the Atlanta History Center, reports a discovery made as her team prepared to replant the trees at the Boxwood Garden:

“When we were looking through the woods for where to plant our recompense trees, we started by looking at how many redbuds (Cercis canadensis) we needed to replace along the redbud allée that Shutze designed beside the stone ramble that exits the Boxwood Garden and leads into Swan Woods. The stone ramble and redbud allée terminates in a stone circle, with only three redbuds around it. Shutze was meticulously symmetrical in his plantings, so that seemed out of character. We started digging around the circle to see if that was happenstance or intentional. We found the stumps of what must have been redbuds exactly 12’ on center with the three redbuds still living. So with that exciting find, we will replace the circle of redbuds that surrounded the stone circle to restore this long-forgotten part of Shutze’s original design.”