Wethersfield, an expansive landscape in Amenia, NY, created by Chauncey Devereux Stillman (1907–1989), is the inaugural recipient of the Jean and John Greene Prize for Excellence in the Field of American Gardening.
The prize has been made possible by a transformational estate gift of nearly $3 million to the Garden Conservancy from John Kaul Greene, who passed away in September 2019, after expressing his intention to create an award to recognize excellence in American gardening. John is survived by his wife, Jean, who shared with him an appreciation for the ways gardens enrich our lives, an appreciation that deepened during the four years the couple lived in Europe. John joined the Garden Conservancy’s board of directors in 1998, and he served on the board of trustees of the Chicago Botanic Garden for more than half a century.
The Greenes had visited Garden Conservancy founders Anne and Frank Cabot’s garden in Quebec, Les Quatre Vents, which is widely recognized as one of North America’s exceptional gardens. As a Garden Conservancy board member, John embraced Frank’s vision of guiding garden creators and their successors through the steps needed to secure a garden’s future as a horticultural showcase that serves its locality and the larger gardening community for generations to come.
This first awarding of the Greene Prize comes with a $30,000 grant that will allow the Wethersfield Foundation to commission a Cultural Landscape Report focused on the landscape’s formal garden. “[This award will] enable us to have a roadmap back to the garden’s former glory; and it’s important for other gardens to see that this can be done,” says Tara Shafer, Stillman’s granddaughter, who serves as Executive Director of the Wethersfield Foundation. Heritage Landscapes, LLC, based in Norwalk, CT, has been commissioned for Wethersfield’s Cultural Landscape Report.
Wethersfield has earned a reputation as the finest classical garden in the United States built in the second half of the twentieth century. The gardens at Wethersfield emanate from the red brick Georgian Revival-style home situated at the highest point on the property, in New York State’s Dutchess County.
In 1940, Chauncey Stillman collaborated with landscape architect Bryan J. Lynch to install nineteenth-century English-style gardens on the north side of the house. Serving as extensions of the house, garden rooms are visible through the windows as they flow out to green corridors that lead to smaller enclosures adorned with arches, fountains, and sculptures.
When Stillman died in 1989, the Wethersfield Foundation was charged with carrying out his intentions to promote responsible land stewardship, habitat protection, sustainable farming, and innovative horticulture and to share the beauty of the property and classical arts with the local community. The Foundation’s fulfillment of this mission will be enhanced by the creation of a Cultural Landscape Report. “Those of us who care about the future of gardens know that garden preservation requires a plan,” says Garden Conservancy President and CEO James Brayton Hall. “Careful study and documentation of a garden’s history is the first step towards ensuring its future.”
Learn more about Wethersfield Estate and Garden at www.wethersfield.org.