Documentation Program

The Suzanne and Frederic Rheinstein Garden Documentation Program at the Garden Conservancy seeks to capture and to share the essence of something that is largely experiential—the beauty and stories of a garden. This presents unique challenges and requires an innovative and layered approach to create a multi-dimensional portrait of a garden, a living work of art. Our documentation program is using words and pictures, letters and notebooks, drawings and plant lists, along with stories, sounds, and experiences that have inspired garden creators. The goal is to build, over time, an online resource that brings gardens to life in a new way in an educational tool that will continue to provide important insights for years to come. 

One of the first gardens selected for our Documentation Program was the John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden, in Mill Neck, NY. Created for Ambassador John Humes and designed by Douglas DeFaya, the garden is a seamless integration of Japanese landscape design with the woodland terrain of Long Island’s North Shore. The finished film "garden portrait" describing the John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden can be viewed above.

We are supplementing the master garden portrait with shorter, thematic film clips on specific topics. The three short films below focus on the symbolism of bamboo deriving strength from its flexibility, on the role of the Humes Garden in its larger environment, and the spirituality embodied in the stones and design of the garden.



We are also documenting Rocky Hills, a woodland garden in Mount Kisco, NY, masterfully created over half a century by Henriette Granville Suhr, and the Chase Garden, in Orting, WA. Documentation of Rocky Hills has been made possible, in part, by support from Don and Fran Herdrick, long-time advocates of Henriette Suhr's garden. To document these gardens, the Garden Conservancy researched and collected a wide variety of materials, interviewed individuals who played key roles in the evolution of each garden, and engaged professional archivists, film makers, photographers, and others to assist in crafting as complete a story as possible.

In 2018, the Garden Conservancy interviewed Belgian landscape designer Francois Goffinet about one of his earliest commissions: the restoration of the John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden in Mill Neck, NY, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Listen to a short clip from the interview:

The Documentation work is ongoing. We are continuing to interpret materials, curate the collection, interview key people, design digital presentations, and develop ways to provide easy and engaging online access. Many materials have been compiled and will be added online.

The cover story of the December 2018 edition of Garden Conservancy News provides an overview of the documentation program. 

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Rocky Hills Magnolia Collection

Click here to view a news brief excerpted from the December 2018 issue of the Garden Conservancy News.

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A Rainbow Every Day

Click here to view a news brief excerpted from the December 2018 issue of the Garden Conservancy News.

A special thanks to Garden Conservancy board member Suzanne Rheinstein   for her vision of a program to capture and celebrate the spirit of a garden online—and for her generous donation to support its launch. Read about the Suzanne and Frederic Rheinstein Fund for Documentation.

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Documenting the Chase Garden

Click here to read a few highlights from the Chase Garden archives, shown above being sorted and organized by archivist Chloe Kadel