Speaking out for Gardens
As an advocate for garden preservation, The Garden Conservancy takes a public stand to protect gardens at risk. Listed below are some examples of how we are speaking out for gardens:
Milton Garden Club, Milton, MA
The Garden Conservancy wrote a letter of recommendation for a Community Preservation Committee grant from the Town of Milton to continue preservation initiatives at the Spalding Garden. Spalding Garden reflects the work of two prominent 20th-century landscape architects – Fletcher Steele and Ellen Biddle Shipman and it etains its original hardscape, including walls and a fountain of the bowling green designed by Steele, as well as extant plant materials, including linden trees and a variety of evergreen shrubs. Read our December 22, 2022, letter to the Chairperson of the Community Preservation Committee, Town of Milton.
Oakwell Estate, Ardmore, PA
The Garden Conservancy submitted a letter to the superintedant of the Lower Marion School Disctrict advocating for the preservantion of Oakwell Estate. In 2018, the Conservancy opposed the use of eminent domain by the Lower Merion School District to acquire all or part of the historic 42-acre Stoneleigh estate. In 1919, a portion of the Stoneleigh estate that included auxiliary garden structures and landscape features designed by celebrated Philadelphia-based architect Frank Miles Day, was subdivided to become Oakwell Estate. The Oakwell Estate is also an environmentally sensitive area with over 500 heritage trees. According to the Lower Merion Conservancy, [Oakwell Estate] “still retains landmark plantings [by the Olmsted Brothers] that define spaces on the property.” Read our December 21, 2022, letter to the Superintendent of Schools of Lower Marion School Disctrict.
The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden
The Garden Conservancy joined environmental advocates, horticulturists, and community members in opposing the proposed Arcadia Arboretum Natural Treatment and Groundwater Recharge Project at the LA County Arboretum. Four acres of the Arboretum would be converted to a storm water treatment facility, putting as many as 425 trees at risk. The proposed plan would divert storm water to the Arboretum’s Australia section into a series of groundwater recharge ponds. Using Arboretum land for this project would result in the loss of hundreds of irreplaceable botanical specimens, including heritage trees and endangered species. Some of the trees targeted for removal are 70 years old and over 100 feet tall. Read our January 28, 2021, letter to the Los Angeles County Supervisor.
The Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, National Mall,
The Garden Conservancy joined several other cultural and preservation organizations in raising concerns about the redesign of the sunken sculpture garden at the Hirshhorn Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC. As currently proposed, the redesign destroys key features of the postwar landscape design, a masterwork of Modernist landscape architecture by Lester Collins. In a letter on September 10, 2020, to the National Capital Planning Committee on September 10, 2020, Garden Conservancy President and CEO James Brayton Hall comments in the letter that "this sculpture garden by Lester Collins one of the most important examples of Modernist landscape design. It is in complete harmony with the Brutalist architecture of the Hirshhorn Museum."
UPDATE, July 2021: After modifications were made to the proposed redesign of the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden in 2021, the Garden Conservancy submitted a second letter on July 20, 2021, expressing a more neutral position in support of their growing need for programmatic and exhibition space and recommending thoroughly documentation of key aspects of the existing site designed by Lester Collins before any alterations are made.
Plaza sculpture garden at the National Geographic Headquarters, Washington, DC
MARABAR, a significant work of art by renowned artist Elyn Zimmerman that was commissioned by National Geographic in 1984 for the entry plaza at its Washington, DC, headquarters, was threatened by the proposed redesign of the headquarters. On May 27, 2020, the Garden Conservancy joined other preservation and cultural groups in urging the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) for the District of Columbia to reconsider its previous approval for the renovation plans. Read our letter.
UPDATE - March 2021: MARABAR will not be demolished; however, it will have to leave the National Geographic campus. As noted in coverage by the New York Times, Art Newspaper and other outlets, a settlement was announced at the March 4, 2021 hearing of the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board, which was considering a proposal to renovate part of the campus; the renovation would have resulted in the artwork’s demolition. NGS has pledged to remove and relocate the one-million-pound twelve-granite boulder installation at its own expense. The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) and the artist are collaborating to find a new home at a museum, university, or other cultural institution.
UPDATE - January 2022: It is announced that MARABAR has found a new home at American University (The Architect's Newspaper, December 30, 2021).
The Russell Page courtyard garden at the Frick Collection, New York, NY
The courtyard garden designed by Russell Page at the Frick Collection in New York City made news in 2018 because of the museum’s revised renovation plans. After public criticism (including a press release from the Garden Conservancy in 2014) for disregarding the importance of the garden in earlier designs for remodeling their buildings and grounds, the Frick proposed a new design, announced in May 2018, which promised to preserve the garden with relatively few changes.
The Garden Conservancy sent a letter on May 25, 2018, to New York City's Landmark Preservation Commission (which reviews such proposals), stating our support for the new design, which preserves the garden as it was designed by Page. Noted public garden designer Lynden Miller has been retained to oversee the preservation of the garden during construction and the re-installation of the garden afterwards.
On June 26, 2018, the Landmark Preservation Commission approved the Frick’s new proposal. On January 23, 2020, the Garden Conservancy sent a letter to the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals, commending the Frick's decision to acknowledge the significance of this garden in its current plans for expansion. Read the letter. Learn more about this garden.
The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, NY
On October 29, 2019, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission approved plans to re-vamp the Charles McKim-designed Morgan Library & Museum exteriors for the first time in the landmark's 112-year history. Read the Garden Conservancy's letter in support of this project. Learn more about the Morgan Library & Museum.
Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, NY
On July 23, 2019, the Garden Conservancy sent a letter opposing the redesign of Fort Greene Park, in Brooklyn, NY. The proposed plan would destroy multipurpose cobblestone-and-grass relief mounds designed by pioneer American landscape architect Arthur Edwin Bye, Jr. in the 1970s. Read the letter. Learn more about Fort Greene Park.
Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Brooklyn, NY
A proposed high-rise development at 960 Franklin Avenue would block sunlight and harm the Brooklyn Botanical Garden's unparalleled plant collections. Learn more about this threat and how to oppose this rezoning to protect the integrity and beauty of the garden.
The Juliette Gordon Low House, Savannah, GA
In 2018, proposed renovation of the Juliette Gordon Low House in Savannah, GA, threatened to destroy a garden designed by Clermont Lee in the 1950s. Gordon Low was the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Clermont Huger Lee was the first registered female landscape architect in Georgia. The Victorian parterre garden she designed at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace comprises intricate geometric shapes and is an important example of her work. On July 10, 2018, the Garden Conservancy sent a letter supporting the exploration of alternative renovation plans that would preserve the garden.
On March 10, 2020, the Garden Conservancy sent another letter, this time to the Metropolitan Planning Commission, in Savannah, GA, imploring them to carefully consider the importance of preserving the cultural legacy of Claremont Lee when reviewing the new plans submitted by the Girl Scouts, USA, in November 2019, which threaten Lee's original design intent. Read the letter. Learn more about the Juliette Low Birthplace.
UPDATE MARCH 2020: Despite efforts by the Garden Conservancy and other organizations to reconsider the importance of preserving this garden, it was reported that original renovation plans, which would destroy the garden, are proceding.
Stoneleigh Garden, Villanova, PA
Stoneleigh Garden was designed by the Olmsted Brothers firm and is a historically and culturally significant garden in the Philadelphia area. Shortly after opening in 2018, Stoneleigh was threatened by the possible expansion of a local school district. The Lower Merion School Board proposed taking all or part of the 42-acre site to create playing fields and other infrastructure for the school district.
On June 5, 2018, The Garden Conservancy joined with numerous horticultural and conservation organizations to write a letter to the school district to protest their proposed action. Despite progress to derail the proposed taking, this important cultural landscape is still in danger. As of January 2020, the Lower Merion School District is considering several options for the construction of new playing fields. Learn more about Stoneleigh.
RUSSELL PAGE, THE EDUCATION OF A GARDENER:
"There are few gardens that can be left alone. A few years of neglect and only the skeleton of a garden is left."
RICHARD MOE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION;
“Important gardens are an essential part of our irreplaceable heritage — as much a part of the historic preservation landscape as buildings, birth sites, and battlefields.”
A few personal perspectives