Category Archives: Garden History

Archives of American Gardens

The Smithsonian has an amazing horticulture division that until recently I didn’t know existed.  You should take some time to look through their webpage and see what all they have.  One of the things that I found really interesting was the ‘Archives of American Gardens.’  Here is their “mission statement”……

The Archives of American Gardens (AAG), founded in 1987, offers landscape designers, historians, researchers, and garden enthusiasts to approximately 80,000 photographic images and records that document a wide variety of historic and contemporary gardens throughout the United States.

The mission of the Archives of American Gardens is “to collect and make available for research use unique, high quality images of and documentation relating to a wide variety of cultivated gardens throughout the United States that are not documented elsewhere since historic, designed and cultural landscapes are subject to change, loss and destruction. In this way, AAG strives to preserve and highlight a meaningful compendium of significant aspects of gardening in the United States for the benefit of researchers and the public today and in the future.”

There are some really great images that they have available on Flickr, I have posted some of them here for you.  These are all old glass lantern slides from the 1920’s and 30’s.

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The Dying Arts of Pleaching and Pollarding

Arborists prepare to cringe.  I am a huge fan of the effects created by two pruning techniques, pleaching and pollarding.  Both of these techniques are used widely in Europe; but even there I sense there relevance is seemingly fading.  For me they combine two of the most essential garden tenants I know of, form and sculpture.

Pleaching is the act of pruning the canopy of a tree up and providing a consistent height while also containing the growth on the sides and top of the plant.  This is often done with single stem trees but can also be done with multi-stem plants(see my last posting on the Ware’s garden, the trees against the wall are pleached Carpinus betulus fastigiata).  The results are marvelous.  Perfect for creating a screen or accentuating a site line with and allee.

pleached allee


Pollarding is seen even less often.  It is a much more difficult technique to properly perform.  Basically what you are doing is constraining the height and ultimate size of a tree.  I would say this all came about when someone planted a tree that began to get much to large for the space where it was installed.  In an attempt to keep the tree in check they started pruning away.  The results are a tree that is kept much smaller that its natural tendencies would allow.  As you can see in the picture the results with foliage in place are great; but the real sculptural presence comes into play when the leaves drop and you are left with the knobby clubs at the end of the branches.  So lets remember to look to our Garden Design History for ideas and inspiration and not forget the techniques used in the past.






Filed under Garden History, Pruning

Pattern Books


In my design work I am always looking for examples and inspiration.  This can take a lot of time and effort and to be able to find it all in one place is rare.  Many years ago while in Charleston I ran across a book simply called Fences. I was intrigued.  It was beautifully bound and illustrated with many examples of fences, gates, post and finial options; I was in love and had to have it.  I later discovered that he had completed four pattern books the other three of which I have also purchased now.  These cover the topics of Brick Pavement and Fence-Walls, Garden Houses and Privies, and Gazebos and Trellises.  Mr. Peter Joel Harrison has done an amazing job on all of them.  They are extremely well researched and amazingly drafted.  These are a must for any designer or if you just have an interest, you can spend hours looking through these.


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The Garden Conservancy

The Garden Conservancy Logo
Intro 1

Preserving America’s Exceptional Gardens

For those of you who are not aware I want to pass on some information about The Garden Conservancy.  It is a wonderful program that finds Americas great gardens and makes sure they remain for future generations to enjoy.  At the bottom of the description below you will find a link to their “open days” program that allows you access to these wonderful gardens.  Have a look at the links to discover some of our hidden jewels and what is being done to preserve them.

Preservation Project Gardens

Preservation Projects Program

The Preservation Projects of the Garden Conservancy lie at the core of the organization’s mission to identify and preserve America’s exceptional gardens for the education and enjoyment of the public. The Preservation Projects Program brings structure and focus to the preservation of important and historically significant private gardens across the United States and the role they play in people’s lives. The Program applies sound preservation and conservation principles to the task and finds ways to transform these gardens into protected and well managed public entities. In partnership with individual garden owners as well as public and private organizations, this Conservancy Program provides the horticultural, technical, management, and financial expertise needed to sustain these fragile environments and ensure long-term stewardship of natural assets so essential to the aesthetic and cultural life of our communities.

Exceptional gardens most often begin as private affairs, the life work of passionate, dedicated, and remarkably talented gardeners. A select number of these are capable of flourishing for generations as public gardens, and it is the Conservancy’s role to facilitate their historic and aesthetic preservation as well as public visitation. The Conservancy’s Preservation Projects Program takes a leadership role in the transition of the American gardens in its diverse portfolio from private to non-profit ownership and management.

When an exceptional garden becomes a Preservation Project of the Garden Conservancy, the owners of the garden and the Conservancy embark on a rigorous process that involves the structuring of legal strategies and conservation easements to protect the property from development. Master plans for stabilization, preservation, interpretation, horticultural management, and public access are developed. New organizational and financial strategies are implemented to build sound governance and fiscal foundations. Often, interim management is required and the Conservancy takes a direct management role, assuming responsibility for managing the garden, hiring staff, administering programs as well as responsibility for the financial well being of the garden itself. The Conservancy provides support in areas such as bookkeeping, personnel management, fundraising, public visitation, planning, and promotion, and also extends its involvement and ongoing advisory services over time to ensure quality and stability.

Over the past 20 years, the Garden Conservancy has helped over 90 exceptional gardens in the United States survive and prosper. In addition, the Conservancy makes its expertise available to dozens of gardens each year through technical assistance, education, and a wide range of short term help and consulting services. Its internships expose a new generation of professionals to the diverse skills required to operate a public garden. The handbook, “Taking a Garden Public,” offers an overview of the issues and strategies involved in preserving and sustaining a garden and points to resources to aid local efforts.

Many of our partner gardens are open throughout the year, as well as, during The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program. To learn more about the Open Days program, click here.


Filed under Garden History