If you’d like to see Abby Aldrich Rockefeller’s other summer garden, the Maine oasis where she went to escape Hudson Valley summers after the blooms in her rose garden at Kykuit had faded, be sure to check out a new exhibit opening Saturday May 17 at the New York Botanical Garden.
“Mrs. Rockefeller’s Garden” will be the centerpiece of the new show, “Groundbreakers: Great American Gardens and the Women Who Designed Them,” which runs through Sept. 7. The Seasonal Galleries in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory have been remade into a gorgeous evocation of the gardens at the Eyrie, the summer home of Abby and John D. Rockefeller Jr. in Seal Harbor.
NY Botanical Garden photo
The Maine gardens were designed in 1926 by Beatrix Farrand, one of three early 20th century female landscape architects featured in the show, along with Marian Coffin and Ellen Biddle Shipman. Pioneering garden photographers Jessie Tarbox Beals, Mattie Edwards Hewitt and Frances Benjamin Johnston are also part of the exhibit.
Shipman was one of the country’s leading landscape architects in the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s. House & Garden magazine called her the “dean of women landscape architects” in 1933.
She designed more than 600 gardens, including “about 50 in the Westchester area,” says Judith Tankard, a garden historian and the author of “The Gardens of Ellen Biddle Shipman” (Harry N. Abrams, 1997). Most of her gardens disappeared after World War II.
Shipman’s clients included Fords, Astors, duPonts and Edisons. In 1924, she designed the gardens at Cat Rock in Garrison, which has been home to several generations of the Osborn family. It was recently sold to art dealer Matthew Marks, and he plans to restore the Shipman gardens, according to Anne Osborn.
Fortunately, three of Shipman’s best-known gardens — Longue Vue in New Orleans, the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, Fla., and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University in Durham, N.C. — have been preserved and are open to the public.
Other highlights of the “Groundbreakers” exhibit at the Botanical Garden include an outdoor Edna St. Vincent Millay poetry walk and “Groundbreaking Women in Science” in the Conservatory’s Rain Forest Galleries. And yes, there is a free downloadable “Groundbreakers App” with enhanced programming and a walking tour.