Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden – designed by Beatrix Farrand

Posted by rodney eason

The second garden in this series is the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden. I first visited this garden in Seal Harbor, Maine on Mount Desert Island in 1997. It was love at first sight. Carrie (my then fiancee, now wife) and I vacationed on Mount Desert Island to see one of her good friends from college. Our friend had gotten these exclusive tickets to a Rockefeller garden that was, at that time, only open for one week during the summer.

Abby aldrich rockefeller garden

As we drove to the garden, we almost thought we were lost, as a matter of fact, I think we did get lost. We managed to find our way back and into the parking area. There were volunteers to help us park in sort of a make-shift parking lot carved out of the woods. As we exited our cars, we were still under the eternal canopy of a Maine forest. The signs pointed us to the garden. Eventually, we came to a wall with a tiled cap. The wall was tall enough not to see over it but not too tall to feel out of scale. The signs and the pathway continued along the wall until it proceeded through an opening. The closer we got to the opening, the more detailed the landscape. The forest floor was immaculately cared for. All of the moss looked neatly tended. The pine needles seemed as though they were perfectly arranged. All was in order.

Abby aldrich rockefeller garden

We proceeded through the opening in the wall and walked over stepping stones and tree roots towards an opening in the woods off in the distance. The closer we got, the brighter the light. Eventually, we entered the clearing in the forest. There, in the void, was one of the most beautiful gardens that I had ever seen. It was not too big, not too small. Just the right size with an ample amount of lush turf arranged as a rectangle in the middle of immaculately tended gardens. These gardens were only open for one week out of the summer and man, did the staff pull out all of the stops to make the garden look absolutely perfect. Surrounding the turf were enormous delphiniums, foxgloves, see-through verbena, and other assorted cottage perennials and annuals.

Near the top of my list of gardens is this Beatrix Farrand garden in Maine. There is something extremely special about this space. There is the juxtaposition between English border and surrounding Asian inspired woods. The unforgettable borders and evocative walk lined with Korean scholars and soldiers carved from stone. The garden itself is small, yet perfect. I have been back to this garden at least a half dozen times and each time, see something new. A detail in how the moss is trimmed along a narrow rill here, a noteworthy plant combination there.

woodland rill beatrix ferrand Garden maine

When I told Carrie that I was putting this series together for Studio G on some of my favorite gardens, she started to guess which ones I would include. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden was top on her list. It is a wonderful garden and I would encourage any person who loves gardens and garden design to see this space. It along with Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown, will allow you to see the genius of the designer that was Beatrix Farrand.



Blog Comments

the moss lined brook is simply incredible. quiet, soothing, and sublime

Art, it is sublime. If you’ve never been, do go.


I love looking through the photos on your site. You always make a good choice when illustrating your posts. They fit really well.

I have heard about this beautiful garden for years and plan to make a trip to Maine to visit it, and the Botanic Garden where Bill Cullina is now working. I am familiar with the PEGGY Rockefeller Rose Garden at the NYBG which is now one of the biggest sustainable rose gardens.

I think I forgot to say that the NYBG garden is fabulous!

That rill is magnificent. There’s an interesting article on the important role of Farrand and other early women landscape designers in designing with nature here:

Thanks, Cindy! I will read this article.

Thank you, Mark for reading Studio G!

I had only one word to describe your photos. Stunning.

Looking forward my trip to Maine next year. I need to experience this.

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