Perennial Comfort

Eminent garden designer Beatrix Farrand found refuge at Garland Farm on Maine's coast.

By Eleanor Dwight

Dumbarton
The landscaping of Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., is one of Farrand's most celebrated achievements.

Credit: William R. Hoppe

To reach the little Cape Cod house known as Garland Farm on Maine's craggy Mount Desert Island, the visitor walks up a path flanked by box hedges. The house itself is somewhat obscured by an enormous cherry tree, but as you draw near, you are welcomed by a jumble of native and Asian plants framing the paneled front door.

This was the final home of Beatrix Farrand, one of 20th- century America's foremost landscape gardeners (a term she preferred to "landscape architect"). Farrand was noted for both her expert knowledge of plants and her talents in design—a rare combination. The garden she nurtured here from 1956 to 1959 embodies a principle she had learned from her aunt, the novelist Edith Wharton: "The garden must be adapted to the requirements of the inmates of the house," Wharton wrote in Italian Villas and Their Gardens (1904). From Farrand's bedroom at Garland Farm, windows and French doors look out onto heaths, heathers, and lavender, flowers that display the pastel hues she loved.

Garland Farm passed to two successive owners following Farrand's death in 1959. When it went on the market again two years ago, friends and admirers of her work rallied to buy it. One prominent supporter was Roger Milliken, the chief executive officer of South Carolina textile giant Milliken & Co.; when Milliken was a child, Farrand did the landscaping at his family's Maine retreat. In January 2004, six months after the Beatrix Farrand Society was formed, the group purchased the farmhouse, a barn, and 4.9 surrounding acres for almost $450,000 (a price that included critical repairs), with plans to establish an educational center for design and horticulture. Restoration of the house and garden began last summer.

For the remainder of this article, e-mail us to purchase a back issue. Or read more excerpts from this issue.