Place

Walled Garden at Bellefield

A green lawn surrounded by a tall stone wall and rectangular beds planted with flowers.
The walled garden at Bellefield in summer.

NPS

Quick Facts

The walled garden at Bellefield is a delight for the senses by one of America’s most celebrated landscape architects, Beatrix Farrand (1872-1959). Renowned for the private estate gardens she designed for East Coast society and some of the most prestigious private universities and colleges, Bellefield represents a gem of American garden design and one of Farrand's very few surviving private commissions.

In 1911 Thomas Newbold asked his cousin Beatrix Jones (later Beatrix Jones Farrand) to design a garden adjacent to his newly rennovated house at Bellefield. Farrand had been exposed to several well-known architects and landscape designers. She was well-acquainted with Charles Follen McKim, the architect who redesigned Bellefield (they had previously traveled together in Scotland). Farrand was influenced by several well-known landscape architects and garden designers early in her career including Charles Sprague Sargent, William Robinson, and Gertrude Jekyll. The garden at Bellefield was one of her earlier residential design commissions.

The new garden stretched south from a terrace attached to the house and was enclosed by a stone wall and hemlock hedge. Farrand divided the garden into three garden rooms defined by gravel walks, long planting beds, and areas of open lawn. Farrand laid out the garden in forced perspective so that the sequentially smaller garden rooms extending away from the house appear farther away, creating the impression of a much larger garden. Farrand was sensitive to the existing trees at Bellefield and designed the garden around a mature elm tree that was the only asymmetric element within the garden walls. Farrand’s basic theme of an enclosed formal garden surrounded by an informal wild garden recurs in her later work on a grander scale, notably at Dumbarton Oaks. 

The planting beds along the garden gravel walks and lawn area were filled with layers of profuse blooms with low vegetation spilling over the vertical stone edging and taller plants standing adjacent to the garden walls. The original plans indicate the outline of a natural or wild garden beyond the walled garden area that incorporated several existing trees. The vegetation in this area served as a transition to the surrounding lawns and tree clusters and likely included several new flowering trees, which are evident in historic photographs.

Descendants of Newbold donated Bellefield to the National Park Service in 1976 to provide a protective buffer for the adjacent Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site. The garden was carefully put to bed until 1993 when a group of local citizens formed the Beatrix Farrand Garden Association to implement a restoration in partnership with the National Park Service. The restoration has resulted in a stunning display of composed borders washed in pink, white, blush, cream and grey, and mauve and purple, and surrounded by vine-traced stone walls and clipped hemlock hedges. While Farrand’s original planting plans for Bellefield do not survive, a team of landscape designers and gardeners based the restoration on historic photos and planting schemes from comparable Farrand gardens created at the same time.

Last updated: April 17, 2020