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beatrix farrand  portrayed by colleen plimptom at frelinghuysen arboretum

Beatrix Farrand Lives!


Dear Beatrix,

It was so nice to lunch with you last week. I am happy you are well.

Since you have stopped dirtying your skirts in the garden, I am glad you have found a way to indulge your passion, now, as a garden communicator.

How lucky that you ran into John Bartram at the Connecticut Horticultural Society! You never know when inspiration happens. That was certainly your Eureka moment. I loved your thought: “I wondered who’s doing the ladies?”

Right from the start you were a success. My goodness, how easily you slide between careers. And, really, all you did was don a hat, read everything you could, re-visit all your East Coast gardens, write a one-hour script and hire an acting coach to make sure everything was perfect. Sounds like fun!

When you talk you make people laugh and cry. Your story of no one wanting your paintings and your output of 60 years of work is astounding! After all, you were born into New York Society, part of the 400, part of the fancy set! So what if you were home-schooled, married at 40 and became a driven landscape gardener with dirt under her nails? Did they forget your commissions included some of the finest estates such as Woodrow Wilson’s White House, for Pete’s sake? And that Rockefeller and Theodore Roosevelt were your clients?

And what about your inspiring, independent, courageous and creative aunt, Edith Wharton, who by her own hand designed and helped build her home, The Mount? You designed her kitchen garden and the gardens along her long drive that gradually unfold to spectacular views. Like her, you’ve made your way through a man’s world.

Boy, sometimes there’s no figuring people!

So, Beatrix, your secret is safe with me. I know that when you’re home after a long day out, off comes the hat and you amazingly morph into Colleen Plimpton, a Connecticut woman who says she wants the world to know about you. She told me: “It’s a woman’s story. I consider myself a feminist or liberated woman. I admire those qualities in her. I would love to know if she was instrumental in getting the vote or other women’s issues.” Were you?

Colleen's on a mission to help educate women gardeners on who their forerunners were. "Women who make up garden clubs, I want them to know who came before. I want people to understand who made rock gardens. College campuses, I want them to understand paths, where the students walk. I want her to get her 15 minutes of fame.”

Stay well.

Beatrix Farrand and Colleen Plimpton:

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published March 23, 2014

Photos to enlarge

Beatrix Farrand portrayed by Colleen Plimpton, Photo courtesy of Colleen Plimpton

Garland Farm designed by Farrand, Photo courtesy of Colleen Plimpton

Bellefield, Photo courtesy of Colleen Plimpton

Colleen Plimpton as herself, Photo courtesy of Colleen Plimpton

Colleen Plimpton's garden, Photo courtesy of Colleen Plimpton

Beatrix Farrand garden at Promisek, Mary Jasch photo

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