Planting Fields: A Historic Arboretum

A grand estate built in 1904 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, Planting Fields is now a public arboretum owned by the State of New York. This spacious site includes a restored mansion with adjacent sweeping lawn areas bounded by large specimen trees; formal gardens and fountains; extensive plant collections; numerous woodland trails; tropical greenhouses; and other structures and spaces of historic value. There were several designers involved in planning this property over the years, including the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm of Brookline, Massachusetts, who oversaw projects from 1918 until 1944. Below are a few images of the property that I took during a visit this summer.


Colorful blooms at the Arboretum Center


Vegetation covers a wall near the Rose and Pool Gardens


The Italian Blue Pool Garden


Perennials at the Pool Garden


Perennials at the Pool Garden


A pleasant, shady trail


Parrotia persica in the Synoptic Garden


The Synoptic Garden includes an extensive plant collection.


Coe Hall (north side)


Coe Hall (south side)


East Lawn near Coe Hall

Photos by Alice Webb

Tower Hill Botanic Garden


One of my favorite places to visit in New England is a hidden gem in central Massachusetts called Tower Hill Botanic Garden. It consists of a wide variety of beautiful garden areas, including both formal and informally-designed spaces, and ranging from large open sites to shady woodland trails. The visitor/education center is also very impressive, with tropical greenhouses, classrooms, a café, and gift shop.


Gazebo at the garden entrance


Bromeliads frame the gazebo archway


The Entry Garden


Approach to the visitor center


A colorful vertical garden was recently installed near the visitor center entrance.


Café terrace


The Winter Garden


Mist fountain at the entrance to the Systematic Garden


The Systematic Garden


Inviting seating areas are scattered throughout the property.


Outdoor fireplace surrounded by plants near the old farmhouse (administrative offices)


A pleasant, shady spot in the garden


Terraced entrance to the Lawn Garden


The Lawn Garden is surrounded by colorful plantings.


Pergola at the south end of the Lawn Garden


A seating area in the Secret Garden also provides a view to Tower Hill’s heirloom apple orchard to the south.


Heading back to the parking lot through the lovely Entry Garden

For views of Tower Hill (and its tropical greenhouses) during another season, check out Winter Garden Scenes — an earlier post in this blog.

Photos by Alice Webb

Halprin Parks of Portland

Lawrence Halprin (1916-2009) was a prominent American landscape architect who designed many modernist parks, plazas, fountains, and other projects, primarily in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of his works feature poured-in-place concrete forms and running water that represent natural elements and processes. In Portland, Oregon, Halprin’s firm designed a series of three public spaces, which I visited in May of this year. The water in the fountains had been turned off at that time, but presumably would be back on during the summer months, since the fountains are meant to be accessible.

Sadly, some notable modernist landscapes have been poorly-maintained and at risk of demolition and re-design. Several of Halprin’s works have been threatened in this manner, but The Cultural Landscape Foundation has brought attention to these and other endangered landscapes through its Landslide education campaign. So far, Halprin’s Portland parks have not been considered at-risk.


Keller Fountain Park: The design of the Ira Keller Fountain (water turned off at time of photo) was inspired by the waterfalls of the Colombia River Gorge.


Keller Fountain Park: The fountain was designed to be accessible and therefore has 36” safety barriers along the edges.


Pettygrove Park includes this sculpture called “The Dreamer” by Manuel Izquierdo. In summer the pool surrounding the sculpture is filled with water.


Pettygrove Park features circular and curvilinear forms, and includes numerous grass mounds.


Lovejoy Fountain Park: Fountain and “stepping stones” (water turned off)


Lovejoy Fountain Park: The lower pool of the fountain is in foreground, with modernist-style buildings lining the east edge of the park.


Pleasant pedestrian walkways connect the Halprin parks in Portland.

Photos by Alice Webb