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Reef Point Gardens Corporation

Reef Point Gardens Corporation

In 1939, Beatrix and Max Farrand incorporated the Reef Point gardens, turning their family estate and gardens into an educational center, herbarium, and botanical garden meant to function much like the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard. The residence, a shingle-style house with turrets and high gables overlooking the Atlantic, housed Farrand's vast library of educational materials, fine prints, horticulture books, and design drawings. The gardens spread over the rocky landscape and featured indigenous plants alongside exotics like azaleas. Beatrix Farrand worked on these gardens her entire life, beginning as a child when her parents let her participate in the landscaping of the family home. Her herbarium contained almost 2000 sheets that documented exactly what plants were used at Reef Point, where they were planted, and why. The landscape at Reef Point was intensely personal for Beatrix Farrand.

In 1946, Farrand began publishing the Reef Point Bulletin, a newsletter she sent to financial supporters of Reef Point like Robert and Mildred Bliss. The bulletin documented the work being done at the institution, recent acquisitions, and the general health of the house and gardens. Among other topics, Farrand reported on the institution's futile struggle to obtain tax-exempt status. In 1947 a massive fire devastated Mount Desert Island, leaving the communities on the island desperate for tax income to help rebuilt infrastructure. Reef Point was repeatedly denied tax-exempt status as an educational institution, which left the Farrands with ever-increasing bills. Supporters made financial contributions, but in 1955 Beatrix Farrand decided that the future of her beloved Reef Point was too expensive and unstable.

Upon deciding to discontinue the gardens and learning center, Farrand moved swiftly to dismantle the entire estate. Her collections of art, books, drawings, and herbaria were donated to the department of Landscape Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. The mansion was torn down and the vegetation was removed from the gardens. Parts of the house that held meaning to Beatrix Farrand came with her to her final home at Garland Farm. The chimney pots and front door, for example, became part of the Garlands' farmhouse. In the backyard, Farrand transplanted some of her boxwood, azaleas, viburnums, and an old cherry tree given to her years ago by her mentor Charles Sprague Sargent. Even her late dog was reburied at Garland Farm.

Other parts of the gardens at Reef Point were rescued by Charles Savage, a member of the Reef Point Foundation's board in happier days. When Farrand made the decision to end Reef Point, she gave Savage a year to remove what plants he could. Aided by funding from John D. Rockefeller Jr., Savage purchased an alder swamp across the street from the Savage family's hotel, the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor. Savage transformed the alder swamp into a Japanese scroll garden, and he planted it with azaleas, rhododendrons, and shrubs from Reef Point. Both the garden at Asticou as well as the garden at Garland Farm remain today.

 

References:

Balmori, Diana, Diane Kostial McGuire, and Eleanor M. McPeck. Beatrix Farrand’s American Landscapes: Her Gardens & Campuses. Sagaponack, NY: Sagapress, Inc., 1985.

McGuire, Diane Kostial and Lois Fern, eds. Beatrix Jones Farrand (1872-1959): Fifty Years of American Landscape Architecture. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, 1982.

Raver, Anne. "Nature: Beatrix Farrand's Secret Garden." The New York Times. November 27, 2003. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/27/garden/nature-beatrix-farrand-s-secret-garden.html

"Saving Mrs. Farrand's Plants: Asticou." The Down East Dilettante. June 4, 2010. https://downeastdilettante.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/saving-mrs-farrands-plants-asticou/

Tankard, Judith B. Beatrix Farrand: Private Gardens, Public Landscapes. New York: The Monacelli Press, 2009.