sted National Historic Site in Brookline, the restoration
team was able to consult myriad plans and drawings for
detail and inspiration.
Modern landscape architecture practice was also
brought to bear in the renovation. For example, the original design called for a number of water features: reflecting pool, lily pond, basin at the south pergola, and a runnel connecting all the features. The team stayed true to
those features but designed a new system for pumping and
recirculating the water, utilizing new fountain and filtering
technology. Modern sleuthing techniques also came into
play, such as when a building conservator was called on to
carefully scrape away layers of detritus to reveal remnants
of the original pool coping and tiles. By examining pieces
under a microscope, the conservator determined the exact
material composition so missing pieces could be recreated.
The biggest challenge, however, was the planting list.
“The original plant list from the Olmsted Brothers firm
had 83 different species of flowering plants, and was like a
cutting garden,” says Vance. “They were very high-main-
tenance plants grouped very closely together. It was so
labor-intensive that Mrs. Hamilton wasn’t sure she wanted
to plant the garden at all. The question became, how little
blue could we have and still call it a blue garden?”
There was discussion of having blue flowering vines on
the pergola and trellis, but otherwise letting the garden be
all lawn and pools, or only planting a few beds to reinforce
the shape of the garden. Recalls Vance: “We did our due
diligence and studied planting alternatives, which led us to
ask if it was possible to plant this garden more to its origi-
nal intent of lush blue flowering plants, with some purple
and white, but have it be less maintenance?”
The list was simplified and reduced to 45 plants.
Iconic choices from the original schedule that are in the
current garden include delphinium, phlox, iris, nepeta,
‘Stokes’ aster, balloon flower, and plumbago. Also
included are low-maintenance shrubs not on the original list. The new plan calls for the flowering plants to be
arranged in the same wavy pattern (unusual compared with
the typically geometric outline) of flower beds the original
plan specified, but with fewer plants in each bed to keep
the maintenance simpler.
Perennials, which come and go, are overlaid with
annuals so that something is blooming in the beds the
entire season. Although annuals had been included in the
looking toward the north pergola, the view of the
restored Blue Garden takes in the many elements that
made the original Olmsted Brothers design a work of
landscape art including runnel, lily pond, reflecting pool,
planting beds with lawn paths, and a perimeter defined by
stone columns, wood trellis, and an evergreen enclosure.
To Visit …
Although the Blue Garden is a private garden, limited
appointments can be made to view it June through
October. Information is at thebluegarden.org. To learn
more about the Olmsted legacy, visit the National Park
Service’s Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in
Brookline, MA; nps.gov/frla. Coming in 2016 is Legacy in
Blue: Recapturing an Iconic Newport Garden, a book by
Olmsted scholar Arleyn Levee, who researched the Blue
Garden and consulted on its rebuilding.