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Sol Lewitt's Parterre Garden

Image via the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Being a fan of both old gardens and modern art I feel kindof ridiculously pleased that Sol Lewitt has made a garden. And that it's a parterre!  Not himself of course, since he's been dead since 2007.  But  his 1981 proposal for a parterre garden--his only garden plan--has finally been realized in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park.

The original proposal was  To plant flowers of four different colors (white, yellow, red and blue) in four equal rectangular areas, in rows of four directions (vertical, horizontal, and diagonal left and right) framed by evergreen hedges of about two feet in height. In the winter the rows of plants would retain their linear direction; in the summer the flowers would bloom and provide color. The type of plant, height, distance apart and planting details would be under the direction of a botanist and the maintenance by a gardener.”

Image via Philadelphia Museum of Art

Those are pretty sketchy specifications.  But Lines in Four Directions in Flowers was executed by OLIN to reflect Lewitt's "affinity for creating variation within a rigid structure", and  for each of the color quadrants they selected "four to five species that bloom sequentially, with the lowest flowers blooming first. This pixelation of heights allows the negative space to be as impactful as the positive space—an extremely important factor to LeWitt.
    peachleaf bellflower (Campanula persicifolia 'Chettle Charm’)
    wand flower (Gaura lindheimeri ‘So White’)
    obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana 'Miss Manners')
    purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan')
    garden phlox (Phlox paniculata 'David')

    false indigo (Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight')
    perennial sunflower (Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’)
    yellow coneflower (Echinacea 'Sunrise')
    yarrow (Achillea 'Coronation Gold')

    red yarrow (Achillea millefolium 'Paprika')
    blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata ‘Gallo Red’)
    sage (Salvia splendens ‘Lighthouse’)
    cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
    red avens (Geum 'Flames of Passion')

    Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Little Spire')
    great blue lobelia (Lobelia Siphilitica)
    sea holly (Eryngium 'Big Blue')
    false indigo (Baptisia 'Midnight' Prairieblues)
    woodland sage (Salvia nemerosa 'Blue Hill')

    Hedge Border
    boxwood (Buxus 'Green Mountain')"

It's in place for two years.  I will definitely be visiting.

Image via OLIN

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David Toyne said...

Have a look at the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust Website: http://www.whgt.org.uk - and their FaceBook page. They may be of interest to you and hlep us both with our researches. By the way I am a Committee Member of the Trust!

arcady said...

Thanks David. I've added your link to the sidebar!

Commonweeder said...

Thank you so much for reminding me of Lewitt's parterre garden. My husband just started taking a drawing class at our local community college and they began with a trip to the huge Lewitt exhibition at Mass MoCA - and then had to do their own project separating design from execution. I will pass this along. I love your blog!

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