Hillstead Museum


In November 2018 I started a new commission - an installation at Hillstead Museum in Farmington, Connecticut.

A Natural Formal Garden or Natural Parterre,

Situated in the large meadow to the north of, and below, Hill-Stead’s historic Colonial Revival house. A parterre garden design, approximately 128’ x 40’ (5120 square feet) will initially be defined by wooden stakes and colored twine. Once the mowed pattern is well established, the stakes and twine will be removed. The parterre will be viewed from above on the museum’s west lawn, and be a part of the established mowed walking paths around the grounds of the museum.

The concept of the formal garden dates back to medieval times, with gardens designed by monasteries for medicinal and herbal plantings, and later on with European palaces, manor houses and private estates. The initial idea of the French parterre garden, with carefully designed plots and walkways, was to present an artistic pattern when seen from above. This proposed installation would examine and carry on the tradition of the formal garden, but with a twist. In between the pathways, the outlined garden sections would not be planted. The defined pathway areas in between the parterre units would be regularly mowed, while the untouched areas would be allowed to develop and grow whatever becomes established. The mowed lawn and the parterre format is a historically recent garden feature representing the formal (the controlled), and the meadow (the natural, the wilderness edge). Species will naturally come and go, be observed and documented. Wind, birds and mammal-born seeds will gradually add diversity, with a progression from annuals to perennials, to shrubs and trees.

A crucial requirement of this artwork requires documentation and observation of the processes happening within the parterres - species of plants, and as the piece develops, the involvement of birds and animals.

We are hoping that students from Miss Porters School in Farmington and others, will create projects involving this process.


“Natural Parterre” at Hillstead Museum