Making old gardens new again

January 22, 2021

Work has begun in earnest to restore some campus gardens designed by the prominent landscape architect Beatrix Farrand (“Farrand”). Phase-one work began last fall in the courtyard of Branford College and on Library Walk also known as Old Library Street (located between Branford College and Jonathan Edwards College).

An overplanted bed in the northwest corner of Branford College’s courtyard was thinned and reworked to improve drainage and irrigation, and new sod was added. This cleaner look incorporates Farrand’s design influence of open site lines which complement the surrounding architecture. In the moats on Library Walk, twelve Rutgers Dogwoods were planted. These dogwoods, developed at Rutgers University, are a more pest and disease resistant variety. 

Branford College Courtyard before and after updates.

The idea is to recreate garden areas originally designed by Farrand, but give them a more modern aspect.” said Joe Signore, Supervisor Landscape and Maintenance Services.

Phase two updates in Branford College’s courtyard will include removing more landscaping along the northwest wall and bring it closer to the original design which includes irises, roses, and fragrant wisteria. The next phase at Library Walk will consist of planting vines and shrubs to define the characteristics of the moat walls and capstones. “In the past, vines, particularly ivy, grew on the building masonry and were removed – Farrand grew vines on supports, which allows for the buildings to be maintained. Some of her favorite vines were Wisteria, Clematis, and roses,” said Joe Signore.

The long-term plan is to incorporate Farrand’s design aspects in college courtyards with this same phased approach. Currently, Joe is also working on research to design a Farrand-inspired pollinator garden in Silliman College. “This has been an exciting project for my landscaping team, it has been fun to plan and uncover Farrand’s original vision. The entire team is very invested in the work and outcome.” said Joe Signore.

The basic premise behind these phased updates is to align the exterior landscape design with Yale’s distinctive campus character, while taking into consideration regular necessary maintenance. Also, providing durable, low maintenance landscapes respect Yale’s landscape design history. These exterior designs would also adapt to urban conditions, encourage ecosystem health, reinforce a sense of place, and produce harmony and integration across various campus areas.

In 2019, Heritage Landscapes, LLC was commissioned to prepare the Yale University Campus Farrand Cultural Landscapes Study. Beatrix Farrand (1872-1959), a prominent landscape architect, provided landscape design services for the Harkness Memorial Quadrangle from 1920 to 1922 and served as Consulting Landscape Gardener to Yale University from 1923 to 1945. This study identifies, documents, and assesses the landscapes to which Beatrix Farrand contributed. The study also provides an understanding of what remains of her legacy on the physical campus and shows her influence is still pervasive in many of Yale’s landscapes. As necessary, Yale’s landscapes and gardens will be refreshed utilizing this study.

Special thanks to:

  • Joe Signore, Supervisor of Landscape and Maintenance Services, and his team
  • Dev Hawley, Director of University Planning and Facilities Operations
  • Mark McCloud, Director of Facilities Services and Grounds
  • Cathy Jackson, Director of Planning Administration, and her team