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Garden

The formal garden at the Nassau County Museum of Art was designed in the 1920s by Marian Cruger Coffin, one of America's leading landscape architects. She considered this garden, designed at the peak of her career, to be one of her finest designs. Coffin's career happily coincided with the "county house era," when a great country estate with a beautiful garden was a necessary attribute for wealthy Americans modeling themselves on their European counterparts. Mr. and Mrs. Childs Frick, who called this estate "Clayton," hired Coffin to re-design an existing 450-foot rectangular flower garden. Coffin's overall plan for the garden was to strengthen, clarify, and enhance the existing arrangement of walks, flower beds, hedges, and entrances, using rectangles, circles, and arches to mirror the shapes found in the symmetrical design of the estate's mansion.

Before the end of her career, Coffin had undoubtedly foreseen the eventual deterioration of her ephemeral creation. She helped to teach, in fact, that while the product of an architect is static, the compositions of a landscape architect are constantly changing. When Nassau County purchased the estate from the Frick family in 1969, the garden became a public garden, its maintenance dependent on volunteer labor and private donations. The magnificent teak trellis was restored by the Roslyn Landmark Society in 1989; in 1993, extensive brick path restoration as well as a plan for restoring the garden were made possible by funding from New York State's Environmental Quality Bond Act. Actual restoration of the garden began in 2000, thanks to a generous gift from Peggy N. Gerry in memory of her husband, Roger G. Gerry, and is an ongoing project.

The garden today provides a sanctuary of carefully reconstructed brick paths, perennial borders, and intricate boxwood designs in four garden rooms, demarcated by yew "walls." It is an elegant space to be admired by lovers of landscape architecture, studied by historic preservationists, but most of all, a place to stroll, sit, and enjoy nature in a setting designed by a master landscape architect.

You can help support the gardens with a Garden Membership and with naming opportunities in the following manner:

  • Buy a four-foot teakwood bench ($2,000) - Buy Now
  • Contribution to the maintenance of the Pinetum ($2,500) - Buy Now
  • Restoration of the Historic Milliken-Bevin Teak Trellis ($20,000) - Buy Now

Formal Gardens