Real Gardens, Unusually Clever People

Gardening with FLW


You can see the edge of the main house at right, then the pergola, which leads to the conservatory, guest house (on one side) and stables (on the other). Visit the website for a better idea.

If I were a landscape designer, I would not want Frank Lloyd Wright as a client. Not that it’s too likely. First, he’s dead, and second, I believe he designed all his own grounds: he was full-service that way.


But in a sense, that is who the curators and administrators of the Darwin Martin estate in Buffalo are working for as they continue their restoration of this 30,000-feet campus that Wright called “my opus.” I was there today, as the new visitor’s center, designed by Toshiko Mori, was unveiled to the media—it is very nice in a properly airy and understated fashion (the best idea you’ll get of it is on the Martin site)—but what caught my attention was the clear view of the empty gardens I now had. Nothing is there yet, but you can see the structure. I was also surprised to see that a greenhouse (unwanted by Wright who had already done a conservatory, but built against his wishes by the Martins, then demolished) was among the rebuilt structures. “It’s a long story,” said one of the curators when I asked about this. “I’ll tell you later.”


What will happen in these spaces? I haven’t a clue but am very eager to follow up. It’s not a huge amount of space, but there is clearly room to do something interesting. Though I am sure nothing that would greatly obscure the architecture will be installed. I know these guys. They’re not that crazy about gardens.

ADDENDUM: Jim/Art of Gardening corrects that the new greenhouse does not replicate the old one. (But concurs that it was not what FLW wanted.)

Posted by on March 12, 2009 at 11:14 am, in the category Real Gardens, Unusually Clever People.
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13 responses to “Gardening with FLW”

  1. Karen says:

    It would be so cool to see that as it rolls out. I hope it’s not just a bunch of boring lawn and hedges!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I agree, but you have to be careful with architecture that is so oriented to the ground to begin with.

  3. John says:

    Connect the greenhouse to the Gardener’s Cottage and I’ll move in! My dream house.

  4. That greenhouse seems very un-FLW and out of place, or is it just me? I recently visited Taliesin West in Arizona and really enjoyed how the property was very oriented towards wherever there was a nice view, and how nicely the landscaping incorporated cacti and wasn’t just all lawns and flat stuff to stay out of the way since the buildings were so low to the ground.

  5. Gwendolyn says:

    FLW lived near where I live at Taliesin and his house has a very naturalistic setting. It would be nice to see more prairie style plantings at this house– it seems to fit the architectural design well.

  6. The greenhouse you see was donated by a significant donor to the restoration, if not THE significant donor. It is not a reproduction of what was there originally (against Wright’s wishes). I don’t believe it’s even sited n the same place.

    It’s intended to grow annuals needed to populate the grounds. You can see it sits empty. I’m on my way over there now. My daughter takes dance classes across the street from the Martin house.

    The Gardener’s Cottage is sweet. I was in there last month. Wish I’d had my camera!

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Well, cacti would die a quick and merciful death. Buffalo is not Taliesin. Nor is it the prairie.

  8. I see a prairie garden…all the way!! Perhaps a vegetable plot near the kitchen. Subtle is the key for this architectural gem. Low horizontal lines, just like the roofline.


  9. I didn’t mean cacti HERE, I was just saying I liked how well he worked with the landscape at Taliesin West. In Arizona.

    And it is very sensible to grow their own annuals to plant the grounds, the last garden I worked at did that and then sold the leftovers in the garden shop, it ended up being a good deal all around.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Anne,

    Yes, of course, sorry, I think I was commenting half asleep to be honest.

    I still am not sure about prairie plants, as many understandably suggest, in our heavy acidic Buffalo soil. But it can be amended. Clearly, they’re not consulting me, so who knows what will happen. I promise to update.

  11. I would hope they would plant lots of grasses and Coneflowers, Liatris & other prairie plants that would be a fitting counterpart to the architecture aesthetic.

  12. Don’t know if any of you have seen it, but Derek Fell has a new book out: “The Gardens of Frank Lloyd Wright.” It’s quite nice and offers a number of potential ideas for the Martin house. I did a review of the book on my blog on 2/8/09.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks Linda. I will definitely take a look. I think I remember you writing about it.