The Rural We: Lynden B. Miller
Public garden designer and self-described “plant freak” Lynden B. Miller is responsible for rescuing and restoring The Conservatory Garden in Central Park, beginning in l982. Her other work in the city includes garden and park design in all five boroughs, including for Bryant Park, The New York Botanical Garden and Madison Square Park. She is on the Board of Trustees of the Central Park Conservancy, the New York Botanical Garden and, more locally, the Innisfree Garden in Millbrook, N.Y. When not working in the city, she spends time with her family at her Sharon, Connecticut home, the garden of which will be open for tours during the Cornwall Library’s Books & Blooms event on Saturday, June 9. The night before, on Friday, June 8, she will give the talk “40 Years of Gardening: Private and Public” at a reception to kick off the event.
The talk will be taken from my love of plants and gardens, and having been a painter for 18 years, which has always influenced my work. The property we bought in Sharon was a complete dump full of poison ivy and overgrown trees. I told my husband, ‘I can’t do this, why didn’t we buy something where someone had already gotten it started?’ But 40 years later, I’m still there, and except for the crabapple and rock, I put everything there. My garden is meant to be a mid-summer and fall garden, although this year, just in the last week or two, everything has burst into bloom.
I love plants and combinations of plants. That’s how art has influenced my gardening, and what I’ve learned there I’ve taken to New York City in some of my projects. I’ve done more than 40 projects in all 5 boroughs, some big and some small. That’s been my life’s work.
I paint with plants. I look at things with the same eye, there’s only time and weather that are different and that make it more challenging. It’s the same thing, designing with plants is an art form and you produce something that gives people pleasure. I just did a Digger Deeper event for the Garden Conservancy, and I had 30 people come in the rain. It was 55 degrees and we spent two hours in my garden and I loved it. I love sharing my garden with people.
I’m asked to go to help people beautify their cities, and I believe that people have a great need for connection with nature. In the big city they need it more than most places. To share that is what has motivated me all this time. I’m just a part of making New York more beautiful. It’s very rewarding. I wrote <a href="http://www.publicgardendesign.com/lyndens-book.html">my book</a> because I thought, ‘what if I get run over by a bus, no one will know all these things I’ve learned!’
I’ve been at the Botanical Garden for 31 years, working on perennials, and at Columbia working on improvements for 21 years. I’m currently working on saving the Russell Page Garden at the Frick and improving the Trinity Church Garden on Wall Street, where one of my relatives is buried. I advocate to get the city to spend more money for park maintenance. I’ve done all these projects, but they’re only as good as the maintenance. I’ve taught at NYU for 15 years or more, and I love my students. I work pretty hard all week and on the weekends I like to come up and play with my plants.
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