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An Historic Garden is Renovated for a New Era


April 09, 2021

Ballard Park

Tucked away in a corner of Ballard Park in Ridgefield, Connecticut, is an historic, perennial-filled parterre underwritten and maintained by Ridgefield Garden Club (RGC) since 1982. Elizabeth B. Ballard, a past president of the club, designed the garden in the early 1920’s. In 1964, she bequeathed five acres of her estate on Ridgefield’s historic Main Street to the town for a public park. 

RGC has continued to maintain the original design of Mrs. Ballard’s garden while planting shrubs and flowers that were among her favorites. Over the past two years, with the help of local landscape designer Ilsa Svendsen, the garden has been significantly renovated to enhance color, balance, and structure, and to introduce more native and pollinator-friendly plants. “The renovation honors the garden’s history, while bringing it into a new era of increasing environmental awareness,” Svendsen said.

Visitors to the garden now see nearly 150 different species of plants in a graceful transition from cool blues and whites to warmer hues. A prominent feature is the wrought iron pergola designed by renowned landscape architect Fletcher Steele in 1930 for the Ridgefield estate of George and Mary Doubleday. The pergola was moved to the Ballard Park garden in 1992. The garden is open to the public year-round, and the club hopes each visitor finds beauty, joy, and relaxation there.   

The garden has been documented for the Smithsonian Archives of American Gardens (AAG): Ballard Park

For over 30 years, the GCA’s Garden History & Design Committee has partnered with the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Gardens to preserve and highlight significant aspects of gardening for the benefit of researchers and the public. At the core of the Archives is a collection of over 3,000 glass lantern slides from the 1920s and 1930s along with approximately 35,000 35mm slides that were donated to the Smithsonian by the GCA in 1992. Through its national network, GCA volunteers continue to expand the collection by photographing and documenting gardens each year for consideration by the AAG. The GCA Collection at the AAG is searchable through the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archive.


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