They call it the "Forever Garden," ... the newly-restored perennial garden at the Stevens-Coolidge Place in North Andover, Massachusetts. This photo, taken in the summer of 2013, shows the restoration of the garden's original 1907 bed outline, designed by landscape architect Louisa Bancroft Stevens, one of the first women admitted to MIT's landscape architecture program.
Stevens-Coolidge place, once known as Ashdale Farm, was the summer home of John Gardner Coolidge and his wife, Helen Stevens Coolidge (no relation to Louisa). Coolidge was a diplomat -- a descendent of Thomas Jefferson and a nephew of Isabella Stewart Gardner. Helen Coolidge transformed the farm into a gracious country estate with help from preservation architect Joseph Everett Chandler ... and her sister hired Louisa Bancroft Stevens to help with the design of the perennial garden.
Mrs. Coolidge left the estate in 1962 to the Trustees of Reservations in Massachusetts, but after more than 50 years of public visits, the garden was showing signs of wear and tear. Landscape designer Laura Bibler of Andover was brought in to oversee the restoration with the help of many volunteers.
According to Bibler, the original plan by Louisa Bancroft Stevens -- a formal design of 19 symmetrical beds on either side of a wide grass path -- was "meticulously dimensional and sited within relation to the house." Bibler added that it's "amazing" that Stevens was able to create the plan "without any technical computerized assistance."
The perennial garden contains many of the original selections, including phlox, iris, peonies and foxglove, and it's surrounded by a privet hedge. Volunteers spent weeks in the library doing research on the garden and plantings, and the plan going forward is to maintain the gardens as closely as possible to the original 1907 plans. But gardens inevitably change over time, as do plants, so "forever" may be more in spirit than in actuality. But the genius is often in the original plans, and those can last forever.