Sculpture Garden

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The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, designed 1953. East terrace and east wing of The Museum of Modern Art, designed 1964. 1964. Photographic Archive. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York

The Garden Landscape 120

Assistant Director, Special Programming, Melanie Monios: My name is Melanie Monios and I am part of the department of Special Programming and Events. I’ve been here for over 30 years and the sculpture garden is a real joy for me. I often start my day in the Garden, walking through the Garden.

The Garden landscaping and the activities that take place there are really quite similar to what they were in the early days of Philip Johnson’s first garden. His first garden was designed and built in 1953 and several components of the landscaping still look the same today.

When you’re out in the garden there are several trees, we’ll start with the weeping beech trees in the center of the garden a family of three as we like to refer to them. The Garden I’ve heard referred to as an outdoor room so the trees, the beech trees, in the center of the bed are particularly pruned to leave a window in between so that visitors can catch a glimpse of the east or west room - per se.

The White Spire asian birch trees on the east side and the west side of the Garden, they’re the single trunked white birches. Their trunks were meant to compliment the marble and those are original to the Philip Johnson design. The Ivy beds he conceived of carpets of ivy in all of the planting beds.

The only thing that’s different when you’re in the Garden and looking around tree wise would be the Chinese Elms and those are along the wall. Those were planted in 2004 to create an allée with the same type of Chinese Elm trees that are planted on 54th Street.

We have seasonal planting beds in the Garden. There are two beds that are rotated three times a year with plants and florals. In the fall we plant autumn ferns and they beautifully compliment the trees as they change colors in fall and then we have a little splash of green throughout the whole winter. Also in the fall we plant about 500 tulip bulbs so that in March when we remove the ferns and install pansies, the tulips will come up in a carpet of pansies and that always signals spring.

Summertime there’s a combination of summer annuals, they vary from year to year, and we do look at the sculpture installation plan to complement the sculptures with the plantings.

All treatment to the plants and trees is organic. We us beneficial insects. We bring in little tiny ladybugs if there are aphids on our weeping beech trees and they take care of the trees for us.