Ralph Hancock

Garden-maker Extraordinaire

The Welsh landscape gardener, architect, and author, Ralph Hancock, was born.
Hancock was a garden-maker extraordinaire, and he created several famous Gardens across Wales, England, and the United States. One of his most famous works was the rooftop garden at the Rockefeller Center in New York. Hancock designed his rooftop garden in 1934 and it was cutting-edge at the time.
In an interview, Hancock predicted:

"The days of penthouse gardening in boxes are over - and miles and miles of roof space in every metropolis in this country remain to be reclaimed by landscape gardening."

(Well, it's 2020, and Hancock's vision has yet to be realized. There's still plenty of concrete jungle to conquer, although the pandemic has turned more people than ever into gardeners, most rooftops go underutilized. But I have to say that it is refreshing that so many people are gardening now. Even my own mother is gardening - and giddily reporting on her progress - so there's that.)
Now, Hancock's rooftop garden at Rockefeller Center was called The Garden of Nations, and it featured gardens for eight different countries around a central, old English tea house and cottage garden. It was quite something to behold. To create it, Hancock's Garden of Nations required 3,000 tons of earth, 100 tons of natural stone, and 2,000 trees and shrubs. They all had to be hauled up there, and there's plenty of stories about how they used the service elevator in the building or a massive block and tackle pulley system that was erected on the side of the building. It was a herculean effort.
But, he finally finished it. And Hancock's 11th floor Garden of Nations officially opened on April 15, 1935. Nelson Rockefeller was there to see it - as well as students from Bryn Mawr College. The young women from Bryn Mawr arrived in costume representing the various nations. In the archives, there are beautiful photos of these young women - like the one of Nancy Nichol wearing a kimono in the Japanese garden.

This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
Ralph Hancock
Ralph Hancock

Leave a Comment