Martha Brookes Hutcheson

The Spirit of the Garden

Today is the birthday of Martha Brookes Hutcheson, who was born on this day in 1871.
When she was born, Landscape Architecture was a babe as well; being a newly established professional field.
Two decades later, in 1902, when Martha Brooks Hutcheson joined the ranks of the profession after graduating from MIT, she became one of America’s first professional female landscape architects.
Hutcheson wrote a book called "The Spirit of the Garden" (a complete copy is available online for free here).
In the book, Hutcheson poured all of her cultivated expertise; it became an instant garden classic. Hutcheson wanted Landscape Architecture concepts to be available to everyone, not just the wealthy. And, she wanted plants and trees to grace every living space; in rural areas, cities, and especially the areas surrounding schools. 
For half a century - until 1959, Hutcheson and her husband, William, lived at Merchiston farm. There are many native plants, and water is a vital landscape element. 
It was Martha Brookes Hutcheson, who said:

“An insight into ecology enables us to recognize plants as living things - with laws governing their needs in their associations. Without this, we recognize plants only as a florist might who fills his windows with lavish displays.”

Hutcheson's personal interest in ecological systems led her to dam a small stream on her farm to create a cow pond, which later became around the swimming pond in the center of her garden. She and her visitors swam in the pond and shared it with wildlife.
Despite her struggles to break down barriers for her profession and for women, Hutcheson found comfort, "tranquility and intense personal calm" in her gardens. She wrote:

"So, let us all have gardens, for we shall be but following in the footsteps of those past ages, and expressing the love of gardens that have been in our hearts for generations."

This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
Martha Brookes Hutcheson
Martha Brookes Hutcheson

Leave a Comment