Inside the Rockefeller Family Gardens

Larry Lederman

In an excerpt from a new book, former House & Garden editor Dominique Browning details the journey behind photographs of the family’s gardens in New York and Maine.

Most of us think of water as being essential to a garden; it is perhaps the first association that comes to mind. Keeping a garden properly watered. Or filling a vase so that the flowers of our labor can linger indoors with us. The photographer, however, considers something else to be fundamental to the life of a garden. He watches the light. The light that throws the lines into relief, the light that sets maple leaves ablaze, the light that slicks stone with a glistening sheen. These are the impressions captured by photographer Larry Lederman in The Rockefeller Family Gardens: An American Legacy (The Monacelli Press, out April 25). It is fitting that Lederman’s first description of his first visit to Kykuit, John D. Rockefeller’s estate in New York’s Hudson Valley, should be of a gleam of leaves and trunks and bright red sculpture in a heavy rain. He returned with his camera for many years. He did the same at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller garden on Mount Desert Island in Maine. These visits provided the rare privilege of being able to contemplate in some depth two of the country’s most important gardens.