Gardening with FLW



You can see the edge of the main house at right, then the pergola, which leads to the conservatory, guest house (on one side) and stables (on the other). Visit the website for a better idea.

If I were a landscape designer, I would not want Frank Lloyd Wright as a client. Not that it’s too likely. First, he’s dead, and second, I believe he designed all his own grounds: he was full-service that way.


But in a sense, that is who the curators and administrators of the Darwin Martin estate in Buffalo are working for as they continue their restoration of this 30,000-feet campus that Wright called “my opus.” I was there today, as the new visitor’s center, designed by Toshiko Mori, was unveiled to the media—it is very nice in a properly airy and understated fashion (the best idea you’ll get of it is on the Martin site)—but what caught my attention was the clear view of the empty gardens I now had. Nothing is there yet, but you can see the structure. I was also surprised to see that a greenhouse (unwanted by Wright who had already done a conservatory, but built against his wishes by the Martins, then demolished) was among the rebuilt structures. “It’s a long story,” said one of the curators when I asked about this. “I’ll tell you later.”


What will happen in these spaces? I haven’t a clue but am very eager to follow up. It’s not a huge amount of space, but there is clearly room to do something interesting. Though I am sure nothing that would greatly obscure the architecture will be installed. I know these guys. They’re not that crazy about gardens.

ADDENDUM: Jim/Art of Gardening corrects that the new greenhouse does not replicate the old one. (But concurs that it was not what FLW wanted.)

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. That greenhouse seems very un-FLW and out of place, or is it just me? I recently visited Taliesin West in Arizona and really enjoyed how the property was very oriented towards wherever there was a nice view, and how nicely the landscaping incorporated cacti and wasn’t just all lawns and flat stuff to stay out of the way since the buildings were so low to the ground.

  2. FLW lived near where I live at Taliesin and his house has a very naturalistic setting. It would be nice to see more prairie style plantings at this house– it seems to fit the architectural design well.

  3. The greenhouse you see was donated by a significant donor to the restoration, if not THE significant donor. It is not a reproduction of what was there originally (against Wright’s wishes). I don’t believe it’s even sited n the same place.

    It’s intended to grow annuals needed to populate the grounds. You can see it sits empty. I’m on my way over there now. My daughter takes dance classes across the street from the Martin house.

    The Gardener’s Cottage is sweet. I was in there last month. Wish I’d had my camera!

  4. I see a prairie garden…all the way!! Perhaps a vegetable plot near the kitchen. Subtle is the key for this architectural gem. Low horizontal lines, just like the roofline.


  5. I didn’t mean cacti HERE, I was just saying I liked how well he worked with the landscape at Taliesin West. In Arizona.

    And it is very sensible to grow their own annuals to plant the grounds, the last garden I worked at did that and then sold the leftovers in the garden shop, it ended up being a good deal all around.

  6. Hi Anne,

    Yes, of course, sorry, I think I was commenting half asleep to be honest.

    I still am not sure about prairie plants, as many understandably suggest, in our heavy acidic Buffalo soil. But it can be amended. Clearly, they’re not consulting me, so who knows what will happen. I promise to update.

  7. Don’t know if any of you have seen it, but Derek Fell has a new book out: “The Gardens of Frank Lloyd Wright.” It’s quite nice and offers a number of potential ideas for the Martin house. I did a review of the book on my blog on 2/8/09.

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