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BY JOANN GRECO

Bayer Landscape Architecture brings the Darwin Martin House landscape back into full bloom.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Darwin and Isabelle Martin were getting tired of waiting. “We want a garden,” Darwin wrote to their architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, late in 1903. “We do not want the whole thing a lawn.” And so, the following fall, the restless couple went ahead and ordered quantities of shrubs and vines. Shortly after the rugosa rose and clematis, and the wisteria and snowberry, arrived, Darwin wrote to Wright again: “We have coaxed so long for the planting plan (and we have been assured we would have it before needed) that we gave up expecting it,” he chided. “[A]nd as the shrubs were drying up, we planted them Saturday and enclose this photograph showing how they were planted.”

Martin, a high-ranking executive with the Larkin Soap Company, had begun buying lots in the tony Buffalo, New York, neighborhood of Parkside in the late 1880s. When he decided to build a new home for his family in 1902, he settled on a particularly large corner site, which Wright—with whom he had been discussing a possible commission to design Larkin’s new downtown headquarters—championed. Martin soon accumulated some adjacent property and in 1903 engaged the master architect to design a residential compound on the now approximately 1.5-acre lot. By 1909, the property included not only the main 15,000-square-foot home, but a house for Delta and George Barton (Darwin Martin’s sister and her husband) as well as several outbuildings and structures.

A planting plan eventually arrived too, and the Martins enjoyed their Wright-designed landscape for three decades until the family abandoned the property soon after Darwin Martin’s death in 1935.

By the time Mark H. Bayer, ASLA, visited the site in 2014, though, that landscape had been reduced to little more than the lawn that the Martins had so desperately wanted to avoid. Perfunctory rows of annuals and bulbs edged its swaths of green turf, and only a handful of original trees and ornamental vines remained. “I thought, wow, this is a great blank slate,” recalls Bayer, who is the principal of Bayer Landscape Architecture in Honeoye Falls, New York. (more…)

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