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Russell Page Archive: Geraldine Stutz Gibbs Garden, Roxbury Falls

In this Connecticut garden, which bordered the Shepaug River and looked out onto the dramatic cascades of the Roxbury Falls, Russell Page worked with the natural setting and devised a planting scheme which included an array of roses and flowering shrubs.

  • Minor Bridge Road, Surveyors Plan

    RP/1/14/18/6

    January 1980

    93 x 107 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A dyeline plan dated January 1980 labelled, ‘Plan prepared for Geraldine Gibbs, Minors[sic] Bridge Road, Roxbury, Connecticut, scale 1" = 8', Arthur Howland Landscape Surveyor’. Rough pencil sketches have been added to the printed plan, presumably by Russell Page.

  • Minor Bridge Road, Sketch Plan of Property

    RP/1/14/18/4

    c. 1980

    38 x 76 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    An undated pencil design on tracing paper. Its reference number, 1980/135/1, suggests that it was the first sketch which Russell Page prepared for Minor Bridge Road, although the layout and shape of the building does not seem to correspond to other plans for the property; it may be a design for a different project.

  • Minor Bridge Road, Layout of House and Grounds

    RP/1/14/18/3

    c. 1980

    63 x 55 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    An undated sketch on photographic paper (reference number 1980/135/2). There are notes from Russell Page, including a request for a survey of the property.

  • Minor Bridge Road, Roxbury Bridge

    RP/1/14/18/1

    April 1980

    51.5 x 76 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A copy of a design on photographic paper dated April 1980, marked ‘Roxbury Bridge, 1/8" = 1 foot’ (reference number 80/135/3).

  • Minor Bridge Road, Roxbury Falls

    RP/1/14/18/2

    April 1980

    51 x 76 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A copy of a design on photographic paper dated April 1980, marked ‘Roxbury Falls, scale 1/8" = 1 foot’.

  • Minor Bridge Road, Notes and Sketches

    RP/1/14/18/7 (1 of 7)

    c. 1980

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A copy of a rough sketch, with notes, likely to show an area near the house close to the porch (reference number 80/135/1).

  • Minor Bridge Road, Notes and Sketches

    RP/1/14/18/7 (2 of 7)

    c. 1980

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A copy of notes, with a rough sketch, about the main steps (reference number 80/135/1).

  • Minor Bridge Road, Notes and Sketches

    RP/1/14/18/7 (3 of 7)

    c. 1980

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A copy of rough sketches, with notes, about the main gate (reference number 80/135/1).

  • Minor Bridge Road, Notes and Sketches

    RP/1/14/18/7 (4 of 7)

    c. 1980

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A copy of a rough sketch, with notes, about a garden area with rectangular beds (reference number 80/135/1).

  • Minor Bridge Road, Notes and Sketches

    RP/1/14/18/7 (5 of 7)

    c. 1980

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A copy of a rough sketch, with notes, about planting in the area close to the porch (reference number 80/135/1).

  • Minor Bridge Road, Notes and Sketches

    RP/1/14/18/7 (6 of 7)

    c. 1980

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A copy of a page of notes about suggested planting for the border close to the swimming pool (reference number 80/135/1).

  • Minor Bridge Road, Notes and Sketches

    RP/1/14/18/7 (7 of 7)

    c. 1980

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A copy of a page of notes about suggested hybrid tea plants (reference number 80/135/1).

  • Scanned Photograph of Geraldine Stutz

    RP/4/3/55

    2003

    A digital copy of a colour photograph of Geraldine Stutz in the garden of her home at Roxbury Falls.

  • Property Brochure for Roxbury Falls

    RP/5/2/5 (1 of 3)

    2006-2007

    A property brochure for Roxbury Falls, the Estate of Geraldine Stutz Gibbs at 35 Minor Bridge Road, Roxbury, Connecticut. The brochure was created by Klemm Real Estate in 2006/2007.

  • Property Brochure for Roxbury Falls

    RP/5/2/5 (2 of 3)

    2006-2007

    A property brochure for Roxbury Falls, the Estate of Geraldine Stutz Gibbs at 35 Minor Bridge Road, Roxbury, Connecticut. The brochure was created by Klemm Real Estate in 2006/2007.

  • Property Brochure for Roxbury Falls

    RP/5/2/5 (3 of 3)

    2006-2007

    A property brochure for Roxbury Falls, the Estate of Geraldine Stutz Gibbs at 35 Minor Bridge Road, Roxbury, Connecticut. The brochure was created by Klemm Real Estate in 2006/2007.

Roxbury Falls, 35 Minor Bridge Road, Roxbury, Connecticut, USA

1980

Archive of Garden Design Ref: RP/1/14/18

When Russell Page first visited the home of Geraldine Stutz in Connecticut, they spent two hours walking around the garden together in silence. It was raining, and Stutz spent the whole time holding an umbrella above Page’s head (no easy task given he was 6’7”). He picked up soil and broke off leaves. When every corner had been explored, Page turned to his host and said, “Geraldine, you have the perfect combination of deep country and white water, and we will make it wonderful” (Mortimer, 208).

The property, an eighteenth-century colonial-style house, was indeed perfectly situated, facing directly onto where the Shepaug River meets the Roxbury Falls cascades. It came not only with a log cabin but also the former Roxbury post office; Geraldine Stutz restored both, turning them into guest houses.

The surveyor’s plan (RP/1/14/18/6) shows that the pool, and open-sided pool house, were already in place when Page started on the project. His main task was to improve the contours of the land and devise fresh planting. He recommended softening slopes, and designed new steps. Weeping willows were planted around a curved pond. A sketch for a border close to the house includes notes suggesting a selection of cottage garden perennials (RP/1/14/18/7, 1 of 7). Another border, below the swimming pool, was to be filled mainly with roses: ‘Alba Maxima’, ‘Cardinal de Richelieu’ and ‘Tuscany Superb’ among them (see RP/1/14/18/7, 6 of 7). When it came to the choice of Hybrid Tea Roses for cutting, however, Page suggested that Geraldine Stutz ask her friend and neighbour CZ Guest for advice.

It was Mrs Guest, socialite, writer and gardening enthusiast, who had persuaded Page to take on the project. Before visiting Roxbury Falls, Page had been reluctant to design the garden. He was, by 1980, in his early seventies and was busy working at the PepsiCo headquarters in Westchester, New York. He was in no need of smaller, private commissions. By this date, a decision to work on a garden was largely informed by what Page thought of the client. “I can’t really do anything that’s better than the clients are,” he told the critic John Russell in 1983. “The garden is going to be their portrait as much as mine. And when it’s done it has to look as if it couldn’t ever have been any other way” (Russell, 1).

Geraldine Stutz was a highly intelligent woman. She was married to the British art dealer David Gibbs from the mid-1960s until they divorced in 1977. Impeccably stylish, with a keen eye, Stutz became famous as the president of the emporium Henri Bendel; she turned it into one of New York’s most thriving and avant-garde fashion stores (Andy Warhol was an in-house illustrator during the 1960s).

Page eventually agreed to meet, on one condition: “If she will pick me up at the Carlyle Hotel promptly at nine on Saturday morning and see that arrangements are made for me to be back in town by seven, I will come and take a look.” (Mortimer, 130). He made quite a first impression:

Standing under that canopy is this tall man in exactly the right kind of worn corduroy and gum boots with an easy jacket and a scarf twirled twice around his shoulders, wearing a beret because it was raining. He was very tall, maybe six feet seven. And wonderful. He was like a tree who had been out against the elements, as he had been for seventy years. Everything was oversize but elegantly attenuated. Long pants, long fingers, and body very graceful… When we arrived, he takes his umbrella out of the backseat, raises it, hands it to me, and without a word takes off. He intends I should go with him and shelter him under the umbrella… We traipsed over every accessible part of the property. With my arm stretched up I keep my umbrella over the giant. He is sniffing, muttering to himself. He picks up a hunk of soil, smells it, wanders through the woods, snaps off the edge of a bush or a branch. He has this wonderful kind of X-ray eye, as if he were breathing it in, as though it were coming in through his pores. I’ve never seen such concentration. It’s as if he were looking at a face or looking at something and memorizing it, knowing it through seeing it. (Mortimer, 130)

Literature

Mortimer, Senga. “The Garden Page.” Unidentified publication (Archive of Garden Design: RP/5/1/11).

Russell, John. “Russell Page, the Master of the Superlative Garden.” New York Times, 23 June 1983, Section C, p.1.

Related material in the Archive of Garden Design

RP/4/3/55: Scanned Photograph of Geraldine Stutz, 2003

RP/5/2/5: Property Brochure for Roxbury Falls, 2006-2007