Near the new wing’s entrance lobby there is a field of low shrubs punctuated by two groves of trees. The small upright lacebark elms, Ulmus parvifolia, are a forest in training; bamboo poles are placed to help the plants retain their regular spacing and beautiful vertical form. Below is a field of hundreds of low spreading shrubs. 'Jelena' witch hazel, a cross between the Chinese and the Japanese witch hazels, was imported to the states in 1879. One of the first plants to bloom in the late winter, its coppery orange flowers glow in the low light. Later the bright blue flowers of Scilla bulbs pop up in the courtyard to let us know spring has arrived.
The garden is a temporary installation created for the opening of the new Renzo Piano wing of the Gardner Museum by landscape architect Ron Henderson. “We wanted to create a dense agricultural effect more like a plant nursery than a finished landscape. . . After three years’ growth the elms will need to be dug up and replanted elsewhere, perhaps in city schoolyards,” says Henderson.