Read More (61.3 MB)


Celebrating Garden Genius : A Handbook to Selected Gardens by Charles F. Gillette was created as part of the 1992 Charles F. Gillette Forum at The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia. W. John Hayden, Professor of Biology at the University of Richmond, and Sheila Hayden, Biology Research Associate at the University of Richmond, served as editors of the handbook.


Charles F. Gillette

Arriving in Richmond on November 9, 1911 —a dull, damp, dreary day—Charles F. Gillette began his career in the Southeast as "clerk of the record" for landscape architect Warren Manning, who, working with architects Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson, was responsible for building the new campus of the University of Richmond in Westhampton. As one of Warren Manning's apprentices at the Tremont Street studio in Boston, Gillette had received invaluable training in landscape art. Manning, moreover, had served his apprenticeship under Frederick Law Olmsted and had shared in the work at Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. A tradition from Olmsted to Manning to Gillette had thus been born. By 1914, Gillette, recently wed, made a momentous decision. He would practice landscape architecture in Richmond, Virginia.

Since that rainy day in 1911 Gillette did nothing less than create the image of Virginia gardens as they are known and loved today. Developing a distinctly regional landscape architecture, one geared, as Professor Reuben Rainey has observed, to the Piedmont and the Tidewater, he won the admiration of men and women as remote in time and place as Douglas South all Freeman, Paul Green, Ellen Glasgow, and Francis Pendleton Gaines. His designs remain today the paradigm of the Virginia garden.

The genius loci of the middle Atlantic, Gillette was drawn to the spiritual in nature. The garden, etymologically an "enclosing," was instinctually real to him as the paradisus was to the medieval basilica. Like Emerson, he knew, after all, that nature was "language whereby God speaks to man." One senses that today in the magic of a Gillette garden.

Gillette's eclecticism is rich in the traditions of landscape art. The Georgian Revival, the Country Place Movement, the English cottage garden, the designs and motifs of Capability Brown, Inigo Jones, or Gertrude Jekyll form organically, in the vernacular, the "Gillette look" or the "Southern garden." English boxwood, Virginia cedar, azalea, camellia, crepe myrtle, Cunninghamia, daffodil and yew, brick, stone, water, and bronze form the palette of his art. The native and the imported thrive side by side. One leaves the Gillette garden with the echo of a John Hersey line, "True genius rearranges old material in a way never seen . . . before."

--George C. Longest

Publication Date



Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden


Richmond, VA


Charles F. Gillette, landscape architecture, Richmond, Virginia, gardens, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, landscape art


School of Arts and Sciences




Horticulture | Landscape Architecture | Plant Sciences


Read and view the complete handbook by linking to the Read More button above.

Acknowledgements and Credits: The Charles Gillette archives at the Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia, provided a rich source for the material in this handbook. The University of Richmond and the Lewis Ginger Botanical Gardens appreciate their grant of permission to digitize the figures in the handbook.

We also note appreciation to the Virginia Historical Society for their grant of permission to digitize Figure 20.

Celebrating Garden Genius : A Handbook to Selected Gardens by Charles F. Gillette