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Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The courtyard of Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a serene and beautiful paradise hidden away in the heart of the bustling city

entrance to the Garder Museum
It's said that at her parties, Isabella Stewart Gardner would make a grand entrance by emerging at the top of this staircase that leads down into the courtyard.

Isabella Stewart Gardner, first welcomed visitors to her new museum on New Year's Day 1903. On that evening, guests of this now legendary Boston patroness of the arts listened to the music of Bach, Mozart and Schumann, viewed one of the nation's finest collections of art, and gazed in wonder at an exquisite courtyard brimming with plants, flowers and sculpture. And today, nearly 100 years later, visitors to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum can still experience much the same grandeur. Three floors of galleries surround a garden courtyard blooming with life in all seasons. Mrs. Gardner (1840 - 1924) was renowned for her love of flowers, and she would often arrive at public gatherings and balls with her arms full of bouquets sent by admirers.

The sound of water gurgling into the pool below from the vine-covered stone fountains adds to the courtyard's tranquil atmosphere.

The Courtyard
In Mrs. Gardner's day the Courtyard was predominantly Mediterranean in style, adorned with dozens of tall palms, orchids, and azaleas. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s the Court was filled with an overwhelming number of colorful flowering plants. Gradually over the next three decades both the style and use of color were simplified, and in the 1970s a sparer more Mediterranean look was resumed, in keeping with her original concept. Plants associated with the classical Mediterranean world were introduced, including myrtle and bay.

See the museum's Courtyard Garden Schedule

stone and floral artwork
In the 1970s, a sparer and more Mediterranean look was revived, where it is texture rather than color that makes the primary impression.

The Gardens
Museum visitors may also enjoy outdoor gardens in favorable weather. The Monks Garden, named after Mrs. Gardner's favorite niece, Olga Monks, lies east of the Spanish Cloister area. It was once a dense arbor with trellises and arrangements of laurel, azaleas, and ivy plants. The South Garden, located between the museum and a neighboring building, was originally a perennial garden. In the mid-1970s, it was redesigned to provide a more formal contrast to the wooded character of the Monks Garden.

trowel icon For more information, visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum online at

This segment appears in show #2703.

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Published August 31, 2007