George A. Crawley, a British artist, designer and purveyor of English taste, brought together a total concept of house and gardens in his estate design for the Phipps family.
Following the deaths of Margarita and John S. Phipps, their daughter Peggie inherited the Old Westbury estate and wished to open the gardens to the public to honor the memory of her mother and share the beauty of the grounds with others. Old Westbury Gardens officially opened as a nonprofit charity in 1959, granting access to the public to explore its 216 acres of gardens, rolling fields and woodlands.
After its first season as a public garden in 1959, landscape architect Barbara Capen was invited to redesign the border plantings of the Walled Garden for the summer, as the original bedding designs focused on plantings that bloomed during the spring and fall, the months the Phipps were in residence at Westbury House. Over the next few decades, Mrs. Capen continued to consult the horticultural staff to refine the design.
Today, visitors can experience the grounds and gardens, which remain largely untouched from the Phipps era, with many English-style perennials and biennials preserved. Guests are often drawn to the rare plant species—including foxgloves, delphiniums, and more that are not usually found in public gardens. These plants have been well-maintained for decades by the dedicated horticulture staff, which grow many of the herbaceous plant material right on-site in the private greenhouse, preserving the original vision of John S. Phipps’ and George Crawley.
Old Westbury Gardens has been fortunate that through efforts of public-private partnerships, much of the land surrounding the Gardens to the north has been protected due to its importance as watershed area and as home to several environmentally threatened plant species including green milkweed.
In 2010, Old Westbury Gardens was named to the National Register of Historic Places and is noted for its architecture and landscape design.
To prepare for the spring opening of the Gardens, over 7,000 tulip, hyacinth, daffodil and allium bulbs are planted in late fall in The Walled Garden’s Lower Terrace
The Lilac Walk was a favorite of Margarita Phipps, who installed it the 1920s. The Lilac Walk is generally blooming during the first two weeks of May, with more than 250 lilacs of 30 varieties.
The Rose Garden was the first garden designed by George Crawley for the property.
In the middle of the Rose Garden stands an ancient English stone sundial with twelve faces. Topped with a stone lion, it stands guard over the fragrant rose beds and serves to remind us how important it is to take the time to stop and smell the roses.