Bagel Garden, Boston, MA, USA

Location: Boston, MA, USA
Client: Martha Schwartz
Size: 484 square feet
Status: Completed 1979

Trained as an artist, Schwartz grew frustrated working as an apprentice in a Cambridge landscape architectural office. Longing for a speedy, inexpensive installation she could accomplish with her own hands, she tackled the 22-foot square front garden of her own Georgian row house in Back Bay. Incorporating two concentric square hedges of an existing formal garden, Schwartz based her scheme on French renaissance gardens, which were designed as stage sets for dances and celebrations.

Conceived as the stage set for her husband’s return from a week-long business trip, the front yard also became an ode to the landscape artist’s favorite food: “Bagels are humble, homey, and ethnic,” she explains. “Besides, I could get many of them inexpensively.” Between the outer and inner squares of the 16-inch high boxwood hedges, Schwartz arranged a 30-inch wide strip of purple aquarium gravel dominated by a grid of eight dozen bagels. Each bagel was dipped in marine spar for weatherproofing. Inside the inner square of hedge, she planted 30 purple Ageratum to match the gravel and complement an existing Japanese maple. “Despite the many garden party guests who were helping us celebrate the installation and my husband’s return,” Schwartz recalls, “he was not particularly amused.” The family left within days for a summer in Europe, and the bagels eventually decomposed.