The Silver Garden at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA
1934 -

Isabelle Greene

Born Isabelle Clara McElwain, Greene was raised in Pasadena, California, and was exposed to architecture as a child, through her maternal grandfather, Henry Mather Greene (1870-1954), who, along with his brother, Charles Sumner Greene (1868-1957), created some of the most significant Arts and Crafts homes of the era. After graduating with a B.A. in taxonomic botany in 1956 at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Isabelle Greene worked as a botanical illustrator from 1957 to 1965. She pursued a second B.A. in art with an emphasis on painting at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), from 1965 to 1969. She studied landscape design at the University of Oregon in 1976, and then with the University of California Los Angeles’s Extension Program from 1977 to 1981. She interned with landscape architect Michael Wheelwright until 1982. That year, she registered as a landscape architect in California and launched her firm, Isabelle Greene & Associates.

Greene built a reputation using her artistic skills and working with the geography and plant materials of arid Southern California. Most of her projects are residential, with her most significant public gardens dating from the 1980s. She designed demonstration gardens with Pasadena landscape architect Yosh Befu for La Casita del Arroyo in 1981; a two-acre Modernist landscape for Carol Valentine in Santa Barbara from 1982 to 1984; and the renovation of the Theatre Garden at Ganna Walska’s Lotusland estate in Santa Barbara in 1986. She was invited to create the Silver Garden for a permanent display in the West Conservatory complex at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, in 1987. Greene became a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1999, and the University Art Museum (now the Art, Design & Art Museum) at UCSB organized an exhibition of her work, Isabelle Greene: Shaping Place in the Landscape, in 2005. Although past her retirement age, she maintains an active practice in Santa Barbara.  

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