Col. Montgomery's conifers

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Col. Robert Montgomery, who founded Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and named it for his friend David Fairchild, collected palms for his South Florida estate, but he also collected conifers at his home in Cos Cob, CT. He donated 200 conifers from his collection to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, and recently I visited that garden and the Colonel’s trees, including spruce, hemlock, cedar and yew.

This sign identifies the spruce
name for Col. Robert Montgomery.

The conifer collection now is called the Beneson Ornamental Conifer Collection for the benefactors who funded the four-year upgrading of the garden. Large blue conifers encircle an open area in an arrangement designed by Marian Coffin in 1949. Coffin, a 1904 graduate of MIT also designed Winterthur, Longwood Gardens and the University of Delaware campus. A lovely pavilion atop a hill provides a beautiful stopping point.

Among the conifers are a blue Chinese fir, which the interpretive sign boasts

Dragon's-eye pine.

is a great rarity; blue Arizona cypress; many dwarf conifers including a variegated dragon's-eye pine, Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus-draconis.’

In addition, there is a dwarf blue spruce that is named for the Colonel: Pinus pungens ‘R.H. Montgomery’ and a photo of the Colonel standing next to it all those years ago.

This is the dwarf spruce named
for Col. Montgomery.

Montgomery, a tax authority and lawyer, served on the New York garden’s board of managers from 1935 until his death in 1953. He willed his Connecticut estate to the town of Greenwich for use as a public park. Today it’s called the Montgomery Pinetum, and is run by the Greenwich Garden Center. His home in South Florida is the Montgomery Botanical Center. His legacy to the tropical world is our botanical garden.