Ridgefield garden added to the Smithsonian Archives of American Gardens

Helen Dimos in her garden.

Helen Dimos in her garden.

Contributed photo

The Ridgefield garden of Helen Dimos and Dr. Benjamin Oko is well known to many in the area because it has been open to the public every year since 2000 as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program. And now it will be known to many more people around the country and the world.

Ridgefield Garden Club members, who submitted the garden to the Smithsonian Archives of American Gardens, recently learned that it was accepted to become part of the Smithsonian collection, which documents historical and contemporary gardens and landscapes for researchers, historians, landscape designers, and others interested in American horticultural and landscape heritage.

It is the first garden of a Ridgefield Garden Club member to be added to the Smithsonian AAG, which also includes Ridgefield’s Garden of Ideas and Ridgefield gardens of the 1940s.

The Smithsonian AAG in Washington, D.C., includes more than 65,000 photographic images and records from the 1890s to the present, showcasing all manner of garden design styles.

Ridgefield Garden Club member Terry McManus worked with Dimos for several years to document the nearly 25-year evolution of the garden’s design and submitted it to the Smithsonian in June.

“We have always wanted Helen’s garden to be archived because it is so beautifully designed,” McManus said. “In addition, her garden is a perfect example of how gardens constantly change. Helen has kept meticulous records of what she has planted over the years, as well as what she has removed from the garden. The Smithsonian AAG is very interested in how gardens evolve over many years so we knew Helen’s garden would be a perfect fit for the archives.”

The gardens surround Dimos and Oko’s 1735 Saltbox, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Perennial gardens feature peonies, clematis, iris and roses. Shrub borders contain boxwood, hydrangeas, viburnums, calycanthus and rhododendron. There is also a vegetable and cutting garden, an ornamental grass border, a natural grass border and a wetland edge border of mostly native shrubs. Dimos has planted more than 85 trees over the years on the rolling lawn as well as surrounding the house.

Dimos, a professional landscape designer, has gardened at her Ridgefield home for almost 25 years, bringing deep expertise to bear that she gleaned while working with landscape architect A.E. Bye, serving as an assistant landscape architect at the Central Park Conservancy, teaching at the New York Botanical Garden, and designing for private gardens.