Beatrix' relationship with Edith Wharton was particularly important.
Beatrix Farrand was the writer Edith Wharton's niece. Wharton was especially well-connected in the elite social circles of the day and helped to further Beatrix' career by introducing her to many people who soon became her clients. Wharton arranged for Beatrix to do some work for some of their cousins and others: Clement B. Newbold in Pennsylvania, Tom Newbold in New York, and Mrs. Gordon Bell in Connecticut, and Emily Vanderbilt Sloane among others.
Edith Wharton was somewhat of an "arbiter" of taste in American society during the Gilded Age. She wrote books on architecture, gardens and interior decorating among other things. In 1905, Wharton wrote in a letter to a friend, "The American landscape has no foreground and the American mind no background." At this time, Wharton's country estate called "The Mount" in Lenox, Massachusetts was being finished. Like other members of the culturally elite, Wharton felt it necessary to import European elements into her garden design.
In The Golden Age of American Gardens, Mac Griswold explains in part the "trend" of the Country Place Era:
They were built on the crassest piles of American loot, and the cultural history they reveal is one of the frantic borrowing and adaptation of every available garden model.
Edith Wharton's estate and garden was representative of the Country Place Era in the United States which began in the later nineteenth century and virtually ended 1920s as the Great Depression approached. Both architects and landscape architects were much in demand during this era and received large commissions for the designing and building of the gardens for these actual "country estates." Later in the thirties, there was a grand shift that made public projects come to the forefront.
"The Mount" was set in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts which certainly provided a picturesque backdrop for Wharton's country estate. The term "backdrop" is significant. A panoramic view of the American mountains was valuable only with the contrast to the imposed geometry of a formal garden. Wharton explicated in her Italian Villas and Their Gardens(1904) that European garden elements could not simply be appropriated into the American landscape, or any landscape. Instead, these garden elements and ideas had to be fitted correctly into their own existing landscape settings. Wharton illustrates:
The cult of the of the Italian garden has spread from England to America, and there is a general feeling that, by placing a marble bench here and a sun-dial there, Italian "effects" may be achieved. The results produced, even where much money and thought have been expended, are not altogether satisfactory; and some critics have thence inferred that the Italian garden is , so to speak, untranslatable, that it cannot be adequately rendered in another landscape and another age.......There is much to be learned from the old Italian gardens, and the first lesson is that, if they are to be a real inspiration, they must be copied,not in the letter but in the spirit. That is, a marble sarcophagus and a dozen twisted columns will not make an Italian garden; but a piece of ground laid out and planted on the principles of the old garden-craft will be, not indeed an Italian garden in the literal sense, but, what is far better, a garden as well adapted to its surroundings as were the models which inspired it.
Interestingly enough, Wharton had had her gardens at "The Mount" designed on her assumptions about Italian gardens. These designs were planned before Wharton researched and wrote her articles about Italian gardens and villas. Beatrix Farrand actually designed Edith's kitchen garden at "The Mount"; a design drawing dates from July 14, 1901.