Perry Hunt Wheeler (1913-1989), a Georgia native, began his higher education at Emory University, going on to graduate from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1937. Immediately afterward Wheeler enrolled in Harvard University from which he earned a graduate degree in Landscape Architecture in 1938. After graduation Wheeler collaborated on garden projects in Atlanta, Georgia, with fellow landscape enthusiast and friend Helen Clarke. He also worked for the Office of Strategic Services doing camouflage planning during World War II. He went on to establish his own landscape architecture practice in Washington, D.C., and designed in the area from 1948 to 1979. Wheeler moved to 'Budfield,' a property in Rectortown, Virginia, in the late 1970s. Wheeler is best known for his work on private gardens in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood. He frequently employed the use of intricate brickwork, low-maintenance planting, and simple water features in creating his charming and functional designs. His most noteworthy commissions outside the private realm include collaboration with Bunny Mellon on the White House Rose Garden, designing a Garden Club of America-commissioned gazebo and its surroundings for the U.S. National Arboretum, and plantings for the National Cathedral and President John F. Kennedy's gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery.
The Perry H. Wheeler Collection includes the design, client and business records of Perry H. Wheeler, a landscape architect best known for his work on numerous townhouse gardens in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., during the 1960s as well as the redesign of the White House Rose Garden in collaboration with Rachel Lambert ('Bunny') Mellon during the Kennedy administration. The collection include photographic images, plans, drawings, client correspondence, plant lists, invoices, invitations, certificates, awards, and newspaper and magazine clippings. The bulk of the collection and most of the professional papers date from about 1950 to 1965. Noteworthy correspondents include Mrs. John F. Kennedy, Ladybird Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, and Margaret Truman. Of particular note are documents for Wheeler's public design work, including the White House grounds, Washington Cathedral, U. S. National Arboretum, President John F. Kennedy's gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery, and the British and Cambodian Embassies in Washington, DC. There are also over 3,000 35 mm. slides dating from the 1940s to the early 1970s that document Wheeler's personal travels to Europe, Africa, South America, the Caribbean, Canada, and the American West.
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Perry H. Wheeler Collection