Born in Waterville, New York, celebrated rosarian and author Harriet Risley received a bachelor’s degree from Smith College in 1886. Attending graduate school in Germany, she returned to the U.S. to teach. In 1891 she married the Reverend Henry Foote and began experimenting with growing roses in the rectory garden in Marblehead, Massachusetts. As word of her work spread, she received commissions to design rose gardens, expanding her practice after her husband’s death in 1918. On her four-acre parcel of land, she cultivated almost 10,000 specimens of roses, known for their height and abundant blooms.
As Foote’s reputation grew, her work was featured in a number of garden magazines. Her garden designs include the Henry and Clara Ford estate in Michigan; the Arthur and Harriet Curtiss James' Rhode Island estate; and the Richard and Florence Crane estate, Castle Hill; and the garden of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Webster in Massachusetts. Her rose garden at The Cedars, the summer home of Henry Sargent Hunnewell, won a Massachusetts Horticultural Society Gold Medal in 1923. Foote collaborated with other designers of the time including Arthur Shurtleff and Herbert Kellaway. In 1948 she published Mrs. Foote's Rose Book, describing her cultivation methods in detail.