Book Review: All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses – How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America by Marta McDowell

All the Presidents' Gardens COVER

If in this year of presidential politics you yearn for a different perspective on life in the White House, All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses – How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America by landscape historian Marta McDowell provides the perfect antidote.

Revealing the story of how the Presidents and their families have shaped the eighteen-acre landscape which comprises the White House grounds, the book provides both a refreshing and revealing account of what is the nation’s “first garden” and begs the question, depending on who is elected in November, what’s next?

175_1963 April 1 KennedyshowingtheRoseGarden AAG

1963 Kennedy showing the Rose Garden: Used by permission of the publisher.

McDowell, a consummate storyteller, is without political bias relying instead on the politics of plants to provide “common ground” and serve as the focus of the book’s narrative. A backdrop for the nation’s history since 1800, the White House grounds are both a public space for pageantry and protest and a private space for refuge and reflection. Each presidential family has left its imprint and each has a story to tell.

Beginning with the founding of the capital by the somewhat “plant-crazy” George Washington, who sited the executive mansion on a rise for a good view, McDowell traces the history of the White House grounds within the context of the American horticultural movement. Its first plant list, an order for specimen trees including species native to America to line a formal entrance approach to the executive mansion, was placed by James Madison in 1809.

070_1870 1893WHfromConservatories Author REV

Used by permission of the publisher.

The cultivation and ceremonial use of trees plays a central role throughout, including the history of Washington, DC’s iconic cherry trees. While John Quincy Adams answered “the great ends of his existence” by growing chestnuts and elms and establishing the nation’s first forestry project, Eliza Scidmore, described as an “unpaid but determined garden lobbyist,” vigorously pursued her vision for the planting of cherry trees along the tidal basin.

C5209-33

1967 Ladybird discussing City Beautification: Used by permission of the publisher.

And speaking of trees, in the chapter “All the Presidents’ Plants”, McDowell includes a list of trees, shrubs and vines grown on the White House grounds based upon inventories conducted in 1809, 1900 and 2008. The plant list includes the botanical name, cultivar, whether the plant is native to the lower 48 states and information about the time frame in which the plant grew.

Additional sections provide background information about the White House gardeners (The Men Who Planted for Presidents), recommended reading, sources and citations. Historic documents, maps and photographs generously illustrate the text, which deftly balances its breadth of scholarship with the freshness of McDowell’s style and depth of enthusiasm for the subject at hand.

137_1918 ca WH Sheep LOC 10788a.tiff copy

Sheep graze on the White House lawn during World War I. Used by permission of the publisher.

In its final chapter, “Is Green the New Red, White and Blue?,” All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses – How the White House Gardens Have Grown with America comes full circle as Michelle Obama breaks ground on the Kitchen Garden. Planted with more than 50 varieties of vegetables (including some grown from seeds from Monticello), berries and herbs, the garden brings local food, in the tradition of past administrations, back into the White House kitchen.

Irvin Williams, head gardener from 1962 – 2008, is quoted as saying, “What’s great about the job is that our trees, our plants, our shrubs, know nothing about politics.” A felicitous thought indeed.

The White House grounds are open to the public twice a year. Information can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov in the statements and releases section.

All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy Roses – How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America by Marta McDowell Timber Press: Portland, Oregon, 2015.

.

This review appeared in Leaflet A Massachusetts Horticultural Society Publication, June, 2016

 

 

Ladew Topiary Gardens

IMG_4952

“Never be under the weather, there are so many other places to go.”

Thus was the philosophy of  Harvey Smith Ladew (1887-1976) creator of the Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, Maryland, considered by the Garden Club of America as “the most outstanding topiary gardens in America.”

IMG_0246

A lifelong bachelor and renaissance man Ladew was, among other pursuits, an American horticulturist, golfer, painter, socialite, decorator, collector, writer and avid fox hunter. Born into a wealthy New York City manufacturing family his youth was one of privilege, enriched by international travel and artistic pursuits. As an adult Ladew merged his interests in the design of his home and gardens.

IMG_4930

Drawn to the Maryland countryside for its equestrian culture, Ladew single-handedly transformed a rather unremarkable farmhouse into a 22-acre garden that is both a whimsical homage to famous gardens of the world and a serious horticultural endeavor. He was a master of detail and a collector of ornament integrated by a sophisticated design sensibility.

IMG_4951

Ladew purchased Pleasant Valley Farm in 1929 and for 47 years worked on both the house and gardens, creating a backdrop for a life devoted to pleasure.  An adventurer who socialized with a sophisticated crowd, including Lawrence of Arabia, decorator Billy Baldwin, and the Prince of Wales, Ladew brought the same sensibility of discovery, albeit on a more intimate scale, to his country estate.

His oval library, seen below, was described as one of the most beautiful rooms in America and contains more than  3,000 volumes of modern first editions including biographies, art and gardening books, French literature and travel guides. IMG_0294

IMG_0300

While Ladew’s motto was “play now, work later” he clearly worked passionately to design and maintain his gardens, thoughtfully assuring their continuation after his death. Drawing inspiration from gardens throughout the world, each and every one of the garden “rooms” he designed bear his imprint. Gardening was for Ladew a highly personal endeavor.

IMG_4953

Ladew’s garden “master plan” began with the creation of the “great bowl,” a sweeping expanse of lawn north of the house embellished with an oval swimming pool. Enclosed by high hedges of hemlock and yew and accented with twelve topiary swans, today the great bowl serves as a venue for garden concerts.

Familiar with famous gardens throughout England and Italy, Ladew drew inspiration from their designs, combining formal and informal elements that are both intimate and public.  Two cross axis allow for uninterrupted vistas while a series of 15 garden rooms, each devoted to a single color, theme or plant are sited off the main axis.

IMG_0236

Ladew reportedly visited and was influenced by Hidcote and is credited with being one of the first Americans to develop gardens designed in this manner within the United States.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 6.18.51 PM

In 1971 he was awarded the Garden Club of America Distinguished Service Medal for developing and maintaining the most outstanding Topiary Garden in America without professional help.

IMG_0285

I visited at the end of April when the dogwoods, azaleas and spring bulbs were in full bloom.  As is often the case with gardens, I walked through once and then proceeded to do so again backwards, seeing completely different things. The more I looked the more impressed I was both with Ladew’s sense of design and his horticultural sensibilities.

The plan below is from the guidebook, The House and Gardens of Harvey S. Ladew written and designed by Dee Hardy.

img121

A Quick Garden Tour: It’s here that I use my editorial judgement to share my favorite garden rooms and details, a challenging process as there are many. To see them all visit the Ladew Gardens webpage where you will also find a listing of events.

IMG_0263

The Woodland Garden serves as a transition between the visitor center and house.  The garden’s curved pathway provides an informal entrance to the rooms beyond and really is quite modest given the extent of the garden.  A centrally placed dovecote is but one of many ornamental features, emblematic of Ladew’s attention to detail, sited throughout the garden

IMG_0216

While the Berry Garden was designed by Ladew as a fall and winter attraction for birds, its sense of enclosure, views to and from the house and larger landscape and simple, formal design serve (from my perspective) as the formal forecourt to the gardens beyond.

IMG_0223

IMG_0293

The photo below is of the Pink Garden a transitional space between the Croquet Court and Rose Garden.  It is planted with crab-apples, birch, dogwood, smoke bushes, Fairy and Carefree roses, astilbe, weigela, rhododendron, zinnias, snapdragons and bleeding hearts.

IMG_0268

IMG_0269

IMG_0287

To enter the Garden of Eden one passes through an arch and over steps engraved with the Chinese proverb, If you would be happy for a week, take a wife, If you would be happy for a month kill a pig, But if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden.

I was fortunate to visit when the azaleas, which Ladew carefully selected, were in bloom. Appropriately the garden contains a statue of Adam and Eve nestled in the shrubbery (with Adam hiding an apple behind his back).

IMG_4917

The Keyhole Garden is a curious space, bringing to mind images of Alice in Wonderland. Containing chess pieces, it is planted in shades of red.

IMG_0275

Described as cool and serene, the Water Lily Garden serves as a central forecourt, connecting to the Topiary Sculptures and a series of other smaller, more intimate spaces within the gardens.

IMG_0276

IMG_0232

The 250-foot long Yellow Garden was inspired by Gertrude Jekyll and features tall chartreuse chamaecyparis and golden privet framing a stream flanked by yellow tulips.

IMG_0233

IMG_0242

Accessed from a terrace contiguous to the “great bowl,” the Iris garden includes a topiary Chinese junk floating in a pool. The garden features 65 varieties of iris.  A Chinese gateway leads to a lawn providing access to the main house and the 1.5 mile nature walk, opened in 1999.   

IMG_4961

IMG_4965

The gardens contain various and assorted structures, each uniquely and exquisitely crafted to complement the landscape setting.

IMG_4931

The Temple of Venus (above) terminates the garden’s long vista while the Tivoli Tea House was created from the former façade of the Tivoli Theatre ticket booth in London. During my visit the interior of the tea house was being restored. Within is a framed window labeled “Ever Changing Landscape” that pays homage to Ladew’s vision.

IMG_4940

Open seasonally the Ladew gardens offer a comprehensive educational program.  On my visit, which was during the week, there were school groups and families exploring the garden and nature trail.  I’d like to think that Ladew would take great pleasure in this fact, knowing that through his careful planning and creative genius his gardens have endured and are enjoyed today.

IMG_4992

There is a studio (where Ladew painted) and a barn gallery which is used for special exhibits.  His stables have been converted into a cafe.

IMG_4996

The Gardens, Manor House and Nature Walk are open daily from April 1 through October 31 from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

The Gardens, Manor House and Nature Walk are open Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day – same hours as above.

IMG_4888

Copyright © 2016 Patrice Todisco — All Rights Reserved

ladew_logo_top2

IMG_4977

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year of the English Garden

Blenheim Palace-Park and gardens-South Lawn-Aerial (2). Credit Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace – Park and Gardens – South Lawn Aerial: Credit Blenheim Palace

2016, the tercentenary of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s birth, has been declared the year of the English Garden. A nationwide festival, celebrating Brown’s legacy, is underway with lectures, walking, cycling and garden tours, exhibitions and conferences offered throughout the year.

DEW47150 Portrait of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, c.1770-75; by Cosway, Richard (1742-1821); oil on canvas; 53x42.5 cm; Private Collection; English, out of copyright

© Portrait of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, c.1770-75, Richard Cosway (1742-1821)/Private Collection/Bridgeman Images.

Described as the ‘Shakespeare of gardening,’ Brown is credited with transforming England’s aristocratic gardens from the formality of the Baroque period into the picturesque landscapes identified with England today; a combination of sweeping lawns, naturalistic plantings and endless views reflected in serpentine rivers and flowing lakes.

Brown worked on an immense scale designing gardens, parklands woodlands and carriage drives. Of the more than 250 landscapes attributed to Brown 150 retain their integrity today, including 42 within Greater London. Within Brown’s portfolio of projects are Richmond Gardens/Kew, Blenheim Palace, Highclere Castle (the setting of Downton Abbey) Longleat, Stowe and Hampton Court Palace where Brown was named the King’s Master Gardener in 1764.

Hampton Court. Credit Historic Royal Palaces.

Hampton Court: Credit Historic Royal Palaces

Having declared 2016 the Year of the Royal Garden, Hampton Court Palace will, until September 4th, display a rare and never before seen collection of watercolor paintings and drawings once owned by the Empress Catherine the Great of Russia detailing views of the palace, park and gardens during Brown’s tenure. June 6th through 8th Hampton Court Palace will host the garden history and heritage conference, Capability Brown Royal Gardener – the man and his business: Past, Present and Future.

IMG_3866

The Great Fountain Garden: Hampton Court Palace

A four day Tercentenary Conference sponsored by the Cambridgeshire Gardens Trust and The Gardens Trust will be held at Robinson College, Cambridge from August 5th through the 7th while the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes, Garden History Society and National Trust will host the international conference, Capability Brown: Perception and Response in a Global Context at the University of Bath from September 9th through the 11th.

The historic Longleat House set in parkland landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century.

The historic Longleat House set in parkland landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century: Credit Visit England & Longleat House

As part of the National Garden Scheme, which since its inception has donated more than £45 million to its beneficiary charities, 3,800 gardens throughout the country will be open to paying visitors until late October. The National Garden Scheme has partnered with the Capability Brown Festival to offer access to Brown landscapes, including some that are otherwise inaccessible.

The East Lake Pavilion at Stowe, Buckinghamshire. Stowe is an 18th century landscaped garden, and includes more than 40 historic temples and monuments.

The East Lake Pavilion at Stowe, Buckinghamshire. Stowe is an 18th century landscaped garden, and includes more than 40 historic temples and monuments: Credit NT Images & Andrew Butler

Other events promoting the English garden include London Parks and Gardens Trust Open Squares Garden Weekend on the 18th and 19th of June. 200 private gardens across 27 London boroughs will be open to the public including community gardens and private squares.

If you go be sure to visit the following websites where you can track interactive maps of parks and gardens and the dates when they are open to the public.

Festival Logo

Capability Brown Festival: www.capabiltybrown.org

National Garden Scheme: http://www.ngs.org.uk

London Parks and Garden’s Trust: http://www.londongardenstrust.org

Book Review: Oxford College Gardens

Oxford College Gardens

While staying in London last June I took the train to Oxford to visit the Botanic Garden. It had been nearly thirty years since I was last there and I had fond memories (and somewhat fading slides) of the garden, the Broad Walk and Christ Church Meadow, a riverine environment that for me at the time embodied all that is special about the English landscape.

The Botanic Garden, founded in 1621, is the oldest in Britain and easily found. Not so the myriad assortment of gardens and landscapes hidden behind the perimeter walls of the 38 self-governing, financially independent colleges which comprise the University.

Merton college, Oxford. Ceanothus trained on wall.

Merton College, Oxford. Ceanothus trained on wall: c/o Frances Lincoln, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group

In Oxford College Gardens landscape historian Tim Richardson shares the secrets of what lies behind those storied walls. It is here that the physical fabric of the University, informed by the synergy of its of landscape and architecture, has been shaped by time and the imprint of those who have lived and worked in each college.

While every college is distinct, informed by its own history and character, at the heart of each is the landscape; lawns, private ‘fellows’ gardens, groves, walks, meadows, lakes and deer parks. These are shared with the reader through Richardson’s lively text and brought to life by Andrew Lawson’s full-color photographs. Maps, historical images and contemporary plans of each college are also provided.

Worcester College, Oxford

Worcester College: Oxford c/o Frances Lincoln, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group

The breadth of garden styles portrayed within Oxford College Gardens is sweeping, ranging from the conventional quadrangles of University, Merton and Balliol Colleges to the modernist landscape of Saint Catherine’s College, designed by Danish architect Arne Jacobsen as a “landscape with buildings set within.” Eschewing judgement as to their design or landscape history, Richardson presents colleges alphabetically, beginning with the aptly named All Souls and concluding with Worcester College.

Special attention is paid to the gardeners who over time have both designed and lovingly tended individual college landscapes including Balliol head gardener Christopher Munday who in 2013 propagated a vivid magenta dahlia specimen to celebrate the college’s 750th anniversary which can be seen today in the college’s front quad herbaceous border.

George Harris, head gardener of Saint Hugh’s, is quoted upon his retirement in 1972 after 45 years of service as responding to the sentiment that the garden would never be the same without him, “You can’t expect it to be.” An appendix provides a list of head gardeners as of 2014.

At more than 300 pages in length Oxford College Gardens is a large book, just over 5 pounds in weight. Would that it were smaller and could serve as a guide to carry when visiting the spaces it depicts with such grace and erudition.

All Souls College, Oxford

All Souls College, Oxford:  c/o Frances Lincoln, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group

That said, there are many who will enjoy this compendium of all things Oxford, a place where “windows open onto other worlds” including its gardens.

Oxford College Gardens by Tim Richardson with Photographs by Andrew LawsonFrances Lincoln Limited, London: 2015

This review appeared in Leaflet A Massachusetts Horticultural Society Publication, April, 2016.

Oxford Botanic Garden

IMG_3596

Oxford, where windows open into other worlds……..

It’s quite possibly a very good thing that I had not read the book I am currently reviewing, Oxford College Gardens, before my visit to the University’s Botanic Garden last June. Written by garden historian Tim Richardson the more than three hundred page volume exhaustively documents thirty-four individual garden landscapes that, in the words of the author, “help shape the identity” of the place.

IMG_3564

Oxford is indeed busy, ever the more so since serving as a setting for the Harry Potter movies.  The frenetic nature of its public spaces is offset by the worlds within worlds existing within individual colleges and their gardens secreted behind the walls which famously enclose them. It’s not that you can’t find them, it’s just that, like for Alice, they may reveal themselves in a somewhat curious fashion.

The images above and below are from Balliol College.  To take a virtual tour visit: https://www.balliol.ox.ac.uk/about-balliol/virtual-tour

IMG_3562

Richardson asserts, that a landscape or a garden can affect the mind and its layout will help shape its identity.  The layout of Oxford has been shaped over time through both its physical and imaginary qualities.  The map below is from the book Lyra’s Oxford by Philip Pullman.  It depicts the bench within the Oxford Botanic Garden which plays an important role in His Dark Materials Trilogy as the site where Will and Lyra meet each year at noon on Midsummer’s day to feel each other’s presence between their spirit worlds.

img117

The Oxford Botanic Garden, founded in 1621, was the first of its kind in Britain; a physic garden where botany, medicine and practical gardening were linked in a systematic manner.

Founded as a “nursery of simples” the original garden was sited on five acres of meadowland outside the city walls leased, by Sir Henry Danvers 1st Earl of Danby, from Magdalen College.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 9.45.54 AM

Sir Henry’s 5,000 pound gift built the walls and archway but were not sufficient to employ anyone to cultivate the garden requiring that the first Superintendent Jacob Bobart work both as gardener and innkeeper to support his employment.

IMG_3572

The Danby Gate, designed by Nicholas Stone and built between 1632 and 1633 commemorates Sir Danby’s gift.

An eccentric character who according to garden historian Mavis Batey was often accompanied by a goat, Bobart was deemed an “excellent Gardener and Botanist.” During his tenure the first catalogue of plants, containing 1,600 different species, was published.  Upon his death in 1679 he was succeeded by his son, also named Jacob, who started an annual botanic garden seed exchange through which gardens continue to acquire seeds they wish to grow.

IMG_3575

IMG_3573

By 1734 an endowment left to the University provided support for the teaching of botany and plant science and a Keeper of the Garden, assuring its legacy as a research institution.

IMG_3585

Today the Garden includes three sections illustrated on the map below.

img119

Within the walled garden plants are classified thematically, including by country of origin, botanic family or use. These are arranged in family borders originally based upon the Linnean System of classification and modified through the years to reflect changing attitudes towards evolutionary relationships between groups of plants. Included are the Plant Heritage National Collection of Euphorbias and a medicinal plant collection.

IMG_3577

Between the walled garden and Cherwell River is the lower garden. While this area has accommodated various uses, it’s current design reflects a 2009 plan by Kim Wilkie Associates to more formally integrate the area with the Walled Garden and illustrate the role of the Botanic Garden in the 21st century.

IMG_3621

IMG_3593

The lower garden includes a fruit, vegetable and herb collection which connects the garden to its historical uses as well as the English Herbaceous and Merton Borders.

IMG_3607

The English Herbaceous Border, planted in 2007, is designed to look best in the summer months.

IMG_3625 - Version 2

The Merton Borders, the garden’s most recent addition, are also one of its largest cultivated areas. Planted for year round interest, these include grasses, bulbs and annuals, biennials and perennials bordered by fruit trees. The borders are dynamic and change each year. Cut back in the spring they provide visual interest throughout the winter months.

IMG_3612

IMG_3614

IMG_3617 - Version 2

Originally constructed in 1926, The Rock Garden is divided between plants that are both European and reflective of the rest of the world.

IMG_3595

For more than 300 years there has been a glasshouse associated with the garden, a prominent feature sited along the River Cherwell’s banks. Within are lily, arid, palm and alpine, fernery and insectivorous houses.

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 7.16.41 PM

A walkway along the river provides access to  Merton Field, The Broad Walk and Christ Church Meadow,  popular walking and picnicking spots.

IMG_3623

In keeping with its original mission “to promote the furtherance of learning and to glorify nature,”  the garden continues to support the study of plant biology and conservation while providing educational programs for people of all ages.

IMG_3218

As a botanic garden it is committed to the successful implementation of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation which works to ensure that the world’s biological diversity is preserved.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 6.54.35 AM

The Oxford Botanic Garden is open throughout the year with varied hours of entry depending upon the season. A modest fee is charged.

IMG_3574

Copyright © 2016 Patrice Todisco — All Rights Reserved

Book Review: Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood by Judith Tankard & Martin Wood

Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood

Within the canon of landscape history a collection of gardens exists that has revolutionized the profession, shaping, and shaped by, genius and sense of place.

Munstead Wood, the home of Gertrude Jekyll, stands at the apex of this collection. It was here that the woman described by eminent historian Christopher Hussey as the “greatest artist in horticulture and garden planting that England has produced,” collaborated with architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to build a house and garden.

9781910258057 spread 2

Jekyll’s ideals were deeply rooted in a love of the Surrey countryside, cottage gardens, vernacular building traditions, the Arts and Crafts Movement and her training as a fine artist. The creation of Munstead Wood embodied the perfect expression of her ideals, providing a canvas for Jekyll’s craftsmanship and experimentation with garden design.

Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood, by Judith Tankard and Martin Wood, is a redesigned edition of the Pimpernel Garden Classic first published in 1996. It recreates Munstead Wood as it was in Jekyll’s time, introducing the reader to the “activities and enterprises” around which her daily life evolved.  Neither a biography nor an assessment of Jekyll’s well documented contributions to the field of garden design, it is instead a compelling and intimate portrait of Jekyll and the home and gardens that she created for her own pleasure.

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 3.18.39 PM

In 1920 Sir Edwin Lutyens commissioned this portrait of Jekyll by William Nicholson.

There is much to savor in this eminently readable account of the talented, paradoxical Jekyll who, if you’ll pardon the expression was, in her day, the “rock star” of the gardening world. Her talents were remarkable and wide reaching: carving, modeling, painting, silversmithing, carpentry, gilding, embroidery, herb and flower knowledge. She mastered them all, laying a foundation for her acclaimed gardening career.

While deeply rooted in her finely orchestrated country life at Munstead Wood, Jekyll was a prodigious communicator, the author of more than a dozen books and 1,000 articles. So great was Jekyll’s fame, and so voluminous her fan mail, that she drafted a form letter advising that her “oculist forbids letter writing.”

img106

My edition of WOOD AND GARDEN, purchased at Goodspeed’s Book Shop and previously owned by Mary Currie, Clewer Hill House.

Jekyll seldom ventured far from home, designing more than 400 gardens during her career (although records for only 250 survive) yet rarely traveling to any of them. Instead she developed designs from site plans supplied by her clients, many of whom were wealthy industrialists whose fortunes were made at the expense of the countryside she so loved.

gertrude-jekyll-spring-garden-plan

Plan from Jekyll’s COLOUR SCHEMES for the FLOWER GARDEN, 1983 edition. Introduced and Revised by Graham Stuart Thomas.

It is these details that delight, revealing the most extraordinary Jekyll in an ordinary light. While her fame as a garden designer and writer is widely celebrated, her management and business skills were also equally impressive.

Drawing upon Jekyll’s photographs (yet another of her highly evolved talents), scrapbooks, correspondence and the recollections of her contemporaries, the authors chronicle Jekyll’s many enduring personal and professional relationships. Chapters are devoted to both the design of Munstead Wood and her commissions as a professional garden designer. These are listed alphabetically and by architect and included as appendices.

9781910258057 spread 1

Despite its fame, Gertrude Jekyll’s garden at Munstead Wood lasted for only 50 years as she made no plans to preserve it after her death. While it lives on through books, articles, photographs and the recollections of those that visited it, the garden was a personal endeavor, created by and for Jekyll herself.

How fortunate then that Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood provides a glimpse of Munstead Wood at its prime, as well as an opportunity to understand Gertrude Jekyll’s garden design enterprises within the context of the practical and creative arts to which she was deeply devoted.

By Judith Tankard & Martin Wood
Pimpernel Press Limited, 2015
Distributed by Trafalgar Square Publishing, www.ipgbook.com

This review appeared in Leaflet A Massachusetts Horticultural Society Publication, February, 2016.

Copyright © 2016 Patrice Todisco — All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Arboretum Trsteno

IMG_4156

It is always humbling to practice what I describe as reverse travel exploration. Despite best intentions I often visit a landscape with only a cursory understanding of its history.  Risking the possibility that I might miss something really important (and indeed I have) this allows me to experience each place I explore through my own lens.

IMG_4110

Last summer I revisited Dubrovnik and spent a morning at Arboretum Trsteno located 15 miles west of the city on the littoral coast, a region rich in natural resources and beauty. I didn’t know much about the arboretum except that a really large tree graced its entrance and when I inquired about parks and gardens in Dubrovnik this is where I was encouraged to visit.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 4.53.06 PM

Early 20th century postcard

The tree in question, an Oriental Plane (Platanus Orientalis), is large indeed, possibly the largest in Europe.  It is located at the arboretum’s entrance and, according to the website Monumental Trees, may have been brought to Trsteno by a 16th century diplomat from Constantinople, one of five, planted near a natural spring.  According to legend, the tree famously saved the city of Dubrovnik from an attack by Napoleon’s army in 1806 when one of its limbs fell onto the road taking two days to clear and blocking their advance, thus allowing for a negotiated truce.

IMG_4165

The Arboretum Trsteno, founded in 1494, is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) arboretum in Europe.

IMG_4151

It is also one of the major filming locations for the enormously popular television series Games of Thrones where, as the gardens of King’s Landing, it is a principal setting in which the main protagonists “weave their plots” and exchange secrets, according to the series’ website.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 5.01.54 PM

In the scene above, filmed in the arboretum’s pavilion (seen below without staging) Sansa meets with Lady Tyrell. (http://www.kingslandingdubrovnik.com/game-of-thrones-scenes/season-3)

IMG_4109

Sited between the road and the sea, Arboretum Trsteno includes approximately 70 acres of land.  Its central plateau, lined with terraces, supports the principal structures, gardens and agricultural landscapes while the land leading to the coast is steep and rocky.

IMG_4093

Historically, the arboretum and its gardens represent the sole remaining example in Dubrovnik of a “ villeggiatura” a rural or suburban retreat from the city that integrates cultural and agricultural uses. As a cultural landscape it is known for its historical gardens and collection of Mediterranean and exotic species.

IMG_4120

Its landscape is a mix of gardens, orchards, meadows, farmlands, olive fields, groves and natural forests of oak, pine and cypress. Eleven structures are integrated within the landscape forming an ambient whole that seamlessly blends the domestic arts with the natural world.

IMG_4108

IMG_4152

As the summer home of the Gučetić-Gozze family (members of the noble class of citizens of the Dubrovnik Republic which included bishops, poets, artists, mariners and lovers of horticulture and gardening) Arboretum Trsteno developed incrementally with each owner adding structural and horticultural elements.  Formal paths lined with hedging integrate individual gardens and cultivated sections of the property.

IMG_4142

img097 2

Sketch of the Renaissance gardens and vegetation by Maja Anastazija Kovačević, published in Ana Deanović’s “Perivoj Gučetić u arboretumu Trsteno – pitanje njegove reintegracije i prezentacije”, Rad JAZU 379, 1ww978

Arboretum Trsteno’s central axis developed throughout the late Renaissance and Baroque periods providing a cohesive and formal framework for the estate’s early structures, directly connecting the landscape to the sea.

IMG_4124

The property contains eleven architectural features, all of which have been preserved in varying states of restoration. These include the summer villa, wheat and olive mills, storage and cooking facilities, a chapel, a Baroque fountain and a 70 meter long stone aqueduct.

IMG_4139

Arboretum Trsteno was the only estate in the region with a water supply (thus the aqueduct) allowing for the development of the gardens and supporting agricultural activities.

An elaborate Baroque fountain, the largest in Dubrovnik, was added in in 1736 featuring a cave/grotto, frescoes and a pool presided over by Neptune, the Roman god of the sea.

IMG_4130

Arboretum Trsteno is described as a hotspot of biological diversity in Dubrovnik with, according to research carried out between 1995 and 2000, the confirmed presence of more than 400 species of cultivated plants and 528 autochthonous species.

Collected over five centuries from around the world these include flowering cactuses, eucalyptus, palms, Aleppo pines, holm and cork oak, persimmons and laurels. While the collection is richest in Mediterranean and European species reflecting its Renaissance origins. Seventeen percent of the plants are of American origin and twenty-two percent of Asian origin.

IMG_4086

In 1948 (20 years after the photograph below was taken) the estate was placed under legal protection as an arboretum and protected by law as monument of garden architecture.

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 6.15.42 PM

Managed by the Croatian Academy of Science and Arts, the activities of the arboretum focus on the “protection and preservation of cultural, historical and natural monuments,  the study and protection of cultural diversity, the development of a live collection in terms of protecting genetic diversity, and on research into the history of garden architecture.”

IMG_4099

This relationship of man to nature is a guiding theme of the Arboretum Trsteno and is reflected in a Latin inscription from 1502 sited on a wall in the garden translated as: “I am proud of my neighbors, but I am even more proud of water, the gentle climate and my owners. Visitors, behold the traces of human hands, whose excellent skills have tamed the wildness of nature.”

IMG_4103

Additional information about Arboretum Trsteno can be found in the scientific paper, Arboretum Trsteno – the Gardens of a Renaissance Villa by Mladen Obad Šćitaroci and Maja Anastazija Kovačević.

IMG_4117

Arboretum Trsteno is open from May to October from 7:00 to 19:00 and November to April from 8:00 to 6:00 with a nominal entrance fee. It is accessible from Dubrovnik by the public bus system.

img105

Copyright © 2016 Patrice Todisco — All Rights Reserved

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 159 other followers