Category Archives: American gardens

The Sunday porch: Pasadena

“So thou dost riot through the glad spring days. . .”*

The Sunday porch:enclos*ure -- Pasadena, c. 1902, Library of Congress“Gold of Ophir roses, Pasadena[, California,]” ca. 1902, a photochrom by Detroit Photographic Co., via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The climber Gold of Ophir — also known as Fortune’s Double Yellow and Beauty of Glazenwood — moved to southern California with the settlers and flourished there.

“I remember great heaps of them in every backyard, blazing like moons on fire, yellow, gold, pink. . .,” wrote M. K. Fisher in her introduction to Growing Good Roses.

* from “Gold of Ophir Roses” by Grace Atherton Dennen, editor/publisher of The Lyric West

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Vintage landscape: boxwood drive

Boxwood hedge, by F.B. Johnston, Library of CongressDriveway, Castle Hill, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1926, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The original house on the plantation of Castle Hill was built in 1764 by Dr. Thomas Walker and his wife Mildred.  Walker was a friend of Peter Jefferson and later guardian to his son,Thomas.

At the time of this photo, the property was owned by his descendant, Amélie Louise Rives Troubetzkoy, a novelist married to a Russian prince who eventually ran somewhat short of funds.

By the fall of 1938, when future novelist Louis Auchincloss, then a law student at the University of Virginia, came to have tea with the aging princess, he found her living in “romantic, impoverished isolation in a decaying manor house.” To get to the house, he had to find his way through a double row of aromatic box hedges that rose up three stories high and were so enormous that his bulky Pontiac could barely pass through. The awe-inspiring hedges even became the subject of one of Amélie’s poems, which she wrote in middle age. She ends the poem with “Hedges of Box,/Hedges of Magic./…Behind your barrier of glad enchantment/I have rediscovered reality.” The reality Amélie envisioned had herself within the encircling wall of boxwood, still a young beauty of twenty-one, seated on the back of a unicorn.

— Donna M. Lucey, from “The Temptress of Castle Hill,” Garden and Gun

Today, the estate is still privately owned.  Its remaining 1,203 acres (from the original 15,000) have been permanently protected against development by a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy.

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Vintage landscape: tulip magnolia

Magnolias at the Capitol, Library of Congress“U.S. Capitol through tulip magnolia,” ca. 1920 – ca. 1950, by Theodor Horydczak, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The late March and April blooms of tulip and saucer magnolias are a well-loved sign of spring in Washington, D.C.

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The Sunday porch: French Legation

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The front porch of the French Legation to the Republic of Texas, Austin, Texas, 1934, by Louis C. Page, Jr., via Historic American Building Survey (HABS), Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This house — now the French Legation Museum — is the oldest extant building in Austin.  It was constructed between 1839 and 1841 for Monsieur Jean Pierre Isidore Alphonse Dubois, a secretary at the French Legation in Washington, D.C., who was sent to Texas to investigate the benefits of establishing relations with the new Republic of Texas.

On Dubois’s advice, Texas was soon recognized as a sovereign nation by France and he himself was appointed as the King’s chargé d’affaires.  Unfortunately — and probably before he could ever occupy his house — he became involved in a number of political, financial, and personal controversies, culminating in the so-called “Pig War.” When the Republic’s capital moved to Houston in 1841, Dubois left for New Orleans, only occasionally returning to Texas.

The style of the house is a blend of vernacular Greek revival and Mississippi Valley French. It may have been designed by carpenter Thomas William Ward, who had previously worked in Louisiana.

At the time of the 1934 photos above, the house was owned and occupied by Miss Lillie Robertson, whose father had purchased it in 1848.  After Lillie’s death, the property was sold to the State of Texas in 1945.  It was then put into the custody of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.  They restored it and opened it to the public in 1956.

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The same views in 1961, by Jack E. Boucher, also via HABS, Library of Congress.

By 1961, the Legation house was surrounded by a formal arrangement of boxwood hedges — perhaps having taken a lesson from  M. Dubois, the son of a tax collector,  who styled himself Count de Saligny after he arrived in Texas.

Today, the museum looks much the same.  Its surrounding park is 2 1/2 acres and is open to the public. Its wide gravel paths are sometimes used for games of pétanque. From the front porch, visitors can see the Texas Capitol Building and downtown Austin.

To scroll through larger version of the photos, click on ‘Continue reading’ below.

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Life in gardens: spring dance

Rites of Spring, 1927, Wash.DC, Library of CongressDancers and cherry blossoms, [Tidal Basin,] Washington, D.C.,” between 1923 and 1929, by Harris & Ewing, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., began on March 20 and continues until April 12. This year, the National Park Service is predicting that peak bloom will occur between April 11 and 14.

The first Tidal Basin Yoshino cherry trees — a gift from the city of Tokyo — were planted in 1912. The first organized celebration of them was held in 1927, when D.C. schoolchildren reenacted the planting.  The first Cherry Blossom Festival, which became the annual event, took place in 1935.

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