Vintage landscape: Grey Gardens

Billboard near the High Line, NYC/enclos*ure While walking along the High Line in New York City last month, I spotted this billboard for a storage company.   It made me remember these Library of Congress hand-colored lantern slides by Frances Benjamin Johnston and Mattie Edwards Hewitt.

View of the walled garden from upstairs in the house. All photos via the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
View from an upstairs window of the house.   All photos via the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This was Grey Gardens in 1914 — long before it was made famous by the 1975 documentary.

The walled garden section of the four-acre estate in East Hampton, N.Y., was designed by Anna Gilman Hill and landscape architect Ruth Bramley Dean.

Anna and her husband, Robert Carmer Hill, had purchased the property in 1913.  They sold it to Phelan and Edith Bouvier Beale (whose daughter was Little Edie) in 1927.

The northeast gate to the walled garden.
The northeast gate to the walled garden.

Hill imported the concrete walls from Spain.  She took the name for the house and garden from its environment.

It was truly a gray [sic] garden. The soft gray of the dunes, cement walls and sea mists gave us our color scheme as well as our name… nepeta, stachys, and pinks… clipped bunches of santolina, lavender and rosemary made gray mounds here and there. Only flowers in pale colors were allowed inside the walls, yet the effect was far from insipid….I close my eyes and sense again the scent of those wild roses, the caress of the hot sun on our backs as we sauntered to and fro from our bath and lazy mornings on the beach.

—Anna Gilman Hill, from Forty Years of Gardening

Beyond the property is the Atlantic Ocean.  The walled garden was 70′ x 40′.

A plan of the garden, artist unknown.
A plan of the garden, artist unknown.

The estate (now two acres) has been owned by Ben Bradlee (formerly editor-in-chief of The Washington Post) and Sally Quinn since 1979.  They have restored both the house and garden.

Now the land between the walled garden and the ocean is filled with newer houses and gardens, and there is a very tall hedge just behind the far wall and the pergola.

The northeast gate.
The northeast gate.
The original photograph before hand coloring.
The original photograph before hand coloring.
The bench inside the northeast gate.
The bench inside the northeast gate.
Looking west to pergola.
Looking west to pergola.
Birdbath on west wall.
Birdbath on west wall.
Pergola and tool house gate.
Pergola and tool house gate.
East gate to the tool house.
East gate to the tool house.
The garden tool house.
The garden tool house.
Sunroom in the house overlooking the walled garden.
Sunroom in the house overlooking the walled garden.

The open doorway in the photo above lined up with the pergola.  It seems that, at the time of this photo, there was an opening in the garden wall between the house and pergola.  But I can’t tell if the opening was there before or after the time of the other photographs.

Birdbath.
Birdbath.
Dovecote.
Dovecote.

Spring holds on in France

Tant que mai n’est au 28, l’hiver n’est pas cuit.
Until May 28, winter is not cooked.

— French saying, via Paris côté jardin

École du Breuil, Paris 12e, photo by Alain Delavie.
École du Breuil, Paris 12e, photo by Alain Delavie.

“Sit down, it’s spring!”

This is the message of a charming chair at the Ecole du Breuil in Paris.  The photo is by Alain Delavie* from his blog Paris côté jardin (Paris  garden side).

However, in his post on May 26, Delavie noted that the temperature was “hardly conducive to lazing in the shade of a tree … more to a jacket and mulled wine.”  Indeed, Paris had record cold weather for the end of May.  Today, the temperature will be around 14°C or 57°F — pretty chilly.

Paris côté jardin is a wonderful resource for gardeners preparing to visit (or even luckier, live in) Paris or the Ile-de-France.  Delavie is the editor of Rustica Hebdo magazine and editorial advisor to www.rustica.fr.  Equally impressive, he is a member of the European Network of Master Composters.

(The blog is in French, but there is a Google Translate button.)

The Breuil School is run by the city of Paris and is located on 23 hectares in the Bois de Vincennes.  It was founded in 1867 by Baron Haussmann and Alphonse Du Breuil to provide the Paris and Seine region with properly trained gardeners.  Today, its mission is to train gardeners, technicians, and managers for the city of Paris “on the subject of plants in the urban space.”

The school enrolls 300 students at a time:  200 in the classroom and 100 in apprenticeships.  Its grounds and facilities include an arboretum, heritage orchard, greenhouse, many plant collections, and library.

As gardeners, surely we have done our duty once we have registered our disapproval at the general arrangement of the universe, with complaints of special sharpness directed toward the clumsiness — indeed, sloth — with which wind and rains are scheduled. It is all that can be expected of us. The rest is the full responsibility of the heavens and need not, therefore, concern us. It does seem to me odd, nevertheless, that this “Nature,” which is supposed to be so wonderful, so rarely lets anything come to full perfection. It is all designed on the frog in the well principle, two hops forward and one backward until a certain level is reached, then the whole thing collapses. That is all anybody needs to know about nature.

— Henry Mitchell, from The Essential Earthman


*Used here with his kind permission.

My bargain dahlia

It’s amazing what you can get at Costco.

DSCF1292

I bought a fairly cheap bag of dahlia tubers in mixed varieties there last spring. Then I left it sitting next to my desk until September, when I finally planted the (by then) shriveled-up tubers.

DSCF1293

They came up strong, nevertheless, and this light yellow and burgundy one surprised me; I didn’t remember anything so nice on the photo on the bag (which I had tossed).

The others were more ordinary:  a couple in yellow with just a bit of burgundy streaking, three in solid burgundy, and one in yellow with orange streaks (sent right to the cutting garden).

4a

I put the burgundy- and yellow-flowered plants in the center of the long border along the lower lawn.

5a

Their bi-color streakiness will go well with the red, yellow, and green tropical foliage of the plants pictured above* and with the yellow and green variegated gingers below on the left.

Growing behind the dahlias and blooming all the time is a shrubby Hypericum, possibly H. perforatum or St. John’s wort.

7a

The dahlia plants as a whole are not very pretty at the moment, mainly because I didn’t stake them early enough. I’ve planted two shrimp plants** up front to hide their legginess

9a

. . .eventually.  There’s one in front of the gingers too.  I should be able to maintain them at about 2′ high.

10a

I think the whole yellow and burgundy arrangement will give some drama to this center section — once everything grows a little more.  Those gingers will get at least 12″ taller.

down the border

Above:  looking down the border to the left to a pink and burgundy (dahlias) section –also still in progress — then yellow, purple, and, at the end, red with some pink and blue/purple around the edges.

Click any of the photos for a larger look.


*I think a croton and a coleus.

**Justicia brandegeeana.

Vintage landscape: the iris garden

A little Sunday morning prettiness.

Japanese iris garden in East Hampton, NY/Library of Congress

The Japanese iris garden at “Grey-Croft” in East Hampton, NY, in 1913, on hand-colored glass lantern slides.

Grey-Croft, Library of Congress

The images are part of the Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Grey-Croft, Library of Congress

They were taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston and Mattie Edwards Hewitt, when the two photographers worked together. The slides were used by Johnston as part of her garden and historic house lecture series.

Grey-Croft, Library of Congress

The garden — owned at the time of these pictures by Stephen and Emma Cummins — is now part of the Nature Trail and Bird Sanctuary, according to the Library of Congress online catalogue.

Grey-Croft, Library of Congress

Having [divided, planted, fed, and weeded your irises] more or less faithfully, you will be rewarded by spectacular blooms in May. The iris is one of those plants that may as well be spectacularly well grown as not. Properly done — and it is at least as easy as growing tomatoes or corn or roses or things of that sort — the bloom will be so thick you cannot believe it at all, and the colors will be so sparkling and fresh you will jump (as it were) up and down.

They will be, as a rule, in total perfection by May 22, or whenever the year’s major hail and thunderstorm is scheduled.

— Henry Mitchell, from The Essential Earthman

Vintage landscape: Bagatelle Garden (and Chelsea Miscellany)

Bagatelle/enclos*ure Hand-tinted (3″ x 5″) glass lantern slide of Bagatelle Garden, Paris, France, ca. 1930, photographer unknown.

Bagatelle detail/enclos*ure
Detail.

The image is from the Garden Club of America Collection, part of the Archives of American Gardens at the Smithsonian Institution (used here by permission).

Bagatelle detail/enclos*ure
Detail.

The Archives hold over 60,000 photos and records documenting 6,300 historic and contemporary American gardens.  At its core are almost 3,000 hand-colored glass lantern and 35mm slides donated by the Garden Club of America.

Smithsonian Gardens maintains 11 gardens around the Smithsonian Institution’s grounds and also has a good blog here.

Chelsea Miscellany

It’s RHS  Chelsea Flower Show time!  Their website is here.

All The Telegraph’s  Chelsea coverage is here; The Guardian’s is here; The Independent’s is here.

BBC coverage is here.  You may need this to view it.  (View episodes soon; some expire in four days.)

The New York Times reports on how gnomes will be allowed in the show this year (only), here.  In the Herald (Dublin), “Diarmuid Gavin has branded the Chelsea Flower Show ‘dull’ and described Prince Harry’s garden at the centenary exhibition as ‘bad,'” here.

Studio ‘g’  has photos of the Best in Show winner — the Australian garden — here, and they promise more pictures to come.  Also, check out The Galloping Gardener’s report, here (thanks to GD by CM) — Gardenista’s, here — and The Enduring Gardener’s, here.   Anne Wareham of thinkinGardens comments on two of this year’s entries, here.

Sources for seeds for cow parsley — plant of the moment at this year’s show, according to Gardenista — here.

Instagram photos tagged #chelseaflowershow are here.  GAP Photos has 103 photos of Chelsea, here.  More photos, as well as plant lists, are posted on Shoot, here.

Where have you found good photos or reviews of the show?