When I was in Hyde Park with a writer’s group
in late May, my beloved tagged along and we
happily toured some local treasures including
the Vanderbilt Mansion and its Italian garden.
The Vanderbilt is a masterpiece of American Beaux-Arts design
constructed between 1896 and 1898 by McKim, Mead & White.
We were unable to tour the mansion’s interior,
and outdoor restoration was underway as seen above.
But I loved capturing delicious architectural details
of this historic gilded-age country estate.
All photos are my own.
We were so lucky to essentially have the Italian garden
to ourselves, and I was surprised to learn that
the story here is a resurrection story.
Frederick Vanderbilt established an Italian-style,
terrace garden with roses, annuals and perennials.
When he died in 1938, thanks to FDR,
the estate was sold to the federal government.
While the grounds, landscaping and buildings were preserved,
sadly, there were no funds to maintain the gardens.
Weather, time and neglect meant that by the 1980’s,
the gardens were a faint memory.
Thankfully, the F.W. Vanderbilt Garden Association stepped in.
Known for their green t-shirts and tireless devotion,
the FWVGA continues to resurrect a garden once
believed to be beyond repair.
Brick walls were painstakingly restored to match the originals
yet the distinctive pink mortar proved impossible to match
despite extensive chemical analysis,
The solution actually was not chemical.
Someone discovered crushing a few bricks
into the mortar yielded the just right pink!.
Restoration of the walls, drainage system,and main arbors
of the Reflecting Pool and Loggia was complete in the early 1980’s.
Workers rebuilt the walls with cypress wood
from the original, historic plans.
If you visit the Vanderbilt,
YOU MUST MEET BAREFOOT KATE.
She is the statue dipping her toe in the pool,
and is also known affectionately as KATIE.
Placed in the garden in the early 1920’s, Kate and her reflection in the pool are one of the most photographed scenes in the garden.
The black color of the water in the pool is achieved
through a chemical, non-toxic dye
which makes the pool reflective
and keeps down algae.
The formal gardens consist of multiple tiers defined over a hillside and surrounded by a graceful landscape created by
Gravel pathways guide you past thousands of annuals,
graceful perennial gardens, and two levels of roses.
The fragrance here (even at the end of May)
was unforgettable, and I collected some
fallen rose petals to add to my bounty
at home to be made into clay.
While there were not too many in bloom, this was my favorite.
I am so grateful for the work and vision of the FWVGA
as they breathe life and love into this grand site
for our enjoyment and peace.
Have you enjoyed the Hudson River Valley yet?
* * *
Everyday now, I am outdoors
at work in my own gardens
at the fixer upper:
planting new life,
nurturing a few surviving perennials,
loving these leafy woods,
and learning to be a good mother
and guardian of this resurrection.
Peace to you right where you are.