{Garden Inspiration} Vanderbilt Mansion & Garden

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,
Helllllloooooooo, Lovely.
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

Andre Parmentier.

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.




  1. August 11, 2016 / 3:32 am

    Wow, this is indeed a treasure. How wonderful that you were able to tour it and the gardens. I love seeing spaces like this restored!

    I hope that you are having a wonderful week. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and wonderful adventure.

    • August 16, 2016 / 1:28 am

      thanks for reading, elizabeth. xox

  2. August 11, 2016 / 6:20 pm

    So lovely. I love your passion and spirit, Michele. Everything you touch has your signature touch of love and beauty. You are a creative soul with a true love of natural beauty and all it has to offer. Thank you for sharing what you see through your beautiful eyes.

    • August 16, 2016 / 1:29 am

      that's so kind, friend! peace.

  3. August 11, 2016 / 6:20 pm

    Hi Michelle,

    Please tell me what kind of camera you use. Thanks!

    Lisa D.

    • August 16, 2016 / 1:30 am

      hi lisa. it's a canon 60D. i need to blog about my cameras. xox

  4. August 13, 2016 / 3:47 am

    HI Michelle xould you even imagine taking daily walks out your door to this much beauty.
    Thank you my dear for another beautiful share.
    With your visit and you expressing the beauty I feel as if I was there with you.
    I am left again saying why do I not live in a home with way more history.?
    Thank you beautiful for another beautiful journey.


    • August 16, 2016 / 1:31 am

      my pleasure, dore. the fragrance in the rose garden was out of this world…you would be at home. xox

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