The lawn is a gift of the English garden tradition from the eighteenth century. Early…
I just returned from Washington where I gave a talk on my book at the Smithsonian.
What a wonderful feeling, back in the nation’s capitol where I spent a year researching various Smithsonian archives for what would eventually become the book, America’s Romance with the English Garden.
Before my talk I had to check out the Enid A. Haupt Garden, one of my favorites, located behind the Castle on the National Mall. It is a garden built in the Victorian style of the nineteenth century as American gardeners of that time expressed it.
There of course I found the carpet bedding pattern of flowers on the extensive lawn. The plants were varieties that would continue to bloom in spite of the ensuing colder temperatures as winter apprroaches.
Nineteenth century New York seedsman Peter Henderson wrote in his book Gardening for Pleasure (1883) that the form of flower arranging called carpet bedding was replacing the older perennial borders. He wrote, “The mixed system [perennial borders] still has its advocates, who deprecate the modern plan of massing in color as being too formal, and too unnatural a way to dispose of flowers. But be that as it may, we will not stop to argue the matter further than to state, that in a visit to England in 1872, it was evident that the ‘Carpet Styles’ of massing plants as done at Battersea Park, London, was interesting to the people in a way that no mixed border could ever be. Anyone who has not seen the wonderful effects produced by the massing of plants in this way, has a treat before him. Nearly all the public parks in and about London are so planted.”
At the Haupt Garden there were plenty of benches for taking in the view so I had to sit down and relax for a moment.
My contemplative moment at the garden was not long, however, because before I knew it, I had to walk over to the near-by Ripley Building for my talk at 3 p.m.
The Washington audience that afternoon could not have been more supportive. Thank you, one and all, who attended.
And I am grateful too that the Haupt Garden offered a moment of respite.