Friday, August 11, 2017

Hillwood - An elegant estate garden

This Friday, I'm taking you back east to the first stop on day one of the Capital Region Garden Bloggers' Fling, Hillwood in Washington DC.  This 25-acre estate was owned and developed by Marjorie Merriweather Post and opened to the public following her death in 1973.  While we had over an hour at this location, that timetable included both a group photo (which you can find on the Fling's Facebook page here) and lunch so there was no time for dilly-dallying in any one area.

The bloggers assembled at the back of the mansion facing what is known as the Lunar Lawn due to its crescent shape so I'll start there.

The lawn area was huge.  The photo on the left was taken from the portico behind the mansion.  The photo in the middle was taken somewhat closer up of a bed on the right side of the lawn.  The photo on the right was taken from the Vista Terrace, sited between the 2 long beds edging the lawn.

The lion, sculpted in 1700 and acquired from an English estate, sat on the mansion's portico.  The faun sat on the Vista Terrace. 


Following the group photo, I headed out beyond the lawn area to the Japanese-style Garden.  Although every single area of the estate was meticulously manicured and maintained, I was most impressed by this area, where layers of foliage rather than flowers created drama.






From the Japanese Garden, I slipped through the French Parterre and, from there, stopped briefly in the Rose Garden before venturing a short distance along the Friendship Walk.

The French Parterre was organized around a statue of Diana, Roman goddess of the hunt.  There were a number of marble sphinxes featuring female torsos with the limbs of lions.  Frankly, they gave me the creeps.

The rose display was past its prime in late June but it was still attractive.  According to the tour guide, Post's ashes are enshrined in the base of the pink granite monument at the garden's center.

The Friendship Walk was created at the instigation of 4 of Post's friends as a gift to honor her philanthropic efforts


I returned to the front of the mansion and considered joining a docent-led tour of the gardens but the tour was slow to get moving and, with less than 30 minutes available prior to lunch, I moved on to the Greenhouse and, from there to the large Cutting Garden at the front of the property.

A statue of Eros, the god of love, welcomes visitors who pass through the motor court at the front of the mansion

The greenhouse was full of orchids, bromeliads and other exotic plants

Both the Cutting Garden and the Greenhouse were designed to supply fresh flowers and foliage for use inside the mansion and Visitor's Center


From there, I walked through a wooded area to see the Dacha, Post's version of a Russian country house, built in 1969 at the height of the Cold War.

The Dacha is used for special programs and exhibitions


On my way to the Cafe, where the bloggers were having lunch, I snapped a photo of another feature reminiscent of the Cold War.

This is a Fallout shelter, constructed in the 1960s as a safeguard in the event of a nuclear attack



I'll close this post with a couple of pots that attracted my attention during the course of my tour.  Like everything else, they were perfect.



Enjoy a great weekend!


All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

22 comments:

  1. Kris, this garden is breathtaking! The green lushness is mesmerizing, I'd feel in heaven in a garden like that!

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    1. The sheer greenness of the Capital Region made the biggest and most lasting impression on me when I think of the Garden Bloggers' Fling. Southern California isn't nearly that green, especially during the summer months.

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  2. Wow, those fallout shelters...how prepared she was. Seeing your photos from the morning cool of Portland (just 72 degrees in my house) everything looks so fresh, no miserable, humid, heat...

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    1. With the exception of the steamy greenhouse, I don't recall being miserably hot and sticky at Hillwood but the National Mall nearly did me in. It's been humid here off and on of late but not DC-level humid!

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  3. Oh, wow, the fallout shelter. I've been kicking myself lately for not installing one in my own back garden when we moved here, given the recent bombast coming out of D.C. You saw so much here that I didn't.

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    1. That was one of the things that came to mind when I reviewed my photos in preparation for this post, Alison. Instead of a lath house, maybe out next project should be a bomb shelter.

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  4. Maybe they should resurrect that fallout shelter :). As far as estate gardens go, I thought this one was quite nice. To escape the heat I did take a self guided tour of the inside of the house. I like looking at the kitchen and bath design in these old mansions to see what elements have stood the test of time.

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    1. You and Susie were both smart about taking advantage of AC while in DC - she toured an art museum on the National Mall.

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  5. I think I've seen more photos of Sue in the various Fling posts than anybody else, lol! She really gets around.

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    1. Sue and I were on the same bus all but one day, I think so our paths crossed regularly.

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  6. Amazing estate with lush gardens. The fallout shelter is so interesting - those certainly were fearful times (not much has changed has it?)

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    1. Yes, I was struck by the repetition of history in that respect. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (George Santayana)

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    2. Agreed... I read an article recently where this historian was saying that most people's collective memory (back to their grandparents) is roughly 50 years, therefore they don't credit things that happened before that. Thus, doomed to repeat... Makes sense.

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    3. I guess we need more teachers like Lin Miranda who can devise ways to make history come alive well after important events have faded from personal memories. That, or we need to bring back the oral histories that were preserved generation-to-generation by so many older (and possibly wiser) cultures. Heaven help us if we descend to operating on tweets alone! At the very least, our public servants should take great pains to educate themselves, no? I hope you'll excuse the late evening rant, Eliza.

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  7. That certainly was tight schedule. I am amazed that you managed to cover it so well. I was there many years ago but have little memory of the visit. It was long before I started blogging, with no digital camera, so no photos to jog my memory. Thanks for the revisit and so well captured. I hope that fallout shelter is still equipped!

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    1. Apparently, there are 4 fallout shelters at Hillwood, Jenny! Post generously distributed them around the property in what seemed to be an effort to offer safety to the staff as well. As to whether they're still fully stocked, I can't say.

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  8. The garden looks very attractive, but I think I prefer wilder, less 'perfect' gardens. (Or am I being unfair?) As to the fallout shelter, it's rather chilling that people may be thinking again they need protection.

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    1. It was a very pretty and impressive garden, Sue, but I know what you mean. A garden that requires a large crew of people to maintain can be more intimidating than welcoming. With respect to the latter comment, our President's behavior and the mixed messages coming out of our White House aren't at all comforting.

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  9. What an exquisite gift Post left to the public! Estate gardens always impress. It's like they're always ready for a party. You sure saw a lot in the short time allotted!

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    1. Ready for a party or even nuclear war it seems!

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  10. Great summary. You captured some wonderful moments in this garden. I loved the Japanese garden and the cutting garden especially.

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    1. That cutting garden was a learning experience for me, Susie. Although my cutting garden space is dramatically smaller, there were takeaways in terms of methods for supporting the growing seedlings.

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