13 May 2010

Orchids of Hillwood Estate

As part of my resolve to visit local attractions this summer, a Sunday trip to Hillwood in Washington DC lead to both the mansion tour and the garden tour. The property was a home of the late Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress to the Post Cereal and eventually General Foods. The philanthropist left her estate as a museum for her art collections.

Her collections include French decorative arts of the last two centuries (porcelain, ceramics, tapestries, furnishings, paintings) and almost everything Russian. Her collection of aristocratic Russian art and artifacts is probably the finest outside Russia.

Being a garden blog, we must discuss the garden part of the trip. The garden tour wound through outdoor "rooms" designed in a variety of styles and design. There was a formal French parterre garden, rose garden, lawn (for parties) with a peek of the Washington Monument in the background, a putting green (she was a golfer), Japanese garden, and Friendship Walk garden. This later was a surprise gift that her close friends built for her in recognition of her lifetime of of giving. If only my friends. . .

I found the French parterre too formal and stuffy for my taste, with its limited greenery trimmed into unnatural geometric shapes. The fountain and stream water features were pleasant though. My favorite was the Japanese garden. It had a shady grotto feel to it - built into a hillside with winding paths, a waterfall and stream, lots of overstuffed hostas (and tourists), and statuary.

Also found on the grounds were a Russian dacha (country house), a pet cemetery for her cherished ones, an Adirondack lodge similar to her retreat in New York's mountains, and a cutting garden and greenhouse. The cutting garden supplies all the arrangements inside the house, except in winter. If only my garden. . .

The Hillwood greenhouse is stuffed with orchids (a favorite of the owner), and nurtures over 2500 plants. These photos represent some of the more intriguing ones found blooming in the greenhouse on my visit. I possess little knowledge of orchids (except how to kill them), and certainly do not know their names.

All told, the trip was a good inspiration for the work ahead in my yard. I could also make use of a greenhouse for 2500 plants.

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: spiderwort, coreopsis, geranium, rose

3 comments:

Nancy said...
I can almost smell the orchids. Beautiful!
Jim/ArtofGardening said...
Too many close-ups I want to see what the gardens looked like!
Swimray said...
Sorry Jim. I did not take many photos of the gardens because all the tourists were getting in the way. It was Mothers Day and very crowded. I could only get up close an personal with orchids.