The natural and vernacular landscape plays a dominant role in shaping the character of Blithewold. Landscape designer and plantsman John DeWolf based his overarching concept for the site on the dirt roads, stone walls and gentle pastures of the existing vernacular landscape, as well as the dramatic waterfront site. His design reflects a widespread interest in America’s 17th and 18th century heritage that manifested itself in both the Colonial Revival and the American Arts and Crafts movements. The plan focuses on the sequential development of views from the approach road to the water and the use of vegetation to define and organize exterior space. It harmoniously integrates formal and naturalistic traditions in landscape design, and employs multiple design typologies to create varied garden spaces that are unified by the Great Lawn and framed by mature specimen trees and shrubs.
Bessie Van Wickle and John DeWolf shared an interest in exotic horticulture, continuing a tradition that was begun by John Rogers Gardner, owner of the site in the mid-19th century. They carefully considered location to nurture rare specimens, expanding the palette of materials that could be cultivated in the region, while also producing fruits and flowers to complement the estate’s hospitable lifestyle. Despite hurricanes and winter nor’easters that regularly downed trees, Blithewold is an arboretum and was recognized as such by the pre-eminent Arnold Arboretum in 1926.
The gardens, the Mansion and outbuildings are, together, an important antecedent in the development of the 20th century New England country home landscape. Bessie described her vision for “a park with distinctive features, using the house as a centre.” The original aesthetic intent, established in the Great Lawn and surrounding gardens and in the name that they gave to it, “Old English”, for “happy woodland”—was deepened by the design of Blithewold II after the first mansion was destroyed by fire in 1906. Built of stone salvaged from the site and mined near the Van Wickle coal quarries in Pennsylvania, the new house integrated Tudor and Jacobean details which were introduced to the United States in the 1880s but became most popular around World War I. Both the Mansion layout, with its kitchen, laundry and other conveniences, and the 1909 Garage, with its fueling and repair facilities, reflect the sensitive adaptation of medieval and 19th century precedents to meet modern needs. These buildings joined the 18th and 19th century structures to create the sense of a family retreat that had evolved over many decades and two generations.
Saturday, October 25
Capturing the Splendor of Nature: A Digital Photo Workshop at Blithewold, with Jan Armor
Sunday, October 26
Children's Pumpkin Flower-Arrangement Workshop
Thursday, October 30
Designing with Woodies and Shrubs with Polly Hutchison of Robin Hollow Farm
Sunday, November 02
Pruning Practices and Winter Interest Plant Walk
Thursday, November 06
Garden Design Luncheon The Slow Flowers Movement: From Field to Vase
Friday, November 07
Eco-Floral Hands-On Workshop with Debra Prinzing
A rabbit’s eye view with Noel Kingsbury
(Oct 17, '14)
We are so lucky that yesterday’s rain held off just long enough to take a ground-level tour of Blithewold’s gardens with British garden designer/plantsman/author, Noel Kingsbury. He showed us, plant by plant, exactly what to look for to help predict how different plants will behave in our gardens. He reminded us that plant growth falls along […]
Christmas at Blithewold “You Are Invited”
(Oct 13, '14)
Although Blithewold is closing to the public this week, it is anything but quiet around the Mansion. We are now preparing to get the Mansion dressed up for Christmas! It is a bit hard to imagine a snowy winter in the midst of this crisp fall weather, but our decorating volunteers have been prepping and […]
Moving into fall
(Oct 10, '14)
It was chilly this morning. No frost yet (perish the thought — our average first frost date falls in early November) but night temperatures in the forties are definitely giving us a taste of what’s to come along with a chance to acclimatize, and a good reason to pull sweaters out of summer storage. And after […]