Violetta Delafield - Flower Arranger & Garden Designer

Violetta Delafield

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Flower Arranger & Garden Designer

When Violetta's husband John Ross Delafield inherited Montgomery Place in 1921, Violetta saw the property's potential, and need, for new gardens.

She and her husband were well aware of the estate's 19th-century past as a garden and landscape showcase, designed in part by America's first landscape architect A. J. Downing, and lovingly developed by John's relative, Cora Livingston Barton. Yet even if those gardens had survived the decades after Cora's death when the property was in the care of tenants—and they had not—Violetta's ideas about stylish garden design would have diverged sharply from those of Cora.

The gardens Violetta added to Montgomery Place in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s reflected the modern trend of creating a series of pocket gardens, a movement promoted by the preeminent American landscape architect Beatrix Farrand and other professional designers. In this scheme, each garden possessed a different theme or style and was screened from others as a discrete "room."

In creating garden rooms at Montgomery Place, Violetta White Delafield was not only adding a stylish element to the estate but also introducing defined recreational spaces for her extended family. Violetta's ellipse, rough garden, west terrace, herb garden, and mixed borders were in marked contrast to Cora's elaborate, geometric beds of the previous century (see Site Map).

Along with the Brandywine Valley in Pennsylvania, the Hudson Valley was known for its concentration of new and stylish estate gardens in the period that landscape historians call the "American Country Place" era. Similar garden plans could be found at Blithewood (now Bard College), Montgomery Place's nearest neighbor to the north and at Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate near Tarrytown.

Violetta White Delafield in the ellipse garden. Gelatin silver print, c. 1937. Bard College, Montgomery Place Collection.

The Farm House garden in Bar Harbor, Maine, designed by Beatrix Farrand, 1928. Glass magic lantern slide, 1930. Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Garden Club of American Collection.

Dennis Delafield in the rough garden. Gelatin silver print, c. 1936. Bard College, Montgomery Place Collection.

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