The Gardens - Introduction

The Gardens

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Introduction

Visitors to Montgomery Place today enjoy the restored gardens of the 1930s and 1940s, created by Violetta White Delafield when she and her husband John Ross Delafield used the property as a country place.

But gardens of all sorts have played an important role in the visual and functional character of Montgomery Place over time. This program explores the significance of the property's historic gardens and the role of gardens—and gardeners—in the Hudson Valley region during the period from 1800 to the 1940s. It treats gardens separately from agriculture (which is explored in another web program).

Garden history at Montgomery Place has mirrored broader trends in American landscape history. During the early 1800s, under the ownership of Janet Livingston Montgomery, the estate featured pragmatic kitchen gardens and a commercial nursery. Like other aristocrats of the era, Janet also collected individual exotic plants, which she kept in her greenhouse. This interior "garden" provided a place to grow exotics and to display delicate and rare specimens.

During the nineteenth century, the increase in wealth and leisure—coupled with technological and agricultural advances—allowed some Americans to dedicate time and space to creating ornamental gardens. The Livingston and Barton families fashioned decorative gardens and landscape plantings at Montgomery Place with an uncommon ardor that made their estate the subject of admiration and a model for other wealthy Hudson Valley landowners.

Design and cultural trends in the early twentieth century led to a new style of estate gardening that was taken up enthusiastically by Violetta White Delafield, the next owner of Montgomery Place to have a strong interest in gardens. Her work, which features several small, themed "garden rooms," followed the eclectic tendencies of garden designers during the period.

 

The perennial border in the formal gardens. Photo: Historic Hudson Valley.

The herb garden. Photo: Historic Hudson Valley.

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