Friday, July 1, 2016

Garden Spotlight: Ladew Topiary Gardens

The English hunt scene of Ladew Topiary Gardens of Monkton, Maryland. Photo by Ladew Topiary Gardens,
Topiary dogs of the English hunt scene of Ladew Topiary Gardens.

The extraordinary topiary gardens designed and developed by Harvey S. Ladew (1887-1976) are known throughout the world. The 22 acres of delightful gardens include more than 100 larger-than-life topiary forms which serve as backbone and centerpiece to a series of garden rooms with names such as the Rose Garden, White Garden, Yellow Garden, Garden of Eden, Sculpture Garden and Iris Garden. The life sized Hunt Scene of topiary horses, riders, hounds and a fox is one of the most famous of Ladew’s creations. Equestrian and fox hunting memorabilia, fine art and English antiques fill the circa 1747 Manor House. Ladew’s unique Oval Library appears in the book 100 Most Beautiful Rooms in America. Visitors enjoy House tours, strolls through the Gardens and Nature Walk, Gift Shop and historical display.

Harvey S. Ladew

Few more colorful figures embellish American cultural history than the late Harvey S. Ladew (1887-1976). As traveler, artist, foxhunter and creator of an extraordinary garden, Ladew filled the nearly 90 years of his life richly, creatively, and above all, with great wit.

Born into privilege in New York City, Harvey Ladew spoke French before he spoke English and was treated to boyhood drawing lessons from curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1929, at the age of 43, foxhunting drew him to this property in rural Maryland.

Harvey Ladew purchased the 200+ acre Pleasant Valley Farm from the Scarff family in November 1929, which conveniently bordered The Elkridge- Harford Hunt Club. The old white farmhouse was in primitive condition- it had neither heat, electricity nor plumbing. Ladew said of his “new” house – “It was in shambles and the only garden consisted of a couple of old lilac bushes.” During the 1930s Ladew added wings to the house and renovated outbuildings before beginning work on the gardens. Then, with the help of local farmers, Ladew carved 22 acres of gardens out of fields previously used for crops and livestock and set to work transforming Pleasant Valley Farm into “the most outstanding topiary garden in America,” as described by the Garden Club of America.

Late in life, Ladew determined to find a way of preserving his creation for all to enjoy. The result is Ladew Topiary Gardens, Inc., a non-profit organization whose mission is “to maintain and promote the gardens, house and facilities in keeping with the creative spirit of Harvey S. Ladew for the public benefit and for educational, scientific and cultural pursuits.”

Ladew Topiary Gardens opened to the public in 1971. Since then, the Board of Trustees developed a variety of special events to assist in maintaining this uniquely beautiful historic house and gardens. Currently Ladew Gardens hosts approximately 80 annual events which include the My Lady’s Manor Steeplechase Races, Garden Festival, the Summer Concert Series, Children’s Nature Camps, Children’s Day, Christmas Open House and spring and fall educational programs.

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