Mount Vernon: Lessons in Garden Design


When I go anywhere, I shop....for ideas, inspiration, novel solutions to problems. You do this as well, no doubt. No need for another trinket, but a fix for a vexing garden issue, or an aha! why didn't I think of that design idea?  Priceless. In my mind a faaaarrrrr  more enduring and valuable take-away from a visit. In this month of presidential birthdays, I thought you might enjoy some observations and design tips from visits to some of the most famous of the founding gardeners' homes and landscapes.

The handsomeness of the colonnade and the architectural detailing on the arches is obvious, but what is equally as beautiful? The climbing honeysuckle vine, neatly and elegantly attached to the uprights. No usual entangled honeysuckle mess and madness; just a solitary branch climbing each column. Tidied and pruned and no doubt labor-intensive, but still.....simple elegant expression and brilliant use of a common climbing bloomer. And doesn't the orange look divine against the forest green backdrop? Oh, and this single cane climbing technique would work for other climbers as well.

On Washington's famous river view veranda.....a perfect example of the design principle rhythm and repetition of a design element across a space.  In this case, good looking AND functional Windsor back wooden that same distinctive green......marching across the porch expanse. Pleasing to look at with or without guests.

And look at the stately columns (replicating the same molding details of the colonnade supports) framing the view across that same porch expanse...from wherever one sits. Framing, not blocking that magnificent Potomac view (the view being a feature not so easy to replicate).

The magnificent trees are stately, beautifully pruned and maintained to ensure strength, provide protection, create drama. All qualities shared with our first president and founding fathers. they meander and progress, the materials from which they are made, the type of patterns used and manner in which indigenous material is woven into the design...

in often unique (and easily copied back home) ways.

Equally as interesting: the use and placement of garden and home ornament.  This corner's composition of texture, color and material pleases my eye no end.

I could have spent HOURS just looking at the variety, shapes, and arrangement of wood fencingDid you know Washington was obsessed with developing the perfect material in the colonies for living fences?

Even modern additions, like this charming guard station near Washington's tomb is delightful. The paint colors and roofing material would translate into an equally charming garden shed in the right setting.

Rustic branch trellises for climbing vegetables....hmmm, good use for long and leafless nandina canes.

Be still my heart. The earthy brown structures against achingly verdant green. And that split-rail fence!  We had one around our suburban home in Knoxville, Tennessee when I was growing up. Out of context perhaps, but my mother was into primitive antiques at the time and I remember climbing over it (along with her sweet peas) many times.

I forgot how fresh and sweet chives can look and planted more as soon as I got home.

Yet more wooden weaving.

What can I say?  It just makes me happy. And give me some great ideas for our place in Colorado one day. Some ideas transplanted at home.

Others in one's daydreams.

All worth packing up and taking with you...

and weaving into your world.

P. S.

How many ideas do you think I stole from the winsome Mount Vernon nursery and gift shop facade?   Bet you'll spot a few yourself.  :)

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