Category Archives: Visiting Beautiful Gardens

Hever Castle 2018

T 2 H 2 progressed the verdant Countryside of Kent  

where they stopped to pay a call on Viscount Astor 

T2H2, the two happy husbands, Leo and Iory pose on the vast expanse of velvety green lawn surrounding Haver Castle Edenbridge, Kent, England. We were visiting there on the country leg of our Autumn tour this past October.  

Hever was the ancestral home of the Bullen family (Boleyn) from whence sprang the ill-fated Anne, second and brief wife of Henry VIII. The Castle has a 700-year story of tumultuous history recounting the vicissitudes of unleashed ambition. Poor Anne was but one of a long line of miscreants jockeying for power with all the resources that clan, deportment and physical allure could muster. 

Hever Castle was extensively restored and add to (1903-08) by William Waldorf Astor, a New York millionaire and scion of a family of successful fur traders who eventually parleyed their wealth into Manhattan real-estate. The Astors reached the zenith of success with the creation of the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. But not content with the crass accomplishments of “trade” and infuriated by family squabbles concerning which branch of the Astor family should dominate New York society, William roared across the Pond, eschewed his mercantile past in the colonies and became a British subject. Once regally ensconced in London and his newly acquired stately home Cliveden in Buckinghamshire, he judiciously lavished huge amounts of cash on various charities thereby securing the attention of the crown. Thus, he won recognition and honors in the form of a peerage of the United Kingdom under the title of Baron Astor of Hever Castle and then subsequently elevated to the rank of Viscount. 

Viscount Astor’s restoration of Hever Castle was lavish and extensive and included all the then innovative conveniences of electric light, central heat, running hot water and copious amounts of plumbing, all of which lubricated the ponderous machine of Edwardian extravagant pageantry known as country house parties.  The interiors of the main castle were recreated in an eclectic pastiche referencing various English historic sources and are carried out with exacting detail of high quality in design, craftsmanship and rare materials. All these handsome and historically evocative interiors are very much in the spirit of their day in both England and the United States and are reminiscent of the Rothchild and Vanderbilt styles of grandeur.   

The most extensive component of Viscount Astor’s scheme was an enormous stretch of guest suites consisting of 100 rooms accessed from the Castle by an enclosed bridge across the surrounding mote and designed to evoke a Tudor village. This architectural extravagance is now referred to as the Astor Wing and is run as an hotel of sumptuous luxury. Leo glibly tossed off his intent of staying there when we return to England. I will to hold him to it no matter how many pennies we have to pinch in the meantime because my heart goes pitter-patter just at the sight of the place from the outside. As an overnight guest at Hever Castle one can access the gardens after the high tide of tourists has receded leaving the place to the heavenly peace and calm of English twilight evenings. This is what, of course, enchanted my husband, the Hever gardens, which are scrumptious!    

Along his gilded path of happy destiny, William Astor was appointed by President Chester A. Arthur as the United States as Minister to Italy in 1882. Once installed in Rome Minister Astor immersed himself in the appreciation and study of Italian art and especially sculpture. As any self-respecting gentleman on a grand tour would do, he began to amass a rich collection of antique statuary and architectural artifacts which eventually came to rest in the most romantic setting at the Hever Gardens. The afternoon when we were there, late October, the main display of summer exuberance had withdrawn leaving the structure of green garden lightly sprinkled with late roses against a background of russet colors glowing from the surrounding collection of specimen trees turning with the season. All this was accented here and there in protective niches with urns planted with drooping fuchsias placed beneath sturdy trellises entwined with ripening grapes, jewels of deep amethyst and alexandrite color, kissed by the setting sun.

We were some the first early morning visitors to Hever Castle and enjoyed the peace of the place where a regal swan was parading his glory in company of a scattering of ducks. A little later they all retreated to the clear stream below, disdaining the intrusion of tourists and pretending not to be at all interested in the crumbs and tidbits from the café that a few eager children offered them.    

 

The pert castle offers a dignified presence softened by Boston Ivy blushing deeply against the honey colored stone. 

The Tudor Village now called the Astor Wing is my idea of heaven. I love all the meandering digressions trailing off into the distance. I can picture a labyrinth of hallways within, leading to remote chambers lit by the wiggly glass of leaded windows screened in diamond patterns. The many gabled tiled roofs create a syncopated rhythm that leads a parade around the surrounding gardens. This is now a hostelry of exceptional charm with suites of rooms and banquet facilities worthy of Henry VIII and his court, although that magnificent prince would be completely astounded by the amenities of the 21st century.    

Just inside the 13th century gate house, crowned by battlements, hangs the ancient and menacing portcullis said to be one of the oldest working defensive gates in England. The Timbered framed Tudor manor house with leaded windows is a later addition to the castle built by the Bullen clan in the early 1500’s.  A spiral staircase accessed through the smaller arched doorway leads up to the guardroom and council chamber with connecting chambers used by the lord of the manor and his family as living quarters and from whence he governed his domains.

A ghostly apparition, greeted us at the front hall door of Hever Castle. Like the fading scarlet ivy leaves above the entrance, this Prince of the Church and his ilk would be torn from their Popish vine by the wintery blasts of Henry VIII’s disfavor when he dissolved the Roman Catholic Church in England in order to marry the daughter of th Hever, Ann Boleyn.  

The Inner Hall of Hever is paneled and appointed with sumptuously carved Italian walnut installed in 1903 by William Waldorf Astor. It provides a solemn background to display a collection of important portraits of the Tudor Monarchs and some of their contemporaries. Here we see Isabella of Portugal, wife of Charles V who was the nephew of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife. The hall also includes a rare collection of 17th and 18th century furniture as seen here providing some comfort to the formal gravitas of the room.  

The drawing room at Hever is a delight of comfort and ease in what could have been a rather formidable display of historic gloom. This happy result is also part of Viscount Astor’s restoration campaign. The inlayed paneling of; oak, bog-oak and holly woods is exceptionally handsome and was patterned after Sizergh Castle, Cumbria   

Here is one jim-dandy dining room which can be engaged for your next blow-out banquet! I should imagine the price tag is a whole bunch of shekels but hey, what price glory?  Two Celebrated royals flank the paneled wall, Henry V, victor of Agincourt fame (1415) and Edward, the Black Prince, whose name derives from the tint of his armor rather than his ruthless conduct at Crecy, Poitiers, Najera and Limoges. In this last campaign Edward massacred 3,000 of the city’s inhabitants. I am not sure if these bellicose warriors are the exact diner companions I would ask for, but Hever is a castle and that does imply might is right.   

On the dining room door is an ancient lock once belonging to Henry VIII. In addition to the copious number of fixtures and furnishings the Tudor court traveled with, Henry, ever leery of assassination, brought his own locksmith to secure his bedchamber against demise. This is one of the myriad of historic details that Viscount Astor included in his restoration of Hever. I am particularly fond of the smiley face above the coat of arms, apparently emojis are nothing new.  

And on that subject, I have come to find out through Google magic that emoji derives from Japanese, from e ‘picture’ + moji ‘letter, character’. Please forgive this non sequitur digression but we are talking details here 

Now, libraries are just my kind of thing, I know these phrases break the mood of my narrative but otherwise you may find my predilections a bit stodgy. So, back to books and their dwelling place, Viscount Astor’s library is knock your sox off fabulous, there you go again Iory – I know but what the hell else is one supposed to do on a pink couch but kick off the shoes, get comfy and read? In this case the books are works of art in their own right with luxurious bindings of Moroccan leather, gilt-tooled with the Astor coat of arms and further elaborate incised decorations. They were privately printed in Paris and New York in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.  

The bookcases are patterned after ones in Samuel Pepys library. They are carved in the style of Grinling Gibbons and fashioned from sabicu, a very hard wood that will sink in water.  The ceiling is copied from one at Hampton Court Palace. The evocation of history is ever present at Hever.     

The Tudor Village or Astor wing, as seen from an upstairs leaded window of the Long Gallery.]

Hever Castle was the childhood home of Anne Bullen (Boleyn) and her family who were some the most powerful aristocrats of the period. Her father was a diplomat sent on numerous missions to the Continent under Henry VII and VIII. Anne was extensively educated at the royal courts of Margaret of Austria in the Netherlands, Mary Tudor and Queen Claude of France where she held positions as maid of honour.  She returned to England and became a maid of honour to Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife.  

The unfortunate Anne was also, along with her family, a consummate schemer. She was none the less a tragic character, simultaneously Queen and pawn on a chess board of complex power dynamics that amongst other dramas allowed for the creation of the Church of England as a result of her marrying Henry VIII.  

 Haver Castle houses and displays an important collection of Tudor portraits In the Long Gallery alone there are 18 original portraits hung in dynastic order relating the story of the Tudors starting from Henry VI and ending with Henry VIII. In the inner Hall on the first floor are portraits of Henry VI, VII, VIII as well as Anne and her sister Mary Boleyn. These collections were begun by Viscount Astor and richly enhanced by the current owner, Broadland Properties, John Guthries, founder and chairman.  

I’m never sure if wax mannequins are anything more than creepy. Hever has apparently had extensive displays in the past in the Long Gallery composed of the infamous womanizer King and his entire retinue of ill-fated wives accompanied by a lute playing musician. This musician was Mark Smeaton, who was one of the accused lovers of Anne and was also tortured and executed.  

There is a long history of wax mannequins in England begun by Madame Marie Tussaud who in 1831 after a long slog throughout Europe and the provinces of England brought her famous collection of gruesome relics from the blood drenched guillotine to London. She eventually coming to rest at the Baker Street Bazaar – ironically a famous street with a similar subject matter, heinous crime – thank you Sherlock.  

Here we find Anne Boleyn with down cast gaze looking remarkably real with Henry and Catharine lurking in the shadows – or is it Mary, Anne’s sister who was mistress to the king before her.  Henry’s lascivious and marital convolutions are hard to follow but the result for Mary was a dead end and here she seems to presage that demise with a ghostly and dare I say it, waxen pallor.  

The leaded windows of the Long Gallery are inset with stained glass heraldic achievements featuring at their center escutcheons bearing the arms of, from left to right, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves, all former owners of Hever Castle. I find these badges of honour with all their decorative elaborations to be very beautiful and full of arcane and esoteric meaning that like a puzzle are fascinating to decipher. I am particularly delighted by the twisting convolutions of leaf and feather “mantling” that flutter from Henry’s helmet

Half Moon pond presents a controlled formality punctuated by a single spire of water saluting a pristine white marble statue of VenusInnocent of the Goddess’s charms, two boys gaze into the water where elusive goldfish dart and swim.

Within the confines of a circular stone garden temple, a classical bronze urn wearing the green patina of age, captures the images of Gods and Goddesses manipulating the fate of heroes.    

Superb shapes of gargantuan proportions proclaim the arrogance of lordly splendor in the Italian gardens at Hever. Beyond the restraint of clipped hedges an exuberant extravagance of exotic trees sing an alternative tune.

Surprised by the glory of deep encounter, lifeless cold marble is ignited by afternoon sun illuminating a brazen kiss.

Five triumphal arches beckon and command attention, creating a desire to look beyond the green expanse of easy lawn. What royal court there awaits the traveler on an embassy of idle delight? 

The bearded sage wraps his cloak tightly around, insulating him from the impertinent intoxication of a scented scarlet rose. 

Closer to the temple loggia, a parade of chubby putti bear the weight of celebratory garlands as rampant lions roar, warning of the presence of regal dignity. 

A triumph of arching stone holds the view of tranquil waters where beyond, curtains of trees shelter wild places untamed.   

From the cover of twisting and drooping branches can be seen the ancient castle walls standing in the midst of folly, the mistress of men allowing herself to be tamed and shaped in order to delight her lover. Is this wise or foolish?     

Chick the Cardinal and follow him on an extensive tour 

 of Hever castle and gardens  

 

Sissinghurst

 

Sissinghurst Castle, Cranford, Kent, England

                              Vita’s tower, Sissinghurst Castle, photo by Iory Allison 

Sissinghurst Castle is a place beyond time. A dwelling of private retreat and poetic dreams, built on crumbling foundations of thwarted Elizabethan ambition. Over time it was corrupted by ignorance of its true value from a place of noble hospitality to a fetid dungeon of prison misery. But the ancient Spirits of the Weald, outraged by the ignominy of mankind’s vanity, wove a spell that blanketed the place beneath a profound sleep, guarded over by a jealous tangle of dark forest and briar Rose – fierce protectors of the artist’s muse. 

 Much like Burne Jones’s Sleeping Beauty, the center of the mystery at Sissinghurst is the quest for the perfect lover, the sleeping bulb waiting for the gardener’s caress to awaken the beloved. This was eventually accomplished by a mismatched couple who recognized in each other impossible love and allowed that precious treasure to bloom forth into the light.

Burne Jones, Sleeping Beauty, “The Rose Bower” 1885- 90

Here lies the hoarded love, the key 

To all the treasure that shall be; 

Come fated hand the gift to take 

And smite this sleeping world awake. 

William Morris 

Photo by Iory Allison

Sissinghurst Castle, photo by Iory Allison, the central entrance arch with flanking gables was built in 1530’s 

“A tired swimmer in the waves of time 

I throw my hands up: let the surface close: 

Sink down through centuries to another clime, 

And buried find the castle and the rose. 

Buried in time and sleep, 

So drowsy, overgrown, 

That here the moss is green upon the stone, 

And lichen stains the keep.” 

Vita Sackville-West, “Sissinghurst” 

photo by Iory Allison

The epicenter of Sissinghurst Castle is the tower built in the mid-1500s by Sir Richard Baker as a gatehouse for his vast courtyard palace of which this structure is one of the few surviving components. It also originally served as a viewing platform to follow the progress of the hunts enacted in the 700-acre surrounding deer park. In modern times it was reclaimed by Vita Sackville-West as her private retreat where she spent nights writing some of her 17 novels, 12 collections of poetry, gardening columns for the Observer from 1946 -1961 and endless letters, etc.   

The surrounding garden, composed of a dozen “garden rooms” was conceived and realized by Vita and her husband, Harold Nicolson, beginning in 1930 when they bought Sissinghurst, until their respective deaths in the 1960’s. Harold mapped out the “bones” of the garden with its formal alignments and landscape architecture whilst Vita specialized in the design, selection and planting of the flowers and shrubs. Although the Nicolsons had a staff working with them throughout their long tenure, they were both hands-on gardeners, stooping to pull weeds and plant the “crammed” flower beds and borders that compose this unique garden of earthly delights.  

Harold Nicolson began his career as a diplomat serving the British Empire in Madrid, Istanbul and Persia as well as participating in the Versailles Treaty concluding the First World War. From 1931-1946 he was a member of Parliament. His literary output like Vita’s was prodigious incorporating history, biography, journalism, literary criticism, diarist, etc.  

Vita and Harold had a mystic vision when they recognized the then ruin of Sissinghurst as a place of magic beauty. At first, together with their staff, they attacked the iron grasp of wildness that had a strangle hold on the property and they all labored long to reclaim the lost grandeur of the place. In their struggle an ancient rose, “Rosa Gallica” now known as “Sissinghurst Castle” was found languishing in the bramble. This beauty was perhaps one of the few precious plants dating from Elizabethan times and a symbol of Vita and Harold’s intent to revive an historic property where they could create a garden. There they both could nurture their delicate love of each-other, their two sons and their respective writing careers. They sought to heal the physical and spiritual scars inflicted by a grim period of the Seven Years war with France (1756-63) when the property was used as a prison and then its subsequent century and a half of neglect when the place went into a deep sleep waiting for the questing lovers to find their Eden. 

Harold and Vita lived in an “open” marriage and both of them had affairs and lovers of both sexes, most famously Vita’s passionate love affair with Violet Trefusis as revealed posthumously by her son Nigel in his book, “Portrait of a Marriage.” I was very much aware of the Lesbian and Gay aspects of Vita and Harold’s respective lives. As an “out” Gay man myself in a long term committed relationship of 41 years and now legally married to my husband, Leo, I was gratified by the frank discussion of these subjects at Sissinghurst by the National Trust. Referring to her own Lesbianism Vita is quoted by the Trust, “The psychology of people like myself will be a matter of interest when hypocrisy gives place to a spirit of candor which one hopes will spread with the progress of the world.”

 With a lot of courageous political activism, persistence and just plain common sense that prediction is beginning to come to fruition. A general understanding that same sex love is a natural facet of the human psyche is now gaining ascendancy in world culture. 
   T2H2, The Two Happy Husbands, Leo and Iory  went on a pilgrimage to Sissinghurst last month and with the idea of avoiding the crowds we chose mid-October for our visit. Leo is the gardener of our family and I the writer, so Sissinghurst is a natural place for us.  

Mid-October however was very definitely the tail end of the garden year and while it was quiet of people, the garden was in the last throws of a vigorous season and slowly retreating into the bosom of her mother, that private space of winter where the mystery of regeneration fuels tomorrow’s fecundity. As the leaves of summer turn the subtle colors of faded tapestry and then for a moment dance on autumn’s chilly winds, the structures of bare branches and lichen etched masonry are discovered and we become aware of the “bones” of this garden, where even the whispered memories of passing seasons have a compelling interest – perhaps even more so than the grand trumpeted fanfare of full summer exuberance. 

 There is in England, and Sissinghurst especially, an appreciation for the beauty of extended time and a wise understanding borne from the connoisseur’s eye for the inevitable consequences of that potent force wearing away at the fabric of the material world. The struggle of the artist to preserve and perpetuate her creation is fortified by the knowledge that all layers in the growth of time have profound value and the shimmering imperfection of iridescence is the final revelation to the poet questing for the ideal.  

Photo by Iory Allison 

Vita’s Tower as seen from the rose garden through a turquoise wrought iron gate. The beautiful wrought iron-work of the gate frames this view and also contrasts with the ancient brick walls. Although the tower can be glimpsed from all over the garden and the surrounding fields of the estate, in Harold and Vita’s design it is also concealed from direct view by intentional twists and turns in the overall labyrinth of the garden. Then when we become aware of the tower again it is partially veiled beyond gates or crumbling walls, clipped hedges or strategically placed trees. 

Vita Sackville-West in her twenties, by William Strang, 1918 

This is one of my favorite images of Vita in her characteristic flat brimmed hat. I believe a version of this hat was originally a gondolier’s hat from Venice. In any case the various hats of this kind that Vita adopted over the years have an ambiguous masculine / feminine look that sets her apart. One of the amusing aspects of the English nobility is their frequent pose of eccentricity with its implied assumption of privileged rank, allowing for whim and caprice to partially unbind them from the strict confines of convention. 

Vita’s writing room, photo by Iory Allison  

I took this snapshot of Vita’s inner sanctum through a wrought iron grill that allows only a coy glimpse of this magical space. The portrait on the easel by the fireplace is of Violet Trefusis an early and important lover of Vita’s.

The painting dead center depicting a naked man astride what I suspect is a lion or leopard – not a horse as I originally assumed – is an exasperating mystery that I was not able to identify. It seems an incongruous image to be dominating the private domain of a woman lover of women. But that’s probably my own frustration not knowing why this powerful image is here and what it signifies. Perhaps nothing more than a sensual reference to the strength of man and beast, domination of the rider who mounts the creature and the thrust of his spear impaling a mysterious foe.   

Photo by Iory Allison 

Here is another corner of Vita’s writing room. Perched conspicuously on a book ladder is the famous Gladstone bag that Nigel Nicholson, Vita’s younger son and executor, found in her tower room after her death. The Bag contained the manuscript account of her passionate romance and elopement with Violet Trefusis to Paris in 1920 and forms the central material of Nigel’s book, “Portrait of a Marriage.”    

Original “Hogarth” printing press, photo by Iory Allison  

As Vita’s tower is the center of Sissinghurst so also is this printing press the center of the of the literary history of the place. It now enjoys a place of honor on the second floor of the tower. In 1930 Virginia and Leonard Wolf gave it to Vita and Harold as a house warming present to commemorate their purchase of Sissinghurst. This Minerva Platen printing press is the actual press on which the Wolfs began their publishing career. In the beginning they  hand set and printed a remarkable collection of modernist writers including; T S Eliot’s, “The Waste Land,” Vita’s best-selling novel, “The Edwardians,” Virginia’s novel, “Jacob’s Room,” Christopher Isherwood’s “Goodbye to Berlin” and translations of Sigmund Freud to name a few of the 527 titles that compiled the Hogarth Press list  published from 1917 until 1946, the period when the Wolfs were involved in the company.   

 

Photo by Iory Allison 

The National Trust continues the tradition of bouquets of fresh flowers picked from the Sissinghurst gardens and informally arranged and displayed inside the various buildings. Here is cheery bunch of dahlias in a deep blue glass vase, the sole decoration perched on an old worn table in one of the white washed tower rooms.  

Here is an absolutely charming photo of Vita with her two boys, Benedict and Nigel. Notice that they all have a family resemblance, a distant and wistful expression that hints at private repose like the depths of a mysterious pool only glimpsed beyond surface reflections.   

Photo by Iory Allison 

There are approximately 12 distinctly different “garden rooms” composing the overall design at Sissinghurst. In my photograph, taken from the roof deck of the central tower, I particularly like the semicircular brick wall to the right. It echoes the central feature of the yew hedge (at the far left) and also just because I like curved shapes. From this viewpoint you can see the surrounding country side of Sissinghurst farm with its open pastures surrounded by the Kent weald, or forest.  

Photo by Iory Allison  

This is a closer view of the curved wall that acts like a theatrical backdrop and focal point for a garden bench. From that vantage point one can survey an overabundance of roses encroaching on the regimented grid of flower beds.     

Photo by Iory Allison  

The severely clipped yew hedges forming this central “room” contains a unique space void of flowers, sculptures or other distractions. The imposition of this undecorated geometry is the “rest” or quiet moment in the music that makes the cacophony of exuberant flowers fall into complete harmony.    

In an old photo we see Vita and Harold posing in their garden. Like the ancient brick walls and worn textured doors, the garden bones, they show the signs of age that are the hallmarks of quality. Following that analogy, if the carefully preserved castle ruins are the bones of Sissinghurst and the plants are the flesh on those bones then these two unlikely lovers are the life’s blood of the place

photo by Iory Allison

Scarlet dahlias enliven the autumn garden extending the palette of orangey-pink brick to a full range of fiery tones. To me this chorus of bright blossoms calls out with coloratura bravado, “We are beautiful, this is our time, take note!   

Photo by Iory Allison

As I research this lovely statue of Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruitful abundance, I was surprised to learn that it had been stolen in May of 2013. I cannot for the life of me find any mention of the return of it to  Sissinghurst and now I am more baffled as to the pristine condition of the sculpture. 

 When visiting the garden, I saw its gleaming white marble and assumed that it had been cleaned and I wondered at that because the obvious aesthetic of everything else was of texture and patina. But I know that contemporary art historians have a tendency to scrub everything down to a sterile shine, so I assumed that was the case here and with due respect she does now sparkle with a twinkle in her eye. But I wonder, was a reproduction sculpture created to fill the forlorn absence of Pomona.  

As I admired this divine dancer holding ringing cymbals vibrating with the harmony of abundant life, I thought how appropriate for this alluring Goddess to be a focal point in Vita’s garden. I was further delighted to speak with the gardener assiduously keeping Pomona’s exuberance in order.    

photo by Iory  Allison

I’ll go out on a limb here and identify this gaggle of pink beauties as Naked Ladies or Amaryllis Belladonna. Whatever the accurate name “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” and so do these little darlings, the last glory of the season.  

to see more amazing photos click here

 

Winterhur

You may remember the first leg of our journey to three of the du Pont estates, in and around Wilmington, started with Longwood gardens. All three of these spectacular estates incorporate extensive gardens and that was the major inspirational motive for T2H2, The Two Happy Husbands Leo and Iory, to traipse off on the North Eastern Regional Amtrak and see for ourselves the wonders of “America’s garden capital.” Come with me and meander the paradise byways of Winterthur a gift to the people and an expression of all that is great about the USA.

Photo by Iory Allison

Winterthur is one of the great du Pont estates of Wilmington, Delaware. This is a view of the Museum that evolved from the original home built in 1839. Over generations a number of renovations beginning in 1880’s continued with major additions throughout the 1920’s and 30’s. These alterations to the house eventually grew to a grand total of 175 rooms. The entire collection is devoted to historic American architectural interiors filled with exquisite American antique furnishings and decorative arts.  In my photo we see the original entrance façade radically transforming the porte cochere into a glass enclosed conservatory.  

Photo by Iory Allison

Henry Francis du Pont developed a life long passion for collecting and displaying his vast collection of American antiques in “historic” room settings that he fashioned from authentic architectural interiors and carefully researched fabrications. In this way he created appropriate settings for the enjoyment of his family and friends, eventually opening the home as a museum to the general public and scholars in 1951. Mr. du Pont was a fanatic for elaborate table settings appropriate to the lavish entertaining of his era.  His other abiding interest was for flowers and gardens and here we see a magnificent display of pink tulips grown on the estate, picked and arranged the morning of our visit. 

 

Photo by Iory Allison

The Chinese Parlor enjoys a historic wallpaper made in China in the 18th century. The card table in the foreground is set up for Bridge (a favorite game of Henry Francis and his family.) Completing the lived-in look are full cocktail glasses and cigarettes in the ashtrays. In addition to these “homey” touches the room is awash with lovely bouquets of flowers fresh from the greenhouses.

Photo by Iory Allison

And here is the interior of the conservatory we saw in the first photo. The seasonal flower display is being protected by an enormous wooden sculpture of an eagle with wings spread wide (my estimate, about eight feet.)

Photo by Iory Allison

The ever-charming Mr. Leo posing for me in one of the seasonal garden follies that are now decorating the landscape of Winterthur estate until January 5, 2020. This particular neo-classical temple folly is a handsome construction with attractive colors that seem made especially for my hubbie’s costume. 

 

Photo by Iory Allison

Henry Francis du Pont created extensive gardens all planted in a “natural” style. The Azalea Woods is comprised of eight acres beneath a lofty canopy of trees interspersed with flowering dogwoods. The meandering paths delve into the quiet corners of this charming woodlands.

Photo by Iory Allison

Beneath the towering trees, a carpet of Spanish Bluebells and numerous wildflowers spread out as if preparing for the celebration of a Fairy wedding!

Photo by Iory Allison

And here is where some of those magical spirits live in the Enchanted Woods, a special garden of magic and whimsey.

Photo by Iory Allison

At the edge of Azalea Woods lush green lawns open out with drifts of pink azaleas enticing us to follow along and enter the cool shadows of the Pinetum where a variety of conifers hold majestic place in the undulating landscape – seemingly combing the cloud mountains searching for life giving rain.

 

Photo by Iory Allison

This is my favorite “folly,” The Ottoman Tent. In the cool protected shade overlooking the calm waters of an idyllic pond I can feel the presence of Suleman Pasha listening to a rambling tune played on a stringed Oud as he idly nibbles sweet dates and sips rose petal tea.

 

Click the dancing putti and let them take you on a walk through Winterthur