In Maryland, twenty-two acres of English-inspired gardens feature sculptured shrubbery shaped like a country fox hunt, and other forms. In fact, fox hunting inspired the garden’s original theme. The British hunt culture had enamored a wealthy eccentric fellow named Harvey A. Ladew (1887-1976) who incorporated it into his lifestyle in the rolling Maryland countryside.
On visits to England during the 1920s, he learned about the art of topiary — the trimming and training of privet, boxwood, and yew into ornamental shapes based on wire frames. His Hunt Scene, pictured below, became an international symbol of the Ladew Topiary Gardens.
He bought over 200 acres in 1929 and began to develop fifteen small garden rooms, each devoted to a single thematic color. The topiary garden rooms display a hundred larger-than-life topiary forms. Even his manor is surrounded by living sculptures reflecting his style, elegance, and a decidedly British sense of humor.
Below is an aerial view of a few of these sculptures. Can you identify the whimsical shapes?
Among the fifteen thematic rooms, the Pink Garden features beds of tulips in spring . . .
followed by peonies . . .
then borders of roses.
What is England without its roses? Mr. Ladew’s Rose Garden features a rosarium, a round bed surrounded by a lawn path and accented by a romantic birdbath feature.
The Yellow Garden exhibits a Japanese ambience.
An authentic English country garden landscape would be incomplete without at least one folly or pagoda, so Mr. Ladew included that, too, and called it Tivoli Tea House. It appears rather Italian, to me, possibly because of the playful Renaissance statue.
Up the hill, this garden folly design is more in keeping with the classical Greek form. Called the Temple of Venus, it serves as the focal point of a long vista from the Terrace Garden.
Here is the Terrace Garden with the Temple of Venus folly in the far distance.
A sheltered Garden of Eden provides a few moments of whimsy.
Virginia bluebells carpet the floor of this Woodland Garden that features a large dovecote.
There is even a small cutting garden, featuring a wrought iron swan gate.
The Sculpture Garden features ducks, swans, chess pieces, even Churchill’s top hat.
Of course, Mr. Ladew had to include an example of a Cotswold cottage garden. Are those real hounds dashing across the green in the background? You decide.
The Garden Club of America awarded the Distinguished Achievement Award to Mr. Ladew for “creating and maintaining the most outstanding topiary garden in the country without professional help.”
No one gave me any advice in gardening but I had read a lot and knew what I wanted,” he told the Sunday Sun Magazine in a 1957 interview. “Now I look back and wonder how I ever got the job done.” And, in a letter a dozen years later, he wrote, “My garden isn’t finished yet. I have only worked on it fifty years and it will take another fifty years to finish it.”
Today, the 250-acre landmark estate is one of the top five public gardens in America, located 30 minutes from Baltimore and an hour and a half from Washington, D.C. It draws more than 30 thousand worldwide visitors a year. Closed now for the winter, the gardens reopen on the first of April, 2019. Be sure to check out the site map by clicking onto the link below.