The New Republic Gardener

Freedom's Gardener, James F. Brown, Horticulture, and the Hudson Valley in Antebellum America, by Myra B. Young Armstead, is a book about a slave who became a master gardener and died a freeman.  James F. Brown kept diaries between 1829-1866.  Professor of History at Bard College, NY, Armstead brings to light how the citizens of the New Republic were at once making money hand over fist while trying to define what constitutes  a good United States citizen of the New Republic.  If you were a gardener and a member of a horticulture society that certainly gave you an upper hand, at least for men, and unusually so for a black man, James F. Brown who worked as a master gardener in the Hudson Valley of NY.  "Fruit, trees, shrubs, vegetables, and flowers stood as an antidote to their engagement with crude, materialistic commercial pursuits…" Professor Armstead writes in reference to these men of immigrant fathers who became merchants of import.

Tapis Vert at Villa Centinale, Sienna, Italy

Tapis vert, tapis vert, tapis vert.  You are slowly walking between columns of oak and ilex with a carpet of grass under your feet. Yes, pull away those blankets of snow. There is a gateway ahead of you.  A hermitage high on the hill.  Just climb those scala santa. Edith Wharton wrote about the tapis vert of the Villa Centinale near Sienna, Italy in the early 1900's. The villa is simple, not grand like the Roman villas.  "The glory of Centinale is its park," wrote Ms. Wharton in her book, "Italian Villas and Their Gardens" published by The Mount Press, Rizzoli. Vivian Russell in her book, "Edith Wharton's Italian Gardens" published by Bullfinch Press Book, Little, Brown & Co. , 2000, writes, "Behind the villa ... a long green walk extends between high walls.   The tapis vert leads to a crossroads." So back on the shores of the USA, what constitutes a tapis vert?  One could call it wishful thinking for some sign of grass below the white of snow.  The green that we can write home about.

“The Art of Being Nobody,” by Eric Manners, KEYS TO HAPPINESS, A Reader’s Digest Guide to Successful Living

Keys to Happiness, A Reader's Digest Guide to Successful Living copyrighted by the Reader's Digest Association in 1955 was once the property of the Hotel Rockaway.   Thanksgiving is four days away, the oak leaves on the hydrangea bush and trees hang tight in the wind of early morning light.  The provocative title by Eric Manners, "The Art of Being Nobody," was a phrase I had never heard.  Here's a paragraph from the essay:
Photo Courtesy: Hampton Mansion, National Park Service
Photo Courtesy: Hampton Mansion, National Park Service
"You're you.  If it's truly a part of the youness of you, sleep in a tree.  (Charles Waterton, the grand old English naturalist and grander individualist, used to do that every now and then.  He said it gave him the right tuning for feeling like a piece of God's creation, along with the chimpanzee and the owl.)

Rosedown Plantation, St. Francisville, South Louisiana

Rosedown Plantation, Image Courtesy of Louisiana State Parks/DCRT
Rosedown Plantation, Image Courtesy of Louisiana State Parks/DCRT

 

 

Rosedown Plantation, Image Courtesy of Louisiana State Parks/DCRT
Rosedown Plantation, Image Courtesy of Louisiana State Parks/DCRT

ROSEDOWN PLANTATION STATE HISTORIC SITE

Rosedown Plantation is located in the West Feliciana Parish community of St. Francisville along one of the most historic corridors in South Louisiana. Daniel and Martha Turnbull began construction on the main house at Rosedown in 1834, completing it by May the following year. The home was furnished with the finest pieces available, most imported from the North and from Europe. The gardens were the province of Martha Turnbull throughout her life. The Turnbulls’ honeymoon in Europe included great formal gardens of France and Italy, an influence seen in Martha's activities at Rosedown. The gardens grew out from the house over a span of many decades, to cover approximately 28 acres. In the 19th century, Rosedown was one of the few privately maintained formal gardens in the United States. A restoration of the formal gardens in the late 1950s was done by Catherine Fondren Underwood and Ralph Ellis Gunn, using Martha Turnbull’s extensive garden diaries. When possible, the same species and varieties were replanted. When plants in Martha’s inventory were discovered to be no longer available, the staff of gardeners would propagate them from plant stock surviving in the gardens. Through this process, the gardens, as well as the house, were returned to their original state.

 

A Spring, Metasequoia and Under a Maple Tree, To Drink a Garden

56 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of water from a fresh spring in Baltimore County, Md. Fresh water from a limestone base that we drank today. Can you imagine having fresh water scooped with a ladle by the spring for us to drink. To drink a garden, to see a garden, to smell a garden, to drink a garden from a spring within two to three hundred feet of a major intersection with water runoff that plummets ten feet below. Perhaps it is a testament to those metasequoia and dawn redwood trees that grow twenty-five feet higher than the surface of the spring. Their feet stick up like thumbs. The deer are drawn to their bark and then follow their path through the pipe under the road. And while contemplating the stand of 100 trees in a micro-clime that becomes awash with sand, ferns are discussed. Hundreds of ferns to plant as a backdrop to the bluestone bench far to the left, a path to be made of wood and stone, a destination there. While sitting on Greenspring stone and steps, the three of us are shaded by maple trees. Looking up to the filtered sun, the underside of the maple leaves are beautiful. Why had I never thought the leaves could be looked at from the underside and be so lovely. They were.

University of Maryland Wye House Archeology Exhibition Opens at Academy Art Museum, Easton, MD

Orangery at Wye House, Easton, MD, 1963, Photograph by Historic American Buildings Survey    University of Maryland Wye House Archeology Exhibition Opens at Academy Art Museum Easton, MD, 1963, Photograph by Historic American Buildings Survey. (Courtesy of the Wye House Collection) The historic finds from eight years of excavations at Wye House -- one of the most important and well documented plantations in Maryland -- will be on display for the first time in a major interpretive exhibition.  Joint Heritage at Wye House, co-curated by the Academy Art Museum in Easton, MD, and the University of Maryland, opens at the Museum on August 24, 2013 and continues through October 15.     Drawing on archaeological evidence from the slave quarters and from the historic Green House (later called the Orangery) at Wye House,  the exhibition contains a rare display of archival materials, household objects, books, recipe collections, maps, and artwork related to the slaves, workers and family  who lived and worked at Wye House for roughly 200 years. Organized by Anke Van Wagenberg, Museum Curator, and visiting curators Mark P. Leone, Elizabeth F. Pruitt, Benjamin A. Skolnik, and Amanda Tang from the Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland College Park, Joint Heritage at Wye House explores the co-existing African and European cultures and their creations at the plantation in the 18th and 19th centuries.  
Broken plate artifact. (Courtesy of the Wye House Collection)
Broken plate artifact. (Courtesy of the Wye House Collection)
The archaeology of Wye House spans eight years of excavations on slave quarters, slave industries, and buildings associated with the shipping of agricultural goods at the thriving plantation. The Lloyd family, founders and owners of Wye House, owned hundreds of slaves. A young Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895) lived and worked at Wye House, and later reported he first learned there what it meant to be a slave. The exhibition concentrates on the culture made by Africans and African Americans on the property, including the combined work of the Lloyds and their enslaved Africans.   One section of the exhibition includes the history of Wye House, its structures, and people, including books on architecture. A second section focuses on excavation methods, materials excavated and interpretations of the objects, while a third interprets the Green House (later called the Orangery) and its archaeological data and meaning, derived from pollen grains, food remains, and thousands of broken dishes. The Green House interpretation explores farming, domesticating new plants, and a native pharmacopeia. The section of the exhibit on the population of Wye House introduces the lives of the Lloyd family, enslaved Africans, and the free people who worked with them after the Emancipation Proclamation, and includes a searchable database drawn from previously unavailable lists of slaves, including hundreds of full names.  The ability to fully identify the historical individuals who lived and worked the plantation is a rare and remarkable feature of the exhibition.   In a related vein, historical family cookbooks will trace the introduction of local ingredients and the influence of African-American cooks in the emergence of southern cuisine.   On September 26, 2013 at 6 p.m., the Academy Art Museum in Easton, MD, will present a lecture in its Kittredge-Wilson Speaker Series entitled, “The Archaeology of Time Telling at Wye House for Black and White Production: Floral Clocks, Time and the Greenhouse,” by Professor Mark P. Leone and Elizabeth F. Pruitt, Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park.  Pollen grains found in the rooms of the greenhouse at Wye show an array of over 100 plants used for food, medicine, and household chores. This lecture sees the greenhouse not as a decoration, not as an isolated building, but as the pivot around which the woods, bogs, fields, and gardens at Wye were made to predict time, like a clock. In addition to food and medicine, the array of flowers and leafy plants in the greenhouse and in the surrounding formal garden could have been used to tell the time of day similar to the manner of a floral clock. The whole purpose of a floral clock at Wye House would be to have an independent measure of time beyond the factory bell that sent slaves to the field and the overseers’ commands that kept people there on the owner’s clock.   The exhibition is made possible by the generous support of Richard and Beverly Tilghman, the University of Maryland, College Park and the Frederick Douglass Honor Society. Additional support was provided by The Historical Society of Talbot County and The Maryland Historical Society, who generously loaned materials, as well as Patrick Rogan for exhibition design. The exhibition is made possible by funding from the Maryland Humanities Council, Maryland State Arts Council, and Talbot County Arts Council. The Museum is located at 106 South St., Easton, MD, 21601. For further information, call 410-822-ARTS (2787) or visit www.academyartmuseum.org.