Sabine Hall and the Chesapeake Falling Garden by Mollie Ridout

Sabine Hall, Courtesy Mollie Ridout
Sabine Hall, Courtesy Mollie Ridout
Mollie Ridout, Director of Horticulture for the Historic Annapolis Foundation and of the William Paca House in Annapolis, Maryland, writes of the distinctive style of gardening found in the mid-18th to early 19th century, the Falling Garden. Her article which appears in the quarterly newsletter of The Southern Garden History Society (Fall 2011, XXIV) describes the terraced gardens of Sabine Hall in Virginia overlooking the Rappahannock River as slopes between terraces or flats.  Ms. Ridout notes that the landowner Landon Carter who built his garden in 1710-1778, was probably influenced by the English garden writers of the day, Philip Miller and Batty Langley.  The Tidewater style of gardening was more formal than naturalistic.  The falling terraces were "...steeply sloping landscapes ... a series of flats and falls ... with a central path six feet wide ... (which) ...connected the levels by a grass ramp." The landowners of the times "wanted a high order of control of the landscape, the ongoing struggle of American land-owners to overcome chaos of nature," Ridout concludes.

Coleus Sunshine

Sunshine Coleus, CarlisleFlowers permission
Sunshine Coleus, credit:CarlisleFlowers
It's Mother's Day weekend and the gardening mother is taken by the non-gardening father to Cylburn Arboretum's Annual Market Day.  We went directly to the hothouse where it was single file down the line of annuals propagated by the City of Baltimore's citizens, friends and staff.  The choice of coleuses was overwhelming.  My husband stood tall and guarded our picks because swooping hands were flying low.  I asked for his advice trying to arrange a tall center plant, a medium size spreading plant and a trailer for my containers.  Yet my dear one spied the hot lick of the day, the Sunshine Coleus.  Going against all the rules I bought three for each planter and will have only a mounded grouping.  They are so gorgeous I'm not sure anything could pair with them.
Cylburn Arboretum, Baltimore, MD, Courtesy: Cylburn Arboretum Association
Cylburn Arboretum, Baltimore, MD, Courtesy: Cylburn Arboretum Association
Upon leaving (with dollars to spare!), I happily told hubby that these coleuses, brassy bold, were favorites of the Victorians.  He asked if they were annuals.  "Yes," I said.  "Can we get them back?" he wanted to know.  "Only if we come to Cylburn next year.  And hon, (so Baltimorese) I'm so glad you picked them out."  "See," as people admired our cache on the way out, "all gardeners smile at each other.  They don't need to talk about anything else but flowers and trees.
1870 English Victorian Garden, Courtesy, The Flower Museum, London, England
1870 English Victorian Garden, Courtesy, The Flower Museum, London, England
St. Louis Victorian Garden, Courtesy: Missouri Botanical Garden
Victorian Garden, Courtesy: Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO
www.cylburnassociation.org www.gardenmuseum.org.uk