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      

Wickliffe, the Castle at Maryvale and Its Gardens by Carlisle Hashim

Maryvale Castle, credit Carlisle Hashim
Maryvale Castle, credit Carlisle Hashim
Wickliffe Castle, a home designed by Baltimore architect Wilson L. Smith, was built for Dr. and Mrs. Walter Wickes in 1912.  The 182 acre estate was originally owned by Charles Carroll, a Marylander and only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. It replicates a late medieval castle similar in design to Warwick Castle in England.  Tudor in style, its paneling, lead paned windows, porte cochere, turrets and tower cost $250,000 upon completion.  Located north of Baltimore City, the Castle is now Maryvale's Castle, a building like no other in a large radius of private schools.  Maryvale Preparatory School is a private Catholic girl school for grades 6-12.  
Picture credit: Maryvale Preparatory School Leaded glass doors lead to a raised terrace overlooking pristine woods.  To the side of the terrace is the boxwood garden, a garden that appears to be original to the house. Other designs by Wilson L. Smith do not shed light on the design of Wickcliffe's boxwood garden.  Had the Wickes wanted to replicate their garden to be of late Medieval bordering early Renaissance period, certainly boxwood would have been used.  One descends from the stone terrace at Maryvale to the sunken boxwood garden.  At the far corners are small stone turrets, five, six steps high.  Late pictures show a tilted umbrella with garden furniture, to afford other terraced views.   The boxwood room is probably close to 100 years old and is in good condition.  There is a maize.  One thinks of Hampton Courts, England, home of Henry VIII.  In "A Garden Walk," a book written by Adelma Grenier Simmons, she notes that the smell of box can be annoying or not.  But, she believes that "Queen Anne, who at Hampton Court, had all the magnificent boxwood cut because she didn't like the smell ... wantonly destroyed years of growth." IMG_0130 Was there an herbal garden surrounded by knots of box when the Wickes laid out their beds?  Pollen tests would be necessary to determine what herbs were grown before the boxwood became so big that they were the only specimen.  The Maryvale students are in good company.   Monks, Shakespeare, and European royalty if dreamt of boxwood were "assured ... of long life, prosperity and a happy marriage," as quoted by Mrs. Adelma Grenier Simmons of Caprilands Herb Farm in Coventry, Connecticut.  

Mushroom Compost and Community Gardening in Baltimore, MD

To these ten little feet, we call it Mushroom Dirt.  Grown-ups call it compost! Picture courtesy of CarlisleFlowers
To these ten little feet, we call it Mushroom Dirt. Grown-ups call it compost!
Picture courtesy of CarlisleFlowers
Shame, shame on us- fried chicken, spicy no less for Sunday dinner.  No veggies except coleslaw.  Hubbie in line for the family style box, movement to my left compelled me to get out of the car.  100 yards away were neighbors from the Radford-Winston area of North Baltimore (near Loyola College ) who were divvying up their vegetables for the week.  Every Sunday afternoon that is what they do, take their bounty from the raised framed rectangles and squares and enjoy their urban raised produce for the week.  This ritual lasts from April to November.  I suspect that it lasts all year long with talk of what seeds they'll use next year, how will they rotate crops, and how will they rotate gardeners cum farmers. There is a hedge between the fried chicken parking lot and this half acre cultivated land.  Doesn't that sound nice, "Cultivated Land" as if the very fact of tilling, seeding and growing bounty gives the land a higher meaning.  Musing aside, children ran here and there.  A spokeswoman for the group pointed to the elevated sprinkler attached to a pole.  The children raced between the mist and what was left of the mushroom compost.  Its color, darker than dark compelled further inspection.  In fact if I wasn't being beckoned to the car, my shoes would be off and running straight for that mushroom dirt too.          

The Johns Hopkins University’s Evergreen Museum & Library House Beautiful Series, Hillwood: Living Artfully with Marjorie Merriweather Post.

The Johns Hopkins University's Evergreen Museum & Library concluded its House Beautiful Series with “Hillwood: Living Artfully with Marjorie Merriweather Post” .  The Executive Director of Hillwood House and Gardens, Kate Markert marked  the storied life and career of the "American Empress" Ms. Post.  Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress of  the Post cereal fortune, was an only child.  Her father sat her in the boardroom of his burgeoning business at an early age.  A woman of fine taste, business acumen and political savvy, she wielded considerable influence during the 20th century.  That broad timeframe continues even today after her death in 1973.  Hillwood, her home, is a Museum, in Washington, D.C., open to the public.  Ms. Markert described Marjorie Merriweather Post's singular Russian art collection including her two Imperial Faberge eggs. Like the interior of Hillwood, Ms. Post's  gardens (Noted below) are of museum quality:  French parterre, a Japanese garden and if one can call flowers a work of art, freshly cut floral arrangements from the Museum's greenhouses which daily adorn the Hillwood House.  Fittingly, from her summit lawn one can see the spire of the Washington Monument.  Kate Markert described  Ms. Post's time in Russia with her then husband,  Ambassador  Joseph Davies, and after as hostess to presidents and political leaders in her Washington Hillwood Home. Ambassador John Work and Alice Warder Garrett's Home in Baltimore, MD The Johns Hopkins University’s Evergreen Museum & Library House Beautiful Series was held in Evergreen's private theatre designed by celebrated Russian émigré Léon Bakst (1866-1924), best known for his set designs for the Ballet Russes. Built in 1858 for a Baltimore entrepreneur,  Stephen Broadbent, Evergreen belonged to the Ambassador John Work Garrett (1872-1942) and his wife Alice Warder Garrett (1877-1952).  The Garretts made their home an artistic and cultural center soon after inheriting the property in 1920. The Gardens of Hillwood, Washington, D.C. The twenty-five acre estate in northwest Washington, DC, was purchased in 1955 by cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. Between 1955 and 1957, after she purchased the estate, Post hired prominent landscape architects Umberto Innocenti and Richard Webel, to expand the existing gardens. Thirteen acres of formal gardens flow from the house in a progression of “outdoor rooms.” Each of these rooms, meant to complement the 1926 Georgian mansion’s indoor spaces, is decidedly private yet connected to adjacent gardens through subtle transitional features. The layout reflects not only the design vocabulary of the landscape architects, but also the distinctive taste of Mrs. Post. The Innocenti and Webel-designed French Parterre, featuring typical formal elements of an 18th-century French garden, serves as a complement to the 18th-century French art and furnishings. Just beyond, lies the Rose Garden, redesigned by landscape architect Perry Wheeler. Other highlights of the gardens include the Shogo Myaida-designed Japanese-style Garden, a testament to the taste for oriental gardens influenced by the reintroduction of Japanese culture to America during the 1950s; the Friendship Walk, a colorful, flowering monument honoring Post’s lifetime of philanthropy; and the Lunar Lawn, a large, crescent-shaped lawn that provides a view of the Washington Monument.    

Camellias, An Exhibit at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC Phelps Collection, Irvin Department of Rare and Special Books

Phelps Collection, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of South Carolina Libraries, Columbia, SC
Phelps Collection, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of South Carolina Libraries, Columbia, SC
The camellia is the subject of an online exhibit at the University of South Carolina, Phelps Memorial Collection of Garden Books.  Mrs. Sheffield Phelps and her daughter, Claudia Lea, (1930s-1950s) the donors of the Library's collection of garden books, were past presidents of the Garden Club of South Carolina and their garden, Rose Hill,  in Aiken was well-known for its trees, shrubs and camellias.
Phelps Collection, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of South Carolina Libraries, Columbia, SC
Phelps Collection, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of South Carolina Libraries, Columbia, SC
The origin of the name, camellia, can be traced to Georg Joseph Camel, a German Jesuit missionary and pioneer botanist in the Far East (1661-1706).  Another German, Andreas Cleper  brought back dried camellia specimens from Japan in the 1680s.  He named the plant, Thea chinensis.  The German botanical artist, Ehret used the Japanese name for the camellia plant, tsabekki.  The second colored plate shown here of the camellia ( images are from the Phelps Collection) was painted by George Edwards and is called, the "Chinese Rose" in Lord Petre Stoves at Thorndon Hall in Essex garden.  Edwards said, "I drew from nature, this beautiful flaming tree." This article was extracted from the text of Patrick Scott, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections.

Rosemary Verey’s Gardens and Life Lessons Talk by Barbara Paul Robinson at Ladew Topiary Gardens

Ladew Topiary Gardens, My Lady's Manor Awaits, photo: CarlisleFlowers
Ladew Topiary Gardens, My Lady's Manor Steeple Chase Awaits, photo: CarlisleFlowers
Barbara Paul Robinson delighted the audience today with a talk about her book entitled, "Rosemary Verey, The Life and Lessons of a Legendary Gardener."  Ms. Verey, an author of 18 garden books, began her gardening career after a bad riding accident in the Cotswolds, England.  She wrote her first book at age 62; Ms. Robinson gave hope to her audience that a good gardener is not constrained by time. The jacket cover of Ms. Robinson's book shows the classic view of Rosemary Verey's garden, through five trellised laburnum (golden rain tree) reigning down and purple alliums reaching high.  Ms. Verey believed that the garden should look good all year round said Ms. Robinson, and Verey's knot gardens in the winter, reminiscent of Elizabethan times, looked lovely, their greens intertwined with a dust of snow. Barbara Robinson had the good fortune of gardening with Rosemary at her estate, Bornsley House in the Cotswolds.  The author showed the audience pictures of American gardens that Verey designed.  She was frequently inspired by other gardens which lead her to create The Becks Gardens in Lexington, Kentucky, and a potager garden for the New York Botanical Garden which is still in the design stage.  Prince Philip and Sir Elton John sought the advice and designs for their respective gardens.  Rosemary Verey's name invokes herbaceous borders and the author was quick to point out that in order to plant in layers Ms. Verey ripped much of her plant material out to constantly plant again. Like Rosemary Verey whose husband was an architect, Barbara Robinson's lovely gardens in Northern Connecticut are built with the follies, bridges and trellises that her husband designed and crafted. A book signing by the author, Barbara Paul Robinson of, "Rosemary Verey, the Life and Lessons of a Legendary Gardener" followed with light refreshments in the Ladew Studio filled with pictures of Harvey Ladew, his books and window views of the hunt country, indeed a fine venue for a fine book.

Wonky Conker Tree and Helping Hand, Bideford Quay, England

Wonky Conker Tree, credit:  Tom Arno
Wonky Conker Tree and Helping Hand, credit: Tom Arno
The “Helping Hand”, which holds up the “Wonky Conker tree," near Kingsley Statue on Bideford Quay in England, very nearly didn’t happen at all.  Some years before  its construction, it was decided to chop down the mature trees on the riverbank in order to facilitate the building of the new car park. Many trees were sawn down on a Sunday before an outraged public became aware of the destruction.  One brave fellow sat by the “Wonky Conker”, successfully to save it from the chainsaws. A few years later, Doug Jenkin of Torridge District Council telephoned me, explaining that the “Wonky Conker” was in need of some physical support.  He asked me if I had any ideas. After mulling things over, we came up with the idea of a hand thrusting through the paving stones to support the large horizontal branch.  This idea was eventually approved and I set to work. I bought some large lengths of oak from Torridge Hardwoods in Littleham, and with help and advice from my friend Barry Hughes, I worked out how to undertake the project.  Firstly, the branch was supported by a metal prop that had been set into the ground.  I then constructed the sleeve around the prop.  The next stage was to form the fingers from individual lengths of oak and bolt them all together.  Finally, the fingers, palm and thumb of the hand were set into the sleeve. The “Helping Hand” project was covered in the local press, including an illustration of what was proposed.  At this stage, a lady called Mrs Mayhew contacted Torridge District Council to say that she would like to pay for its construction, in memory of her late husband Samuel.  This is why the initials S.T.M. and dates 1914-2000 were carved into the cuff. The “Helping Hand” has been supporting the “Wonky Conker” for ten years.  It is well weathered and has become a much photographed landmark.   I hope that it will continue to give pleasure to Bidefordians and visitors for years to come. John Butler. (See more of John’s work at his studio in Butchers’ Row,  Bideford Pannier Market).
-And very good it looks, too - as does the site.   John Butler, Bideford's long-established & well respected woodcarver (and author of the article) -