The poem in the title (and below) , by Thomas Edward Brown, is carved in stone at the entrance to the private pleasure garden Ellen Biddle Shipman designed for Gertrude Seiberling at Stan Hywet Hall.
There is an innate femininity to Shipman’s gardens. As a divorced, single parent with a career at the beginning of the 20th century I can’t even imagine the prejudice she faced. When I visit her surviving gardens I am always aware of their rigid formalism tempered with softer plantings and color. Gardens are always an expressive art and bare the imprint of their makers.
During her long career, Shipman made many gardens. Some are wild, but most have an underlying formality typical of the times. The design features are always softened by other elements–much like Shipman must have been in real life.
That the garden is called the ‘English Garden’ does it a disservice. It is uniquely American both in its design and its designer. The garden is of its time and place and has been faithfully restored to Shipman’s plans.
I loved that her plan, which is shown at the garden’s entrance is very adamant about not substituting plants or features. She must have had a steel backbone to stand up and make sure her vision was realized exactly as she saw it in her mind’s eye. Plantings included boxwood, hydrangeas, espaliered apples, climbing roses, peonies, standards, iris and most suprisingly the day I was there, the native–and a personal favorite of mine–Thermopsis caroliniana.
Whenever I visit a Shipman garden or their remnants, I’m always in awe and don’t necessarily take the best photos…I’m too busy trying to get inside this woman’s head…to feel what she wanted me to feel and to learn from her all these years later.