The Magic of the Ladew Topiary Gardens

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

Chinese Proverb: "If you want to be happy for a week, take a wife, if you want to be happy for a month kill your pig, but if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden."

I think that undervalues the wife and perhaps overvalues the pig <G>, but there is no question that gardens create happiness.  Which is how the Ladew Topiary Gardens came into being in Monkton, Maryland, about half an hour north of Baltimore.

Overview of the gardens

Harvey S. Ladew, creator of the gardens, was born in 1887 to a New York family rich enough to allow him to indulge his passions: fox hunting and topiary, which is the art of shaping live shrubs into ornamental shapes.  Unlike carving wood or stone, though, shrubs keep on growing so maintaining a topiary is a constant effort, even more than most gardens.  (See the fellow pruning on the right.) Pruning at Ladew

Harvey Ladew studied art, served in the US Army in WWI, and spent many happy winters fox hunting in the UK. But though he lived to nearly 90, knew many famous people, and lived a full, rich life, his lasting legacy is his topiary garden.  

Since we had an out of town visitor a week ago, we took her to Ladew and were able to enjoy the garden in its autumn glory.  There is a very European feel, not surprising given how much time Ladew spent in Europe.  He wanted two alleys to create long views, and they cross at the Great Bowl, where concerts are held by Ladew's oval swimming pool.  

Autumn in the gardenThere are fifteen garden "rooms" with themes such as the Rose Garden, the Keyhole Garden, and the Water Lily Garden.  There is also a café that was built in Harvey Ladew's old horse stables.  (The farm he bought to create his garden just happens to be right next to the local hunt club.  Yes, Maryland has them.)

Autumn hydrangea

Most of the pictures here were taken by me, except for the grand overview above, which was taken from the website.  I've visited Ladew a number of times over the years, including for such delights as the concert by a Scottish bagpipe band.  

Because topiary fascinates me, I borrowed from Ladew in my gardening book, The Wild Child. My heroine, Lady Meriel Grahame, is considered mad because of traumatic childhood experiences.  She doesn't talk and she spends her life creating gardens at the family estate she inherited. (Until the hero comes along, of course!)

Her gardens included topiary sculptures I'd seen at Ladew, including the famous fox hunting scene below.  (Like most Americans, I'm on the side of the fox and he seems to be gleefully escaping in the lower picture.  

The green hunt 






Happy fox escaping


Strolling through the gardens is delightful on a pleasant day.  There are small sculptures and benches where visitors can sit and commune with nature.  And this being a garden, the surroundings are constantly changing as old blossoms fade and new ones bloom.




Cherub rejoicing
Have you seen topiary gardens?  Even tried to create topiary yourself yourself?  Do you enjoy looking at topiary sculptures?  I'll give a copy of The Wild Child to someone who leaves a comment here about gardens you've loved in general, or about topiary in particular!

Brilliant berries at LadewMary Jo