I was fortunate to be at the House of the Seven Gables on this past Thursday, which really felt the first day of Spring in Salem: sunny, breezy, glorious. The Gables garden is always lovely, but on this day it looked stunning, and Mrs. Emmerton’s favorite lilacs and the wisteria arbor hadn’t even popped yet! The setting helps–the stark buildings of the Gables campus and Salem Harbor make perfect backdrops–but I think the structure makes this garden: I’m a sucker for raised beds and diagonal paths. This was the essential design that architect Joseph Everett Chandler laid out during the Gables’ restoration/recreation at the beginning of the twentieth century, although this structure seems overwhelmed by vibrant plantings in the many “garden view” postcards of the House published in the first half of the twentieth century. In any case, the garden is much more the creation of noted landscape architect and Salem native (and lifelong resident) Daniel J. Foley, a 1935 graduate of the University of Massachusetts who went on to become the editor of Horticulture magazine, the author of scores of books and articles on various aspect of gardening, a broadcaster, and long-time steward of the Gables garden, which is a living memorial to his life and work. From the 1960s, Foley enhanced the structure of the garden with mature boxwoods, and reinforced its colonial ambiance with period plants. In several of his writings, Foley reveals the inspiration that “old Salem gardens” had on his craft and his career: when I first began to explore the plant realm, I remember a visit I made one warm afternoon in June was to an old Salem garden where sweet William and foxgloves, delphiniums and Canterbury bells, ferns and sweet rocket and a host of other plants flourished in a series of meandering borders (1933). This is exactly the sense of time and place that pervades the Gables garden today.
The Gables Garden c. 1900, before Chandler’s raised beds, and in the 1950s, before Mr. Foley’s stewardship; Mr. Foley in a 1955 photograph and the first of his bestselling garden books–this one seems to have been constantly in print for over 20 years!
And the garden on this past Thursday: tulips just going out, lilacs just coming in, wisteria arbor, amazing Solomon’s Seal which the camera can’t quite capture……
The house and the view of the garden from the house, resident cat, on the way out…
May 14th, 2016 at 10:14 am
WOW!1 Thank you for the beautiful pictures! I can almost smell the beautiful flowers and the ocean !
May 14th, 2016 at 10:17 am
You’re welcome, Francis. It was a beautiful day! Today too.
May 14th, 2016 at 12:40 pm
Hi Donna, what a lovely reflection with gorgeous pics. Love those flowers too.
I have two special memories of the House of the Seven Gables.
I was there when the Nathanial Hawthorne commemorative stamp was issued on July 8, 1983 (had to look it up) – 20¢ yet. Many of Hawthorne’s descendants were present from all over the county. I am not into stamps, but love Hawthorne. Impressive gathering.
A few years later a cousin of mine was married in the garden at the House – on a lovely summer evening. Really unforgettable.
Thanks for sharing….
May 14th, 2016 at 2:05 pm
Thanks for sharing your memories, Helen; my own wedding reception was right there on the lawn between the garden and the sea, so I know just what you mean!
May 14th, 2016 at 1:50 pm
Yes i see what you mean – those raised beds must be so fragrant.. I love your garden walks – thank you for this great Hit of colour on a gloomy cold day.. c
May 14th, 2016 at 2:06 pm
Oh, I’m sorry–beautiful here, hopefully headed west!