At 2:00 a.m. this morning I found myself absorbed in recording a May 2008 visit with my sister to Ladew Topiary Gardens. So I could get a few hours sleep, I paused overnight in the Yellow Garden (see A Favorite Garden—Ladew Topiary Gardens, Part 1). Now I am anxious to show you the rest of what we saw that lovely spring day.
In this section of the garden, the Yellow Garden, there is an iron arched tunnel covered with Laburnum and our late May visit was perfectly timed so we could admire the golden panicles as we passed underneath.
Soon we encountered the Tivoli Tea House and Garden. The Tea House was fabricated using material that once was the Tivoli Theatre’s box office facade in London. Sadly I did not get pictures of the building except as it happened to be near these flowers.
What really stood out to me in this area was the hillside below of peonies just beginning to flower. I wanted to camp out and wait to see the entire slope in full bloom.
We moved on toward the Sculpture Garden, but actually it was about here we were both tiring. My sister found a shady spot to rest while I peeked into just a few more places.
Style is such a personal thing. While I am not a big fan of whimsy in the garden, I recognize it has its place. This is a topiary garden after all and Mr. Ladew was apparently a witty person. He bought the property for fox hunting originally and near the house stands a huge topiary hunting scene (sorry, I did not get a photo of that).
In the Sculpture Garden there were lots of animal forms. On the left is a victory sign and in center is a heart and arrow. Walking around in this area one can also find Churchill’s top hat.
My favorite topiary at Ladew was a collection of swans. The yew hedge was shaped to form waves for these creatures and the hedge itself surrounds an oval pool (originally a swimming pool). This 2-acre area is known as The Great Bowl and now in summer it serves as a venue for outdoor concerts.
I will also mention another interesting use of topiary is found nearer the house in the Terrace Garden. My sister and I had passed by this scene at some point earlier. I admired the Canadian hemlock hedges in the Terrace Garden with windows cut into them and garlands draping above.
I knew my sister was waiting for me, but before I could leave Ladew I had to see the Iris Garden with over 60 iris varieties. She was very patient with me as I tried to take it all in.
It probably was here at Ladew I first saw such a rich darkly colored Iris. I cannot recall if most of the plants were labelled. I think so but made a point to learn this one’s name: Iris ‘Hello Darkness’.
Apparently designed as a lean, Tibetan Buddha I read on the Ladew website this taxus buddha in the Iris Garden is on a diet. Timidity in pruning had allowed his girth to increase. In 2011 the gardeners began a more aggressive program to streamline his shape.
After seeing the Iris Garden I reconnected with my sister. By then we were exhausted and hungry. Plans for a cafe at Ladew were not yet realized in 2008, but someone at the house gave us directions to a nearby, local establishment for fine dining. We lingered over our food, relaxing and chatting before making the drive back home.
I would love to return to this garden someday to see the rest. It was a fine mixture of long views of the estate balanced with private niches and careful details. Not bad at all for a self-trained gardener Mr. Ladew!
I always think of early spring as the yellow season, but once the irises begin to appear in May, all bets are off. I purchased ‘Hello Darkness’ last year when I visited the Shreiners Iris Gardens and can hardly wait to see how their dusky beauty will transform Delusional Drive.
How nice to have a sister who will patiently wait while you get the gardening voyeurism out of your system.
An Iris fan, Rickii? Hope to see your very own ‘Hello Darkness’ when it blooms. Bet seeing Shreiners was wonderful. I only recently even learned about it and would love to visit it. Yes, I have three wonderful sisters who put up with my garden passion very generously.
I would have hung out with you while you waited for all the peonies to bloom.
Jason, don’t you know that hill of peonies would be something to see!
I love the swans, but that sure is a lot of hedge to trim!
So true Frank. The hedge is so tall also. Unfortunately, I don’t remember any of the details about how many gardeners take care of the topiaries, but it must be a lot.
Those sculptures are all amazing! I bet the gardeners are out every evening to keep them all in trim! I love gardens that have different sections and the iris garden seems enormous. I hope you get a chance to go back one day and take the whole day to amble around. There’s a lot to take in. You picked a good time of year too, with the laburnum and irises in flower. Shame you missed the peonies. Thanks for sharing again Susie – really enjoyed this!
Cathy, so glad you liked the Ladew gardens–I’m sure the sculptures keep the gardeners busy. The iris garden was very large. As I recall it was fairly exposed and sunny, so even in May it was quite warm.
Thanks for re-living and sharing this garden; so many interesting things to see and be inspried by; I love those black Irises!
My pleasure Christina. I had forgotten how immense and varied this garden was until I started reviewing some photos, so it was a treat to “step back into it” this weekend. I believe your black iris is even darker.
Thank you for sharing these wonderful gardens. The topiary and iris gardens are amazing and I enjoyed how you told the history behind it all. I an only imagine how those peony would look in full bloom but you did get to see the buds starting and of course those beautiful iris!
Hi Lee. I’m so glad you enjoyed seeing Ladew. It’s well worth a visit. Thanks for taking time to comment. Susie
My goodness, the Topiary is marvellous Susie, I love the hedge with swans, its brilliant and it must be so satisfying to be a topiary gardener on that scale. Hello Darkness is a new Iris to me, its really lovely and inky. Mr Ladew is very creative, I hope you get to go back too Susie, can you tell me again where this lovely garden is.
Inky is a perfect description of Hello Darkness, Julie. The topiary garden is located on the east coast of the US in Monkton, Maryland, about an hour and a half drive north of Washinton, DC.
I would have hung around for the paeonies with you as well … it must be beautiful. And the hemlock hedges and Buddha are superb – thanks for letting us have a look!
I can see us all hanging around watching for those peonies Cathy! What fun!
Love the iris in the garden. There isn’t any garden that you can see everything in one trip. I fill my calendar with multiple trips to a single garden to see all the blooms.
Charlie, such a wonderful idea. I used to always want to visit art museums during travels, but now I look for gardens to explore.
The Laburnum arch is lovely. So is the viburnum beside the tea house. The hillside must have been glorious when all of the peonies were in bloom.
Thanks for mentioning the viburnum. I thought it might be viburnum, but was not sure. I agree, the peonies must really be amazing on that hill.
Beautiful beds and so creative especially the topiaries. Glad you showcased the gardens.