The gardens at the Mansion were created to represent two time periods during the Victorian era. The northwest triangle of the garden was based on the philosophy and designs of Andrew Jackson Downing’s book The Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, 1841. Frank Scott’s book Art of Beautifying Suburban Grounds, 1870, was the inspiration for the southeast portion of the garden. Nationally renowned landscape architect Reed Engle designed the Mansion gardens using precepts from these books.
The Downing Garden
Before the Civil War, landscape gardening in America reflected the styles fostered by the English garden designers of the early Victorian Era. America’s most influential landscape gardener at this time was Andrew Jackson Downing. Downing had two main approaches to the design of the landscape garden surrounding a home – the Beautiful and the Picturesque. Within the Picturesque he includes a Gothic mansion such as Maxwell. Downing believed that a single color should be used in each bed, although not always the same plants. For example, the Mansion’s purple bed features ageratum and lavender; whereas, begonias and candytuft fill the white bed. Downing did not believe in foundation plantings as the English felt such plants trapped moisture thus causing disease.
The Scott Garden
Frank Scott dedicates his book to the memory of A.J. Downing, his friend and instructor, this book is dedicated, with affectionate remembrance, by the author. Scott believed firmly in a well trimmed lawn, stating a smooth, closely shaven surface of grass is by far the most essential element of beauty on the grounds of a suburban home. Scott preferred the transparency of iron fencing; the Mansion displays such fencing. The use of fruit trees close to the house is shown in Scott’s plans many times over; therefore, the Mansion garden features two apple trees, a pear tree and a cherry tree along with a grape arbor and run of red currents, all protected by an arborvitae screen. Another feature of the 1870 Mansion garden is a hemlock arch formed by two hemlock trees trained together. Scott’s ribbon garden was revived in 2016.