Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Garden Estate

"Would you like to see some of our caterpillars?" was the question that Amy, the head gardener at Longue Vue Gardens in New Orleans, posed to us.

We had just left the parking lot and were headed to the office to purchase tickets to tour the gardens.

But we quickly accepted Amy's invitation and were introduced to some of the butterflies-to-be. She had wrapped lattice bags around the end of several branches on one tree, and in each there were 3-6 caterpillars.

Following the special welcome, we began our self-guided tour in the more typical way.

"In a city rich with beautiful gardens, Longue Vue is an unrivaled jewel. Begun in 1934 by Ellen Biddle Shipman, known as “the dean of American women landscape architects,” Longue Vue's gardens have an important place in the history of horticulture design in the United States.
"Ellen Biddle Shipman was a champion designer of gardens of the Country Place style. She possessed a keen understanding of how to successfully create the experience of a 'garden room' with an ease and expressive romanticism that made her stand out amongst her more formal contemporaries" (
We had checked the garden's web page to see what was in bloom at this time of year. Even though there was a limited variety of flowers to see in late March or early April, we decided to see the grounds.

"Because of the warm weather we've been having, everything is about a month early," was Amy's observation before we had parted company.

Our first extended stop was the Wild Garden.

"This one-acre garden designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman in 1939 is comprised of the Wildflower Walk, featuring species indigenous to Louisiana; the Iris Walk, planted with over 2500 Louisiana iris; and the Camellia Walk."

It was interesting to learn that the husband of Kathleen, whom Kate had met in the Sculpture Garden of the New Orleans City Park, played a major role in preparing the iris display through his role as the president of the state iris society.

The bee on this iris (left) added an interesting touch to this beautiful flower.

The winding paths provided a number of viewpoints of the flowers in this garden. We felt fortunate to see this many flowere in bloom this early.

The day was partly cloudy, so there were times when the sun would peek through a cloud and highlight a flower like this one in a small pond in the Wild Garden.

We then moved on to the Walled Garden. Here we found a good crop of string beans and, I think, ornamental cabbage (below). "Originally designed as a kitchen garden by Ellen Biddle Shipman in 1938-9, this vegetable garden also served as a
victory garden during WWII. Historically planted with all edible plants, this space is a great learning tool for home gardeners.
This small, peaceful area is called the Canal Garden was produced in 1967 and was inspired by a garden in Lisbon, Portugal.
In a corner of the garden is the terraced Goldfish Pond is believed to be the earliest area (1923) designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman for the Sterns.
"The area of the garden that has changed most often over time is the south side of the property. This is the Spanish Court.

"The most recent design was completed in 1967 and was based on the 14th century Generalife Gardens of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

"By the 1960s, Edith Stern had conceived of the idea of opening Longue Vue to the public. Shipman had a philosophy regarding gardening that was very much in keeping with the democratic leanings of the Sterns, who believed in using their resources to enable the self-empowerment of all individuals. Shipman said, 'Gardening opens a wider door than any that all mankind can walk through…. It has no distinctions, all are welcome.'
"Longue Vue opened its gardens to the public in 1968 and was in continuous operation until Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent levee failures flooded the property for two weeks. The flood waters killed 60% of our total plant collection, including 200 trees and shrubs, and 90% of our perennials. (But) with the help of dedicated garden staff and volunteers, July 2006, all 14 of the gardens were re-opened to the public" (

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