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The History of Gibbs Gardens

Jim Gibbs traveled for 15 years covering the nation and the world viewing gardens of every style and decided that he wanted to design and build a world class garden. He spent six years looking for a suitable site with a strong source of water and beautiful mature trees covering a rolling topography. It was truly “a dream come true” when he found the most beautiful site in the nation to construct the garden. The property is 336 acres and the house and gardens include 300+acres, making it one of the nation’s largest residential estate gardens.

The Monet Bridge in early spring.

There is a beautiful stream flowing through the middle of the valley, with hundreds of springs intersecting the stream. The springs are surrounded by millions of naturalized ferns making it one of the largest ferneries in the nation. Native azaleas, dogwoods, and mountain laurels provide additional seasonal interest.

He has designed 24 ponds, 32 bridge crossings and 19 waterfalls. The numerous garden rooms are planted with hundreds of varieties of plants and are carved into pockets surrounded by acres of deciduous trees that provide spectacular Fall color.

The house is a mix of European architecture. The north view is reminiscent of an English manor house with Palladian windows and doors. An archway connects the summer house which overlooks the gardens and in the near distance, the north Georgia mountains.

Architectural accents were purchased in Europe prior to building and used throughout the house, including a twelve foot 14th century French limestone fireplace, 17th century French interior doors and 18th century French beveled and leaded glass doors and windows. Antique heart pine and herringbone brick floors blend nicely with the iron staircase railing and European antique furnishings.

Annuals provide long season color around the swimming pool.

The grounds around the Manor House were started in 1980 and planted with 20 to 30 year old plants and trees to provide instant age and character. Large Japanese maples, American hollies and willow oaks were planted closer to the house with vines accenting the corners. The home site is one of the highest crests in northeast Cherokee County, Georgia, capturing a beautiful view of the north Georgia mountains. The house was placed 150 feet above the water gardens and 30 feet below the crest capturing the air currents to flow through the summer house.

The gardens are composed of 16 gardens including 3 feature gardens – Manor House Gardens, Japanese and Waterlily Gardens.


Course outline

Of the Ancients and the East

In this lesson we will explore the earliest gardens made. In the West we will look at the first garden-making culture, the Egyptians, the origins of paradise in Mesopotamia before examining the gardens of Greece and Rome.

Man, God and the Garden

In this lesson we will explore what happened in the aftermath of the collapse of the Roman Empire in 476. The emergence of the Islamic garden, the European medieval garden, and the rediscovery of the Classics and the development of the Renaissance garden from its genesis in Italy and its spread across Europe.

Turning the Wheel of Fashion

In this lesson we will explore how the wheel of fashion takes a full revolution in a century-and-a-half as we explore the contrasts between nature dominated by man in the Baroque garden, the more-natural-than-nature English Landscape Garden and the artistic Picturesque and Gardenesque.

Art, Craft, Nature and Modernism.

In this the last lesson we will examine the diversity of the 19th century garden, explore the controversy of the Battle of Styles and find a solution before moving on to the 20th century, Modernism and post-Modernism.


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In 1984, J. Seward Johnson, sculptor and philanthropist, envisioned a public sculpture garden and museum in Hamilton, New Jersey. His desire was to make contemporary sculpture accessible to all, offering visitors the opportunity to become comfortable with contemporary art through a progressive and self-directed journey.

In 1986, an architectural competition was held for the design of a sculpture park to be located at the old New Jersey State Fairgrounds. The site, which had been abandoned for years, was derelict and barren except for three dilapidated exhibition buildings and fifteen gnarled maple trees. Brian Carey of AC/BC Associates in New York City was selected to be the Project Architect.

Grounds For Sculpture (GFS) was envisioned as a place to exhibit sculpture and as a garden and arboretum. The design included formal and informal aspects. Paved terraces, pergolas, and courtyards juxtaposed natural woodlands, ponds, and bamboo groves. Expanses of lawn were delineated by sculptured rose-covered berms.

Landscape construction began in 1989. Since then over 2,000 trees, representing more than 100 species and cultivars, have been planted. In addition to typical nursery stock, many plants were collected from estates and abandoned nurseries, or were salvaged from construction sites. Many of the rare and unusual trees you find here today were selected by Carey and Bruce Daniels, former GFS Facilities Director and Project Manager.

GFS opened to the public in 1992. Since that time, it has welcomed over three million guests. The sculpture park, which started on 15 acres with 15 works of art on display, has expanded to 42 acres containing nearly 300 contemporary sculptures across the ever-changing landscape. It is a work of art itself.

The interplay between sculpture and horticulture is an important part of the vision for GFS. In founder Seward Johnson’s words, the hope is that GFS will “fill people everywhere with the emotional sustenance derived from the powerful and restorative connection between art and nature.”

We invite you to read further and explore our garden features.

Click the (+) to expand each description, and view the slideshow below.


Future President Thomas Jefferson cultivates hundreds of varieties of vegetables, fruits, and flowers at his Virginia estate Monticello. Jefferson writes to artist Charles Wilson Peale, “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. I am still devoted to the garden. But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”


Garden - History

Hills & Dales Estate
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Bellingrath Gardens and Home
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Elizabeth Lawrence House & Garden
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The Southern Garden History Society is an active membership organization that raises awareness and promotes scholarship of historic gardens, cultural landscapes and horticultural history across the U.S. South. We welcome individuals, families, historic sites, public gardens or organizations interested in southern gardens and landscapes.

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Garden of the Gods

The area now known as Garden of the Gods was first called Red Rock Corral by the Europeans. [2] Then, in August 1859, two surveyors who helped to set up Colorado City explored the site. One of the surveyors, M. S. Beach, suggested that it would be a "capital place for a beer garden". His companion, the young Rufus Cable, awestruck by the impressive rock formations, exclaimed, "Beer Garden! Why, it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods." [3]
The name "Garden of the Gods" was also later given to a section of the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., filled with large sandstone rock formations, because of the area's resemblance to Colorado's Garden of the Gods. The story goes that back in the early days of Hollywood, a movie producer seeking a rocky filming location made a comment to the effect of, "Who needs to go all the way to Colorado -- we have our own 'Garden of the Gods' here!" The Iverson family took the comment to heart and began calling their own collection of rock formations the "Garden of the Gods," and the name stuck. Today the main section of Chatsworth's Garden of the Gods has also been preserved as a park.

The Garden of the Gods' red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that prehistoric people visited Garden of the Gods about 1330 BC. At about 250 BC, Native American people camped in the park they are believed to have been attracted to wildlife and plant life in the area and used overhangs created by the rocks for shelter. Many native peoples have reported a connection to Garden of the Gods, including Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota, Pawnee, Shoshone, and Ute people. [4]

Multiple American Indian Nations traveled through Garden of the Gods. The Utes' oral traditions tell of their creation at the Garden of the Gods, and petroglyphs have been found in the park that are typical of early Utes. The Utes found red rocks to have a spiritual connection and camped near Manitou Springs and the creek near Rock Ledge Ranch bordering Garden of the Gods. [4] The Old Ute Trail went past Garden of the Gods to Ute Pass and led later explorers through Manitou Springs. Starting in the 16th century, Spanish explorers and later European American explorers and trappers traveled through the area, including Lt. John C. Frémont and Lt. George Frederick Ruxton, who recorded their visits in their journals. [2]

In 1879 Charles Elliott Perkins, a friend of William Jackson Palmer, purchased 480 acres of land that included a portion of the present Garden of the Gods. Upon Perkins' death, his family gave the land to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909, with the provision that it would be a free public park. Palmer had owned the Rock Ledge Ranch and upon his death it was donated to the city. [5]

Helen Hunt Jackson wrote of the park, "You wind among rocks of every conceivable and inconceivable shape and size. all bright red, all motionless and silent, with a strange look of having been just stopped and held back in the very climax of some supernatural catastrophe." [6]

In 1995 the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center was opened just outside the park. [5]

The outstanding geologic features of the park are the ancient sedimentary beds of deep-red, pink and white sandstones, conglomerates and limestone that were deposited horizontally, but have now been tilted vertically and faulted into "fins" by the immense mountain building forces caused by the uplift of the Rocky Mountains and the Pikes Peak massif. The following Pleistocene Ice Age resulted in erosion and glaciation of the rock, creating the present rock formations. Evidence of past ages can be read in the rocks: ancient seas, eroded remains of ancestral mountain ranges, alluvial fans, sandy beaches and great sand dune fields. [7]

The resulting rocks had different shapes: toppled, overturned, stood-up, pushed around and slanted. Balanced Rock, composed of the Fountain Formation, is a combination of coarse sand, gravel, silica and hematite. It is hematite that gives the large Balanced Rock its red hue. Balanced Rock was formed as erosive processes removed softer layers near its base, eventually leaving the precarious-looking formation seen today. The Gateway Rocks, Three Graces, and other outcroppings are sedimentary layers that had been pushed up vertically. The largest outcroppings in the park, "North Gateway", "South Gateway", "Gray Rock", and "Sleeping Giant" are composed primarily of Lyons Formation, a stone made of fine sand from ancient sand dunes.

A row of hogbacks. The Kissing Camels formation is atop the nearest hogback on the right.


Garden of Eden

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Garden of Eden, in the Old Testament Book of Genesis, biblical earthly paradise inhabited by the first created man and woman, Adam and Eve, prior to their expulsion for disobeying the commandments of God. It is also called in Genesis the Garden of Yahweh, the God of Israel, and, in Ezekiel, the Garden of God. The term Eden probably is derived from the Akkadian word edinu, borrowed from the Sumerian eden, meaning “plain.”

According to the Genesis story of the creation and fall of man, out of Eden, east of Israel rivers flowed to the four corners of the world. Similar stories in Sumerian records indicate that an earthly paradise theme belonged to the mythology of the ancient Middle East.

The story of the Garden of Eden is a theological use of mythological themes to explain human progression from a state of innocence and bliss to the present human condition of knowledge of sin, misery, and death.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.


Japanese Garden History – The Evolution Of Japanese Style Gardens

In ancient times, plants were grown mostly as food crops or medicinal herbs. The average family was only interested in stocking up on food and medicine to survive yet another winter. They did not have the time or space to waste on growing plants purely for their beauty. As time progressed and societies evolved, though, it became a sign of stature in many cultures around the world to grow ornamental gardens. People with wealth or nobility decorated their properties with miniature replicas of natural landscapes they had seen in their travels. This early natural garden style has specifically endured throughout Japanese garden history for thousands of years.

Japanese Garden History

When you think of a Japanese style garden, you probably picture ponds or streams with strolling paths and bridges, vast areas of white sand or pebbles accented by large stones, and unique contorted or shaped trees or shrubs. These common elements have defined Japanese gardens for thousands of years. They represent not only yin and yang, the natural opposing forces of nature, but also the four elements – earth, air, fire and water.

In traditional Japanese gardens, areas of sand or gravel and dry creek beds represent small bodies of water, such as rivers, streams and ponds, while functioning streams and ponds in Japanese style gardens represent large bodies of water. The wavy lines raked into the sand depict the constant movement of water.

Large rocks represent mountains, while bamboo fences behind garden beds represent dense forests. Winding paths and bridges represent the path to enlightenment, or nirvana, while decorative lanterns represent all four elements in sync, guiding our way and pressing us onward.

Evolution of Japanese Style Gardens

Though nature and the elements have been represented in Japanese gardens for thousands of years, different garden styles have dominated different eras of Japanese history. The Japanese were actually the first people to print and mass produce texts on books of garden designs, making the history of Japanese garden styles easy to trace. As with most cultures, early Japanese gardens were mostly used to adorn the property of wealthy, noblemen or temples and shrines. These first gardens were designed in what is known as the Paradise Garden Style, which oftentimes included ponds with lotus flowers, arching bridges, pavilions and lots of trees. They were gardens created to honor the nature spirits.

When Buddhist monks from China came to Japan, they brought with them the concept of designing gardens to represent yin and yang, and the elements. The first Buddhist gardens of Japan were designed in the Karensansui style, which incorporated large dry rock or sand zen gardens with small inlands that contained large rocks and plants. These were sometimes huge elaborate gardens with ponds or lakes that boats could enter by passing under highly arched bridges. These Karensansui gardens were only built around Buddhist shrines.

The next popular garden style in Japanese history was the Tsukiyama Japanese garden, which incorporated hilly landscape beds, small ponds, large stones, streams or dry creek beds, bridges and meandering paths. This ancient Japanese garden style is still popular today. Tsukiyama garden styles paved the way for the Chaniwa garden, also known as the traditional Japanese tea garden. Chaniwa gardens were designed with two gardens, the outer garden and the inner garden.Visitors enter both gardens through elaborate covered gates. The outer garden contained plants, large stones and a path. The inner garden contained a gravel or sand zen garden, pond or reflecting pool, stone lanterns and the traditional Japanese tea house. At the gateway to the inner garden was a stone water basin with bamboo fountain. It was customary for visitors to wash their hands in this water basin before entering the inner tea garden. Today, the Japanese tea garden is still very popular.

The next trend in Japanese gardens was the stroll garden. Traditionally, the stroll garden was built around a pond or small lake. It included a strolling path that circled the pond where guests stroll along in a clockwise direction. The strolling path provided a clear view of the pond on one side and a dense landscape on the other side. Around this time, courtyard gardens also became a popular Japanese style. These gardens were designed as traditional Japanese style gardens, with all the elements represented, only they were designed on a much smaller level. In lieu of ponds, small fountains represented large bodies of water.

Today, many of the elements of ancient Japanese garden design are still incorporated in modern Japanese gardens. There are also more Japanese style gardens in other countries around the world than there are in Japan.


History of the Gardens

The Gardens were started as a memorial to Frank H. Presby, one of the founders of the American Iris Society and a leading citizen of Montclair. Frank Presby was an iris hybridizer and owned a fine iris collection. It was his expressed wish to give a collection of his favorite flower, the iris, to Montclair’s newly acquired Mountainside Park. Unfortunately, before he could carry out his plans, he passed away in 1924.

Three years later in 1927, Miss Katherine Inness, the first curator of the Montclair Art Museum, acted on behalf of the Montclair Museum Board and presented to the Montclair government the project of establishing an iris garden as a memorial to Mr. Presby. The proposed iris gardens would act not only as place of remembrance, but would also draw in visitors and encourage educational projects such as teaching the care, history, and hybridization of iris. The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens are the result of the collaborative efforts of the Town Council, Parks Commission, the Garden Club of Montclair, and the American Iris Society (A.I.S) under the supervision of the newly formed Citizens Committee led by its Chairperson, Barbara Walther.

Barbara Walther was a graduate from the University of Chicago with a Botany degree. In 1918 she and her husband Fred purchased the Upper Mountain property next to Mountainside Park. She was a charter member of the Montclair Women’s Club and the Garden Club of Montclair where she gave lectures and wrote a variety of articles. Mr. and Mrs. Walther were also instrumental in preserving the land for Mountainside Park and establishing the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. She remained a fixture amongst the iris well into her nineties and passed away at ninety-four in 1977, the fiftieth anniversary of The Gardens’ inception.

Listen as Barbara tells how the gardens impacted one young man in 1967.

The first irises were planted at a dedication meeting which included the Citizens Committee members and the Town Commissioners.

Several hundred supporters arrived, bringing iris plants. Some of the first plants came from Mr. Presby’s own garden as a gift from his children. Other iris plants were donated by the American Iris Society, the Kellogg Gardens, and from Great Britain, Germany, and Japan’s countrymen who were international admirers of the work being done in Montclair. Local contributors included Joseph Van Vleck who donated his Siberica Iris to the Gardens, and A. I. S. President John Wister, who laid out the garden design and helped supervise the planting with Barbara Walther. The town supplied labor and materials for The Gardens and the Citizens Committee became responsible for the management of The Gardens. They were also greatly helped by members of the Garden Club of Montclair who from the beginning gave money to secure new irises each year. Jennie Bonsal was one of the earliest supporters. She used her considerable skills to organize the iris collection into card catalogs. These cards became the basis for the bed books and database that today contain information about each iris variety and its location.

The Citizens Committee was formally incorporated in March of 1963 and purchased the Walther property in 1977. The house then became the official headquarters for The Citizens Committee of Presby Memorial Iris Gardens of Montclair, Inc.

The Gardens are always being improved. A sprinkler system was installed, making easier the care of newly planted beds and lawns. A dry creek bed was restored along the spine of The Gardens, and two handsome bridges were built to cross it. Specimen trees were planted west of the creek bed as well as various grasses around the creek. Siberian, Louisiana and Japanese irises are planted in and on the side of the creek. In 2007, a patio with memorial benches was installed at the entrance to the gardens.

In 2009, Essex County purchased the Walther House and Grounds from the Citizens Committee, saving the gardens from an uncertain future.

The Citizens Committee leases the house and grounds and continues to fund raise the cost of operating the gardens.

Also in the summer of 2009, two alumna board members helped our staff divide and replant Presby Honors September at the Essex County September 11, 2001 Memorial at Eagle Rock Reservation which overlooks the New York City skyline.


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