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Show #11/1511
Afton Villa Gardens


Formal Gardens at Butler Greenwood Plantation
THE FORMAL GARDENS AT BUTLER GREENWOOD PLANTATION are typical of the gardens in the St. Francisville area. They were very much English influenced. The early planters were very affluent, very cultured people. They traveled the world. Since they lived on the Mississippi River it was easy for them to get around and they studied the great gardens of the continent when they went on grand tours or extensive honeymoons that sometimes lasted a year. And they brought back the European influences for the gardens but they had to adapt them to this very hot and humid climate by using a lot of native plants and a lot of different ideas that were indigenous to Louisiana.

Click here for more info

English Influence in the Gardens in this Area
ANNE PROVIDES SEVERAL EXAMPLES OF THE ENGLISH INFLUENCE. The gazebo is a perfect example. The color scheme is evidence of victorian English influence. They loved bright colors. The finials and the trim, the metal roof are all examples. All of the gardens in the day had gazebos, it was an important place to get out of the sun and enjoy some quiet, shady time in the gardens. And there are some wonderful, old trees. The Quercus virginiana Live Oak are wonderful trees. They're ideally suited for this climate. They have a huge root system, so they are the last trees that go down in hurricanes and they have a very broad spreading canopy thus provide a lot of shade.

Click here for more info

Entrance to Afton Villa Gardens
Richard next meets Mrs. Trimble. She introduces herself. She's Genevieve Trimble and her friends call her Gen. She asks Richard to do the same. Gen is excited and pleased to welcome Richard to Afton Villa Gardens and is anxious to show her garden to him and the GardenSMART audience. THE ENTRANCE IS INCREDIBLE. She is very proud of this area. It is considered to be one of the longest Oak alleys in existence, almost 1/2 mile. It is unique, certainly in Louisiana, because it's laid out on serpentine lines, rather than a straight line which is more usual. It's planted with 250 Live Oak trees on either side and under planted with Rhododendron indica Azalea of many different varieties and species. When in bloom one sees the purple of the Formosa, the pink of the Pride of Mobile, the white of Rhododendron mucronatom Indica alba and particularly the Azalea they feel is their own, they call it the Rhododendron Pride of Afton, Afton Villa Red Azalea.

Click here for more info

The Afton Villa Home
GEN SETS THE STAGE FOR RICHARD. This was once a 19th century Gothic villa with 41 rooms, one of the largest houses in Louisiana. But in 1790 there was just a simple house here, a typical Louisiana house. In 1836 David Barrow began to carve out a giant working cotton plantation. He became the richest, wealthiest planter in West Feliciana, living simply in the very modest house. His 2nd wife was a Kentucky belle and was used to living on a lavish scale and was not enchanted at being brought back to this modest house. They went to France and outside the city of Tulle, we're told, she saw this Gothic house or chateau which she wanted to copy. This Gothic revival style was in full sway in 1848.

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The Garden in Early Spring
IN THE EARLY SPRING they plant Tulipia Tulips which makes a formal early spring presentation. This year they planted 7,000 yellow and white tulips, then underplanted them with Viola wittrockiana and Pansies, yellow, white and blue. When they pull up the tulips, when they're spent, they have a carpet of pansies to carry over to late spring and early summer. Now it's in bloom and a romantic garden, it's lush with Petunia hybrida Petunia, that seem everywhere. The Pansies are still hanging on. They also have Iris 'Louisiana Iris' blooming in here. They plant everything to make it lush and romantic looking.

Click here for more info

Gen's Tips
GEN HAS BEEN DOING THIS A LONG TIME AND HAS A TIP. She feels inevitably one learns through experience what to do and what not to do. One of the things she would tell a gardener, whether you have a big garden or a pocket size garden is the value of journaling, of writing, having a diary and writing down each season what you love. For example the Irises are doing well. Make a note of that, refer to the notes each season. If Gen had had a journal from Mrs. Barrow, the original woman who laid out this garden in 1848, if she had only had her vision it would have enabled Gen and been a considerable help in restoring this garden. Secondly, especially in an historic garden, don't obliterate the footprint of the garden. That has been their philosophy, plant whatever they please, even superimpose their own ideas on the garden, but never, never obliterate the original footprint of the garden. Another thing, after the formality of the tulips, after they decline with all these many things going on, things tend to get a little out of hand.

Click here for more info

Formal Garden
IT'S A BIT MORE FORMAL, but at the same time restful and very organized looking. This is the original partier, looking very much today the way it did when laid out in 1849. The house was on the top of 7 graded terraces, terraces that go all the way to the ravine ending down by the little stream. The path they're on was originally gravel as were all the paths in the garden. In the 1940's brick was put in, but the brick retaining wall is original. It's laid out on symmetrical and asymmetrical lines. On the left side one wanders through little paths that have hydrangeas and Camellias and a lot of 19th century plants. To the right is the maze which was the playground for the children of Afton Villa to run in and play.

Click here for more info

Music Garden
The next garden has a completely different feel and that's because GEN CREATED THIS GARDEN. It was not originally here. The 7 terraces that started at the upper ruins then came all the way down into the ravine. The last of the terraces, the 7th terrace had fallen into the ravine when she came here. This spot was just a mud hole. But they knew something had been here at one point in time because there are old steps leading off to another garden. They began making this space and started with cherubs, little nymphs. Someone said they look like nymphs that have come out of the forest to play music. So, they call this the music room. In the spring it's arraigned with Azaleas and Daffodils. Now it's coming into another phase with the blooming Hydrangea, the white caladiums that they're about to plant, the Lilium candidum, as well as white Begonias and Impatiens and white pieces of furniture. The succession of plants works well.

Click here for more info

 

LINKS:

Garden Smart Plant List

Afton Villa Gardens

Butler Greenwood Plantation & Bed and Breakfast

The Spirit of St. Francisville

Giles Subaru

St. Francisville, Louisiana

Plant of the Week


Complete transcript of the show.

11/1511. Afton Villa Gardens
Garden plants may change over time but gardening ideas and principles for the most part stay the same. In this Episode GardenSMART visits gardens in St. Francisville, Louisiana that date to the 1700's and 1800's in search of great gardening tips that you can apply in your backyard today.

Many times when one visits a garden they see the results of 1 generation, possibly 2. GardenSMART is visiting Butler Greenwood Plantation where we see the results of 7 generations. Richard meets Anne Butler who points out that her children are the 8th generation of her family to live here. They feel a great commitment to maintain the property and the gardens for future generations.

Anne is a writer, specializing in the history and the culture and heritage of the area, including the gardens which are indicative of the history and traditions of the state and this particular part of it, which is unique in the south and in Louisiana. Anne has written a book entitled The Spirit of St. Francisville which really provides the feel of the area and brings in a lot of the history and heritage, including the gardening traditions of the area. St. Francisville is a very unique part of Louisiana. They call this English Louisiana. This side of the Mississippi River, the east side, was not part of the Louisiana Purchase from France. This side of the river stayed with Spanish West Florida until after the early settlement had taken place. The Spanish government used land grants in this area to stabilize the area and offered them to Anglos who wanted to leave the east coast after the Revolutionary War. That brought in early settlers who were not young pioneers. They were older, already established people with the means to start the early plantations and stick with them, which was a huge commitment. They built the beautiful houses and gardens to enhance the properties. And Anne feels we're very fortunate to still have a number of those properties in existence today.

Anne provides some gardening history. THE FORMAL GARDENS AT BUTLER GREENWOOD PLANTATION are typical of the gardens in the St. Francisville area. They were very much English influenced. The early planters were very affluent, very cultured people. They traveled the world. Since they lived on the Mississippi River it was easy for them to get around and they studied the great gardens of the continent when they went on grand tours or extensive honeymoons that sometimes lasted a year. And they brought back the European influences for the gardens but they had to adapt them to this very hot and humid climate by using a lot of native plants and a lot of different ideas that were indigenous to Louisiana. There was a lot of worldly influence but a lot of local flavor as well. It was a great combination. Louisiana is the Gumbo State and one will see a lot of combinations of cultures in the history and also in the gardening. Many of the plantations had live-in gardeners. At Butler Greenwood there was an Irish gardener who lived in. But there were also a number of very talented slaves on the plantations who were very accomplished horticulturists, not only with ornamental plants but with the cash crops. And they propagated plants and developed new varieties. There were some very experienced and wonderful people

Butler Greenwood is unique because Anne's family has lived here for 8 generations. These are enduring gardens, some plants have been here 200 years, many at least 150 years. So these are heritage gardens and they try to keep them up. Anne's grandmother, for example, has 20 gardeners, Anne has one 83 year old yardman. But these plants have survived hurricanes, droughts, freezes and storms. And as she is cleaning up after a hurricane, assessing the damage and devastation she thinks - well, I'm not the first one who has had to clean this up and, hopefully, I won't be the last.
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ANNE PROVIDES SEVERAL EXAMPLES OF THE ENGLISH INFLUENCE. The gazebo is a perfect example. The color scheme is evidence of victorian English influence. They loved bright colors. The finials and the trim, the metal roof are all examples. All of the gardens in the day had gazebos, it was an important place to get out of the sun and enjoy some quiet, shady time in the gardens. And there are some wonderful, old trees. The Quercus virginiana Live Oak are wonderful trees. They're ideally suited for this climate. They have a huge root system, so they are the last trees that go down in hurricanes and they have a very broad spreading canopy thus provide a lot of shade. They're also a very good example of the English influence in planting style in this area. The early plantations had Live Oaks scattered around the gardens in groves all across the grounds. Later as they built their Greek revival houses in the 1830's and 40's one saw the Live Oaks concentrated along the entrance avenues, which was like the French allay. Live Oaks are very slow growing, one doesn't plant a Live Oak for your generation, one must be foresighted. The oaks are good examples of survivors and some of the gardens in the area are as well and, in fact, some of the gardens have saved some of the plantations. Even when the houses were gone the gardens have endured. Anne knows GardenSMART is going to visit Afton Villa Gardens. It is a perfect example of this.
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Richard next meets Mrs. Trimble. She introduces herself. She's Genevieve Trimble and her friends call her Gen. She asks Richard to do the same. Gen is excited and pleased to welcome Richard to Afton Villa Gardens and is anxious to show her garden to him and the GardenSMART audience. THE ENTRANCE IS INCREDIBLE. She is very proud of this area. It is considered to be one of the longest Oak alleys in existence, almost 1/2 mile. It is unique, certainly in Louisiana, because it's laid out on serpentine lines, rather than a straight line which is more usual. It's planted with 250 Live Oak trees on either side and under planted with Rhododendron indica Azalea of many different varieties and species. When in bloom one sees the purple of the Formosa, the pink of the Pride of Mobile, the white of Rhododendron mucronatom Indica alba and particularly the Azalea they feel is their own, they call it the Rhododendron Pride of Afton, Afton Villa Red Azalea. Dr. Robert Louis was here in 1915, planted them all along this avenue, propagating them from specimens that he found in the original 1849 garden. Now they're here by the thousands, all through the grounds. Richard feels this is a great beginning and can't wait to see more. And Gen thinks it's going to be fun for her to take him through the gates and into her garden.
Top

GEN SETS THE STAGE FOR RICHARD. This was once a 19th century Gothic villa with 41 rooms, one of the largest houses in Louisiana. But in 1790 there was just a simple house here, a typical Louisiana house. In 1836 David Barrow began to carve out a giant working cotton plantation. He became the richest, wealthiest planter in West Feliciana, living simply in the very modest house. His 2nd wife was a Kentucky belle and was used to living on a lavish scale and was not enchanted at being brought back to this modest house. They went to France and outside the city of Tulle, we're told, she saw this Gothic house or chateau which she wanted to copy. This Gothic revival style was in full sway in 1848. So she brought her architect, her landscape gardener and they labored 8 years building this house and laying out the gardens. And they were able to live here in great style and splendor through the civil war. Afterwards it fell to a succession of owners, it went through world wars and depressions only to burn to the ground in 1963. For years Gen and here husband would pass by this property on their way to Naches and were always intrigued by how romantic it was. Thus when it burned they were devastated. Years later, on hot August day in 1972 they pushed open the gates and lamented what was going to happen to this property. There were 250 acres and felt someone would buy it, level it and make a giant subdivision. Gen thought it would be nice if someone would buy it, not to rebuild the 41 room house, but only to save the wonderful 19th century garden. And before they knew it, they had done it. And, it's phenomenal, it's the epitome of a romantic garden.
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Gen has always loved to garden, her mother was a gardener but she didn't get seriously into gardening until she and Bud, her husband, moved to New Orleans. She first became a member of the Garden Club of America, then went out to volunteer in the old botanical garden in City Park in New Orleans. It was in derelict condition initially. But Gen became involved and was President of the foundation for 25 years. The gardens at Afton Villa just seemed a natural extension. They started excavating, getting tons of rubble out of what was a snake pit. It was literally a snake pit. Now, IN THE EARLY SPRING they plant Tulipia Tulips which makes a formal early spring presentation. This year they planted 7,000 yellow and white tulips, then underplanted them with Viola wittrockiana and Pansies, yellow, white and blue. When they pull up the tulips, when they're spent, they have a carpet of pansies to carry over to late spring and early summer. Now it's in bloom and a romantic garden, it's lush with Petunia hybrida Petunia, that seem everywhere. The Pansies are still hanging on. They also have Iris 'Louisiana Iris' blooming in here. They plant everything to make it lush and romantic looking. But then it becomes a more "cottagey" type garden for the summer. But Gen always keeps it low key, with blue, yellow and white flowers, although sometimes a little pink comes in. But she uses low key colors. And it works beautifully.

If you're thinking about creating a bit more romance in your garden make sure to develop some intimate spaces that are small. You should not be able to see the entire garden from any one spot. Also, make sure that all of the plants overlap and intertwine. And use muted tones, blues and purples work very well.
Top

GEN HAS BEEN DOING THIS A LONG TIME AND HAS A TIP. She feels inevitably one learns through experience what to do and what not to do. One of the things she would tell a gardener, whether you have a big garden or a pocket size garden is the value of journaling, of writing, having a diary and writing down each season what you love. For example the Irises are doing well. Make a note of that, refer to the notes each season. If Gen had had a journal from Mrs. Barrow, the original woman who laid out this garden in 1848, if she had only had her vision it would have enabled Gen and been a considerable help in restoring this garden. Secondly, especially in an historic garden, don't obliterate the footprint of the garden. That has been their philosophy, plant whatever they please, even superimpose their own ideas on the garden, but never, never obliterate the original footprint of the garden. Another thing, after the formality of the tulips, after they decline with all these many things going on, things tend to get a little out of hand. They have found that if they simply put in some stylized plantings, such as the very clipped Buxus Boxwood it adds structure to the garden. Plus they have pots throughout the garden, for example pots of Verbena 'Homestead Verbena,' these, too, bring the garden together. They make a point-counterpoint, a formality vs. informality which makes a garden very interesting. It works. This garden is certainly fascinating.
Top

Gen and Richard move to another part of the garden. IT'S A BIT MORE FORMAL, but at the same time restful and very organized looking. This is the original partier, looking very much today the way it did when laid out in 1849. The house was on the top of 7 graded terraces, terraces that go all the way to the ravine ending down by the little stream. The path they're on was originally gravel as were all the paths in the garden. In the 1940's brick was put in, but the brick retaining wall is original. It's laid out on symmetrical and asymmetrical lines. On the left side one wanders through little paths that have hydrangeas and Camellias and a lot of 19th century plants. To the right is the maze which was the playground for the children of Afton Villa to run in and play. If a child comes here today, the maze is still a magnet and children are drawn to it. Richard likes the fact that this is so axial and thinks that it's important for any gardener and garden to have symmetry and a nice long view like this. It works well. Something to think about whether on a quarter of acre or several acres is the ability to look from one end to the other. So find a bench or gazebo, for example, and put it in a corner, but allow yourself that view of the entire garden for that great long view.
Top

The next garden has a completely different feel and that's because GEN CREATED THIS GARDEN. It was not originally here. The 7 terraces that started at the upper ruins then came all the way down into the ravine. The last of the terraces, the 7th terrace had fallen into the ravine when she came here. This spot was just a mud hole. But they knew something had been here at one point in time because there are old steps leading off to another garden. They began making this space and started with cherubs, little nymphs. Someone said they look like nymphs that have come out of the forest to play music. So, they call this the music room. In the spring it's arraigned with Azaleas and Daffodils. Now it's coming into another phase with the blooming Hydrangea, the white caladiums that they're about to plant, the Lilium candidum, as well as white Begonias and Impatiens and white pieces of furniture. The succession of plants works well. The strong early colors, the yellows and so forth, kind of warms one up. Especially in the shade, especially in this darker area, the white works well. It's also cooling in hot weather and it glows like a lamp. One can really see it from afar. It can be seen from the top terrace all the way down here.

If someone wanted to create a spot like this. Gen thinks they should start, like she did, with something important to the person, something they particularly like. It doesn't have to be cherubs, it could be an urn or a statue. Then begin to put in the plants, clustering them around the focal point to make it look like an intimate space. Pots help, even 2 or 3 white begonias in a pot help create an interesting space. Plant anything you like, just make a little room. It's a termination spot when strolling through the garden, have chairs to sit down and rest and look at your garden. It's an easy idea, anyone can do it.

Richard opines: Earlier in the show at Butler Greenwood when talking with Anne Butler she mentioned that the English would plant a lot of their large trees in groves, such as behind our gardeners. At the entrance to the garden the French influence was evident because the trees were planted in straight lines or allays. This garden is a living museum and tribute to many different garden styles all over the world. It's a fascinating garden but it must be a tremendous amount of work. Gen responds: Her motivation when they 1st came here was to save this valuable 19th century Louisiana garden. But as she's worked and toiled for 37 years, she has a broader vision of this space. She's come to the realization of how many people have worked like she has through generations, since 1849. They've worked and toiled in this garden, working through all sorts of tragedies, vicissitudes, through war, through economic distress, depressions and tragedies, family tragedies and yet this land has emerged, even with the fire of the house, it has risen Phoenix-like out of the ruins. And it's this concept of the healing of nature, of coming in and healing again, making it whole again, not only the landscape, but yourself that motivates Gen. And, that's what keeps her going. Gen feels she has put quite a bit into this garden, 37 years of effort. But she feels that her efforts have been returned 4-fold. Richard says that's spoken like a true gardener, great tips for gardeners but importantly for life.

It's an incredible space. This space owes Gen a lot. It's what it is because of Gen. She isn't sure about that but can say unequivocally that one of the joys for her is to have someone come into her garden and being able to share her garden. She enjoyed this very much.

And all of us at GardenSMART enjoyed Afton Villa Garden and the opportunity to spend time with Gen Trimble. It's an experience we won't soon forget. It's definitely worth a trip to Louisiana to visit Afton Villa Gardens and be sure to look for Mrs. Trimble.
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LINKS:

Garden Smart Plant List

Afton Villa Gardens

Butler Greenwood Plantation & Bed and Breakfast

The Spirit of St. Francisville

Giles Subaru

St. Francisville, Louisiana

Plant of the Week

 
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