Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fun At The Elizabethan Gardens.

Today, Glowria, Mr. Hawthorne, and I visited the Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island for our first course - History of the Elizabethan Gardens - in a series of four.

In 1949-50, a group of people (including influential philanthropists, noted historians, and authors) visiting Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and The Lost Colony drama on Roanoke Island came up with the idea of asking The Garden Club of North Carolina to sponsor a two-acre garden for $10,000 on the 10-acre tract adjoining Fort Raleigh. The original, modest goal was to create the kind of garden a successful colonist might have built on Roanoke Island, had the colonization been successful.

In the meantime, the Garden Club learned of some very valuable statuary that was being dismantled from an estate in Georgia. Through intervention, the statuary, originally intended for the Metropolitan Museum, ended up at the historic site of the first English settlement in the New World. This "rich" find of an ancient Italian fountain and pool with balustrade, wellhead, sundial, bird baths, stone steps and benches, dating back to Pre-Elizabethan times came to Roanoke Island and The Garden Club of North Carolina, and thus completely altered the original concept of the garden.

Construction on the gardens began on June 2, 1953, the day Queen Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of England. The New York landscape firm of Innocenti & Webel, internationally renowned landscape architects, was retained by the Garden Club to design the gardens, using the statuary as inspiration. The gardens formally opened August 18, 1960, on the 373rd aniiversary of the birth of Virginia Dare, the first child born in America of English parentage.

For more information, please check out the Elizabethan Gardens' website:

For information on Fort Raleigh National Historic site: http://www.nps.gov/fora/

Here are the trimmed crape myrtles and pansies and walkway leading up to
the Gate House.

The Gate House is modeled after a 16th century orangerie (greenhouse or conservatory) with a flagstone floor, hand-hewn beams , and wide door with a cross design.

Closer up of the Gate House.

The Gate House is furnished with rare antiques acquired through years of searching and through individual donations.

At the top of the Gate House is the concrete emblem of the Order of the Garter, with its motto, "Honi soit qui mal y pense, " or "Shame be to him who evil thinks."
The order of the Garter was established by Edward II, in approximately 1348, as an order of chivalry, the highest order of knighthood, "
a society, fellowship and college of knights." The society, the pinnacle of the honor system in the United Kingdom, is limited in members to the Sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than 24 other members. This is the royal coat of arms for the sovereign of England, who is always the head of the Order of the Garter.

The Elizabethan Gardens have become one of the most beautiful and unique gardens in America. Here, the initial attempt by England under Queen Elizabeth was made to colonize America on Roanoke Island by Sir Walter Raleigh twenty years before Jamestown and Plymouth Rock. Although the Roanoke Island colony was not permanent, their work was, for the interest created by the "Men of Roanoke" did not disappear, but led to the making of the permanent English settlements in America.

Inscription on the plaque at the entrance gate:

Down the centuries, English women have built gardens, to the glory of God, the beauty of the countryside and the comfort of their souls.
The women of the Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc. have planted this garden in memory of the valiant men and women who founded the first English colony in America. From this hallowed ground on Roanoke Island, they walked away through the dark forest, and into history.

Here's the back of the Gate House, showing part of the gardens.

The gardens here are all seasonal gardens and hence, change throughout the year.

I must go back in springtime, since the tulips are spectacular then.

I learned today that there is a head gardener and three other gardeners. Volunteers help with the work.

Pine needles carpet the winding walkways to the different areas of the Gardens.

Here's the statue of Queen Elizabeth.

A little wren builds her nest in Queen Elizabeth's bouquet every year.

This is a Carrera marble statue of Virginia Dare, the first child born in America of English colonists. It is the sculptor's idealized version of what Virginia Dare would have looked like had she grown to womanhood. Carved by American sculptor, Maria Louisa Lander in Rome in 1859, the statue suffered a rather hectic existence before making it to the Elizabethan Gardens. Virginia spent 2 years at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean due to a shipwreck off the Spanish coast, then she spent a rather controversial tenure in the State Hall of History in Raleigh, where she was deemed immodest what with all the portraits of North Carolina Governors gazing down at her nudity. She was then relegated to the basement. Next, Virginia was sent to stay with the Pulitzer playwright, Paul Green, who wrote "The Lost Colony," the longest running outdoor drama in American history.

See: http://www.outerbanks.com/lostcolony/

Paul Green finally decided to donate the statue of Virginia Dare to the Gardens. So, almost 100 years after her creation, Virginia Dare came to rest at the place of her birth in her own little niche at the base of an ancient live oak tree, where she remains today.

Virginia holds a fishnet draped about her waist. On her neck and arms, she wears the Indian laces of an Indian princess. She is accompanied by a royal heron.

I stayed behind after everyone else left so I could get these last two shots.

Here's looking out to the Roanoke Sound.

In 1981, this authentic 16th century gazebo with thatched roof, was constructed using period tools and techniques.

The octagonal structure overlooks the Currituck and Roanoke Sounds, and might possibly be situated on the very site where Sir Richard Grenville, Sir Walter Raleigh's cousin, first set foot on Roanoke Island in 1585 with his fleet of seven ships
and 108 men.

More of the gardens.

Spanish moss hanging from the oaks.

This ancient fountain and pool with balustrade is the centerpiece of the Elizabethan Gardens and the inspiration to landscape architects Innocenti and Webel.

This statuary came from the Whitney estate in Thomasville, Georgia. John Hay Whitney was the Ambassador to the Court of St. James in London. His mother had purchased the statuary for their shooting plantation, Greenwood, in Georgia. It was collected by Stanford White before World War I and was shipped to Georgia from Italy. Originally, Ambassador Whitney had intended to give the statuary to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, but was persuaded by Innocenti and Webel to donate the collection to the
Elizabethan Gardens.

The centerpiece of the Sunken Garden is Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.
Sculpted of Carrera marble, she holds a fish in her hands, a former source of a waterfall.

At Aphrodite's side is a dolphin, recalling her birth from the sea.

Here's the lovely Aphrodite.
Notice the coat of arms in the stone work on either side.

It has been determined that this is the coat of arms of the powerful Farnese family of 15th and 16th century Italy.

Years ago, one of the early Chairmen of the Gardens traveled to Florence, Italy to research the statuary. The Italians the Chairman consulted could not believe this statuary was in the United States. Michelangelo himself had placed a balustrade and figures like these in the
Farnese Gardens in Italy.


In the four quadrants surrounding Aphrodite are four statues on brick pillars surrounded by geometric displays of neatly pruned borders filled with flowers.

This is Diana, Goddess of the Hunt. She is shown here carrying a quiver of arrows in her left hand and is accompanied by a hunting dog. Diana also came to be identified with the moon goddess and the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I was compared to Diana because Diana was chaste. Portraits of Elizabeth sometimes have a moon in them to symbolize this connection.

This is Apollo, God of Music and Poetry, and Diana's twin. Apollo is also identified as the sun god. He carries a lyre, symbol of his dominion in music and poetry, two areas very important to the Elizabethans.

Next, we have Jupiter, king of the gods and heaven and father of Apollo and Diana. He holds a thunderbolt, signifying his reign as god of the sky, lightning, thunder, and weather. At his feet is the eagle,
a symbol of power.

Finally, we have Venus, Goddess of Spring and Bloom, Love and Fertility. Unfortunately, after 500 years, she's missing half of her face.

View leaving the Sunken Garden.

Here's our merry little group walking through the gardens.

Next we visited the whimsical Woodland and Wildlife Garden.

Five gnomes are hidden throughout.

The Bashful Girl Statue.

Small statue of Pan.

We ran into Elizabeth again on the way back.

This was quite an enjoyable and informative class.

It lasted from 10 to 12.

Glowria, Mr. H., and I are now off to lunch in Manteo, then to our cooking class at the North Carolina Aquarium.


Anonymous said...

Ok, you've convinced me, I'm joining you for next week's classes. I visit the Gardens almost every year, now it will be even more fun since you've given me new info. Thanks!

Wonder Schwermin said...

Thanks for the beautiful garden pictures. I am looking out onto freezing rain and snow, and your photos are a reminder that there is a world beyond winter.