Friday, February 5, 2010

Marion And Rosie Check Out The Elizabethan Gardens.

After our trip to the North Carolina Aquarium, Marion and I headed over to the Elizabethan Gardens.
The Elizabethan Gardens are located on the same site where the colonists first landed - on the shores of Roanoke Island.
First, a bit of Garden history. In 1950, Sir Evelyn Wrench, founder of the English Speaking Union, came to see a production of "The Lost Colony." Sir Wrench came up with the idea to build an Elizabethan Garden and he presented his idea to Mrs. Charles Cannon, wife of the North Carolina philanthropist, and Mrs. Inglis Fletcher, noted historian and author, his hosts at the performance. The matter was presented to The Garden Club at is annual meeting in 1951, at which time The Garden club voted to build such a garden on property leased for ninety-nine years from the Roanoke Island Historical Association. The original goal of The Garden Club was rather modest - build a two-acre garden typical of the type of garden a successful colonist might have built on Roanoke Island had the colonization been successful. In 1951, the Garden Club of North Carolina adopted The Elizabethan Gardens project and formed a Committee to oversee the project. The Concord Garden Club made the first gift to The Elizabethan Gardens project in June. The Roanoke Island Garden Club was formed and its members assisted with the development of The Elizabethan Gardens. In 1952, Mr. E. W. Reinecke, a Fayetteville contractor, told The Garden Club about some garden statuary he was dismantling on the Greenwood Estate of the Honorable John Hay Whitney, Ambassador to The Court of St. James, and Mrs. Whitney, in Thomasville, Georgia. Reinecke suggested The Garden Club contact Innocenti and Webel, internationally known landscape architects in New York City, to intercede on their behalf about the statuary, which Mr. Whitney was considering giving to the Metropolitan Museum. Innocenti and Webel were contacted by the Chairman and they became enthusiastic about the proposed garden at the historic site of the first English settlement in the New World. Thanks to Mr. Webel, the Whitneys donated their collection of valuable European statuary to the North Carolina Garden Club. Included in the statuary was an ancient Italian fountain and pool with balustrade, wellhead, sundial, birdbaths, stone step, and benches, dating back before the time of Queen Elizabeth I. This donation altered the original design concept and a more elaborate garden was needed. The Roanoke Island Historical Society leased 10 1/2 acres of indigenous growth to the Garden Club of North Carolina for the proposed gardens. Albert "Skipper" Bell began clearing the land and doing preliminary work on the site. Innocenti and Webel, were retained to design the gardens and E. W. Reinecke of Fayetteville began construction on June 2, 1953. By the way, June 2, 1953, was the day Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of England. Initial work began on the construction of the Sunken Garden. Playwright Paul Green, writer of "The Lost Colony," donated the statue of Virginia Dare to be displayed in the Gardens. The Roanoke Colony Association was organized in the 1880s to acquire and protect the site of the first English colonization in the New World. In 1932, the Roanoke Colony Association was rechartered as the Roanoke Island Historical Association, which turned the land deed over to the National Park System in 1941. The Roanoke Island Historical Association is an educational and historical non-profit organization designed to preserve the nation's cultural heritage through the production of the acclaimed outdoor drama, The Lost Colony. The Lost Colony is part of the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Fort Raleigh is administered by the National Park Service and is the nation's only connection to Elizabethan England. On August 18, 1955, The Elizabethan Gardens were dedicated and opened to the public. In 1957, the first small gatehouse was built. In 1958, Louis Midgette, Sr. was hired as the first Superintendent of The Elizabethan Gardens. In 1959, the North Carolina Camellia Society donated and planted over 200 camellias and the Ruth Coltrane Cannon Nursery was started. In 1960, The Elizabethan Gardens had a ceremony and formally opened on August 18, the 383rd anniversary of the birth of Virginia Dare, the first child born in America of English parentage. On April 20, 1961, a bronze plaque with an inscription by Inglis Fletcher was dedicated in honor of the first four Chairmen of The Elizabethan Gardens (Mrs. James Tyler, Mrs. Glenn Long, Mrs. Roy Homewood, and Mrs. Corbett Howard). On July 13, 1966, the new Gatehouse, partially funded by a $38,500 appropriation from the State of North Carolin, was completed and opened as the new entrance to The Elizabethan Gardens. A courtyard fountain was presented in honor of Mrs. Corbett Howard for her years of service. In 1971, The Elizabethan Gardens commemorated it's 20th anniversary with the governor's wife, Mrs. Robert Scott, as the honored guest. In 1974, the first greenhouse was constructed to help over-winter tender and exotic plants. In 1976, the Elizabethan Gardens celebrated its 25th anniversary and dedicated the new Rose Garden, designed by Lewis Clarke. In 1980, the Avenue of Maples was planted in memory of Mrs. Leo Midgett. Mrs. Midgett served on The Gardens Committee, worked in The Elizabethan Gardens, and was one of its strongest local supporters. In 1981, the 16th century style gazebo was constructed overlooking the Roanoke Sound. The gazebo, designed by Lewis Clark, was constructed by artisans from Plimoth Plantation and Master Thatcher, Peter Slevin, from Ireland, did the thatching. In 1984, Princess Anne visited The Elizabethan Gardens as part of the 400th anniversary celebration. In 1987, Louis Midgett retired from The Elizabethan Gardens after 29 years of service. In 1997, the Meeting Hall was completed and dedicated. The Meeting Hall provides a place to offer educational programs. In 2001, The Elizabethan Gardens celebrated its 50th anniversary. In 2004, Hermann Schulz, of Innocenti and Webel, agreed to develop a master plan for The Elizabethan Gardens. In 2006, the world's largest bronze statue of Elizabeth I was dedicated. In 2007, restoration of The Elizabethan Gardens began.
So, let's take a little tour.
Crape myrtles greet us as we approach the gatehouse.
These are crape myrtles and this pruning method is known as pollarding.
The impressive entry wall is made of old handmade brick. Above is the bronze plaque with the inscription by Mrs. Inglis Fletcher. THE ELIZABETHAN GARDEN 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. 1585-1951
The iron gate was a gift of The Honorable C. Douglas Dillon, Undersecretary of State and later United States Treasurer, and Mrs. Dillon. It once hung at the French Embassy in Washington.
The Gate House is made of the same handmade brick from the Silas Lucas kiln in Wilson, N.C. and is modeled after the architecture of a 16th century orangerie with a flagstone floor, hand-hewn beams, a wide door with cross design, and a sculptural coat-of-arms of Elizabeth I. You can see more of these details from my first post about The Elizabethan Gardens. You might want to check out my second post about The Elizabethan Gardens. And my third post about The Elizabethan Gardens.
The Gate House is furnished with rare antiques acquired through individual donations from years of searching. There's a Jacobean table, circa early 1500's, with typical Tudor rose carvings. There's an oak corner cupboard called a "gem" by connoisseurs, made in England circa 1600's. One of the oldest pieces in the Gate House is an English chest, circa 1560-1625. It is thought this may have belonged to an Elizabethan colonist because of its homemade hardware, its rich carving, and its foreshortening to fit into an allotted space (perhaps a ship). One of the more famous pieces is a portrait of Queen Elizabeth seen here: This is a 16th century portrait of the Queen, purchased in the 1950's along with other period pieces. And it's been a simple wall decoration of about 50 years but recent revelations in 2008 determined that this portrait may be worth more than $5 million. It has since been moved to a secure storage facility until The Gardens decides what to do with it. Looks like lace-cap hydrangea.
At 9 feet tall, this is the world's largest bronze statue of HRH Queen Elizabeth. The statue was a gift from Irwin Belk in honor of his wife Carol. It was sculpted by Jon Hair, modeled by renowned actress, Miss Barbara Hird, and dedicated on May 13, 2006. A native of Bradford, England, Miss Hird is remembered for her bristling interpretation of Queen Elizabeth I in The Lost Colony. Today, she continues to play Elizabeth in the long-running one-woman play, Elizabeth R. And I just happen to have a couple of pictures of Miss Barbara Hird, in full regalia, taken at last year's Taste of the Beach Expo:
Oh for Heaven's Sake. Would you look at that. It's freaking Queen Elizabeth, AKA Barbara Hird. Hmmm. She looks happy there, right as she entered the room, expecting accolades from her adoring public.
Well, shoot, this crazy bitch just grabbed the freakin' QUEEN OF ENGLAND, and pulled her into the hallway, and had her husband take pictures of her and Queenie. And suddenly, Liz doesn't look as happy as she looked when she first came in. Her smile looks rather forced. Well, if she was mad, I guess she could have someone take off my head. Back to the gardens:
Fatsia Japonica.
I love this statue of Virginia Dare. An American sculptor living in Rome, Maria Louise Lander, carved it in 1859 in Carrara marble. It is Lander's idealized vision of what Virginia Dare would have looked like had she grown to womanhood. Virginia experienced a rather hectic existence. Upon leaving Europe, she spent about two years at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean due to a shipwreck off the coast of Spain. Virginia enjoyed a brief sojourn in Boston with Lander and then in New York, where her purchaser's home burned. Lander, after receiving no payment from her client, willed the sculpture to the state of North Carolina. In the early 1900's, Virginia traveled to Raleigh, the state capital, ultimately residing in a State Supreme Court Judge's office where it became a rather controversial work of art. After an employee's complaints that Virginia's quasi-nudity, with a fish net draping her and Indian laces for jewelry, was not appropriate office attire, she was banished to the basement. At some time, Virginia had a short stay with Paul Green, Pulitzer prize winning playwright of The Lost Colony, at his estate, The Oaks, near Chapel Hill, NC. Mr. Green decided to give it to The Elizabethan Gardens. When Virginia finally made it to Manteo, she was stored in a shed behind the Lost Colony Waterside Theater on the national historic site of Fort Raleigh. The National Park Service refused to display the statue since there was no proof that Virginia Dare ever became an adult. The National Park Service can be a stickler for details.
A fossil dig is a relatively new addition.
I wanted to bring home this piece of driftwood, but Marion wouldn't help carry it.
On the North side of the gardens is a path leading to the overlook terrace of the Roanoke Sound.
In April 1981, an authentic 16th century gazebo was constructed with period tools, using period techniques. The octagonal structure overlooks the Roanoke and Currituck Sounds, very possibly the site where Sir Richard Grenville, Walter Raleigh's cousin, first set foot in 1585 with a fleet of seven ships and 108 men. The gazebo was made with massive hand-hewn oak posts and beams locked together without the modern nail. Wattle and daub was applied on the exterior of the five bays, leaving 3 bays open to the expanse of water for visitors to view the Wright Memorial, which stands at the site of man's first flight, and Jockey's Ridge, the highest sand dunes in the Eastern United States. A thatched roof was necessary for the finishing touch to the period structure. Two problems: how to obtain thatching material and where to obtain a master hatcher. Mrs. W. Marion Odom, Chairman of the Board of Governors, learned of Peter Slevin from Donegal, Ireland. Mr. Slevin had thatched the Ann Hathaway cottage in Stratford in the late fifties and also thatched many of the roofs in PBS's Scarlett Letter in 1980. Mrs. Odom contacted Mr. Slevin at Plimoth Plantation where he lived and worked to advise the Board about the Old World craft of thatching with straw. Slevin advised that many thatchers consider Norfolk reed, Phrangmites communis, as Britain's finest native grass for thatching. Contact was made with a reed farmer in Olde Buckeham, Norfolk, England, and 1100 bundles of the reed were cut in February 1981, tied into 24-inch bundles, and shipped to the Gardens.
Spanish moss is all over the oaks - sign of a healthy atmosphere.
This is the famous sunken garden with the Italian statuary. The boxwood hedges are nautically shaped in the form of boats and bells. (Remember, "Skipper" Bell started on the construction of the gardens.)
The Sunken Garden is the focal point of The Gardens. Thirty two identical parterres are outlined in clipped dwarf yaupon and feature ever-changing displays of ornamental plants. From the Whitney collection are statues representing Apollo, Diana, Venus, and Jupiter, each in the center of the four quadrants of parterres. An 11-foot tall pleached allee of meticulously groomed yaupon holly with arched openings surrounds the Sunken Garden. The central focal point is the ancient Italian fountain and pool with carved balustrade with the coat of arms of the Farnese family of 16th century Italy. The following is from my first post about The Gardens:
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. Farnese Coat Of Arms 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. Back to this post.
Doesn't everyone need a gnome garden?
This ancient live oak is thought to be over 400 years old.
Marion was very excited about going to see the Elizabeth II, a replica of the ship Elizabeth, which sailed from England in 1585. It's berthed right here at Roanoke Island Festival Park across from the Manteo waterfront. Oooooh. Too bad, Marion. Seems they've moved it for winter cleaning. For future reference, Marion, this is what it would have looked like:
See former post about Elizabeth II here.
Here's the old Dare County Court House in Manteo where yours truly once served as juror.
If you're ever in this area, you really should check out the Elizabethan Gardens. They're beautiful in any season. And Manteo is a charming town. Park your car and take a walking tour. Or either wait for me to do it for you and post about it.

1 comment:

Marilyn said...

Very nice. Thanks for the tour.