23 October 2009

Hillwood Where FABULOUS Lives

MRS. POST & head gardener Earl Loy
photograph from LIFE by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1965

It is all true. HILLWOOD is where Fabulous lives. I walked into the Visitor's Center at Marjorie Merriweather Post's famed HILLWOOD & said just that-or something close.

photograph from Architect Design here

What does One do when faced with all that Fabulous?

Walking through the gardens on the estate was less dauntingly Fabulous. I have Nature, a Garden, Flora, Fauna & Statuary. Yes-even I've got some of that- though not on the grand scale. It was easy to snap photos of a few of my favourite MMP Garden things. The gardens are beautiful, perfectly scaled for the estate and kept in the very style of the lady of the house. A guided tour by one of the docents- Carol- was interesting, informative and amusing. The amusing part came from the Mother and two daughters ( Names Unknown). As my friend said-Well Mother (Names Unknown) does seem to know her history. Yes-in a fashion. Oh, but One of the Daughter's of Mother etc. etc.- Heaven help. Good advice- Don't speak- listen and learn- "Don't talk, Just Look." But more about that later.

One of the more amusing stories Carol told was about MMP's Japanese Garden. After Mrs. Post suggested Colorado Blue Spruce for the Garden, landscape architect Shogo Myaida informed the lady of the fact that this would make the Garden- Well-Not Japanese. I can only think MMP nodded & the Japanese- American Hybrid Garden was born. Mrs. Post was a woman after my own heart- Knows what she wants and gets it & in the nicest way. Witness the Friendship Walk. Four of Mrs. Post's friends came up with the perfect gift for the Woman with Everything (MMP)- an English Garden with statuary of the Four Seasons forming a circular overlook. An inscription on a center stone reads:

Friendship outstays the hurrying flight of years and aye abides through laughter and through tears.

Here is a look at things I spied in the Gardens. To say it was something quite fabulous is understatement. For me in a practical sense- after seeing the FABULOUS- I look for things I can use. Things I can fall in love with.

Things I will remember when working with clients or editing or adding to my own objet d'art.

I am fascinated with the Sphinx, just review my posts on Heart of Stone and you will see. This one rests in the small French Parterre where MMP's very French bedroom overlooks. Along with the Sphinx, my take away is All must be in Proportion. Though it isn't stated, Ms.Post must have believed this axiom. This formal Garden is in perfect scale to the mansion. Hillwood is a mansion in the truest sense- from Old French-mansio- the act of remaining or staying. Indeed. This suits Hillwood. The looming grotesques of the 21st century should take note and scale down. Though is quite large-I don't know the square footage-It remains comely, intimate & personal. Yes, it is extravagant & Fabulous-but it is all in proportion.

I latched onto the Sphinx & found two others residing along the walkways. These dears are said to be modeled after dazzling French ballerinas of the 18th century.

Perhaps Marie Salle ?

Another wonderful thing I noted in the garden was this iron railing. Yes, yes of course the design is heavenly- the very simple turned down to a point end of the handrail & the repeating circular design. I like that the handrail is raised from the main part of the rail as well. It is a gorgeous design- but Don't you love the color? I do- I think this is an easy takeaway from Mrs. Post. Don't settle for black, deep green (all good) but if you fancy a different shade-Here it is.

I really can not believe this design for an umbrella hasn't been copied- I don't know what this one is made of but the color and design are so deluxe. This lawn umbrella- original to Mrs. Post's day, as are the not so enviable- lawn chairs, was my favourite garden object. I love the pronounced hard molded shape and the overlapping of the petalled shapes. What do you think?

the putting green with the Post umbrella & lawn chairs.

& the front terrace as it was in Mrs. Post's heyday 1964.

from LIFE , by Alfred Eisenstaedt

MORE from FABULOUS HILLWOOD"S interiors in a future post.

follow Architect Design on his Hillwood Garden Tour in May 2009 here



  1. I remember when Hillwood was a gift to our nation, entrusted to the Smithsonian institution, with its glorious collections and endowment.
    Bur our Nation gave it back to the Post Foundation, due to lack of generated revenue from the endowment. They complained they could not pay for maintenance of the house and grounds, or for the insurance of the collections.
    I love your photos of the garden sphinx ,she is so saucy. Thank you for sharing, It’s has been years since my last visit.

  2. Still sphinxed since your heart of stone. The sphinx called out to AD at Versailles. Have not seen them. I know, for me it would have to be in concrete, but still haven't seen them about. Have you?

  3. Home- only once did I see them and then the co. stopped showing them. These were so wonderful-AD also photographed them at Hillwood on his visit & I used that photo in a post. I am still on them and have several more in the wings- Shall I bring them out? They do fascinate, I was so interested in the idea of these being modelled after ballerinas of the day. By the way are you reading Lucindaville-I think you would love her blog GT

  4. A spring redux tour will be a must don't you agree? I adore the friendship garden for what it represents.

  5. Madame-yes indeed. on the Mrs Delany and her circle! and Strawberry Hill.

  6. I think the best is the photo of Post with her head gardener in a suit and tie. What does that say?

  7. Daniel-yes it speaks volumes. One of the things that so impressed me was the respect Mrs. Post seemed to have for her staff-exhibited in several ways that I plan to post about. Thank you for stopping-la

  8. Oh my goodness, I've just realised I have no head gardener and feel so backward. I'm going straight out the door to promote my gardener to head gardener. I'd love to see more of Hillwood, please!

  9. Very nice photos of the sphinx, I know a garden in France that has 2 almost identical sphinx to the ones you are showing, and these have always been known to represent the 2 consecutive mistresses of Louis the XV, Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry.

  10. I found the picture of the molds and Caroline is right! I have a pair of Madame DuBarry; and those are of Madame de Pompadour!

    Where is the garden in France? I will send you my pics!

  11. Penelope-I can't say however the curator and the info do say the Sphinx at Hillwood were modeled from the ballerina.

  12. The umbrellas are aluminum- their heyday was the 1950's- We had them at the country club when I was a child in the 1960's - the problem with them is that they did not close (as I remember) hard to store and forget about a wind storm- they are available now but not in any good colors- the new ones close



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