17 August 2010

a Countess, a Capri Garden


 a Horst still life

looking through the pages of old issues (1960's-70's) of House and Garden always takes me back to my first time. Pulling through the pages of my GranMa's closet filled stacks- I wonder if I might have lingered over this article a bit longer than most.  Of course- at the time the pictures would have captivated my imagination, the words less so. The Horst photographs continue to grab my attention todya- these glamorous men and women-in the midst of glamorous lives.

Here, Margaret Willaumez steps out onto one of  the terrace gardens of her Capri house-Casa Lontana.

As with most old articles, I want to know- What happened after the photographs ceased? Countess Margaret Willaumez is the woman standing in the doorway, intent on something- seemingly unaware of the lens. She loved only flowers and specimens that were spectacular- for cutting.  "Every inch counts." Her garden more English than Italian, she describes as "delicious." Decorator at Thedlow in New York and contributing editor to House and Garden, Countess Willaumez arrives in May to a profusion of sweet peas, pansies, flax, calendula, larkspur and pinks tended by a trusty gardener year round-she packs off seedlings to him for planting. She is never disappointed.

Rooms with a view:
"From my topmost terrace I can look down and see the flower of the moment and always the morning -glory blue of the sea.  The house built on three levels with three terraces was always filled with flowers the moment the Countess arrived.  All the interiors are simply furnished with a mix of styles and periods-the flowers were the showstoppers here. The  interiors could be lived in stylishly and easily today.

After the interview:
So doing some research on the Countess , I found her obituary in the New Your Times. Just years after the article would have appeared , the Countess Williaumez died after a long illness. She was just 52.

Though her typical time in residence on Capri was from May to October, in 1972- she lingered there through November. On the thirtieth, She died within the whitewashed walls of her hillside Casa Lontana. She enjoyed her plants- but doted on her cut flowers, giving them fresh water each day, clipping stems and rearranging them.

"Even if all its chums are gone, I will never throw away a live flower. I can't. I just find a place for it."



  1. PGT,
    Thank you for this little gem about the Countess Williaumez and her Capri haven. How lovely that she enjoyed her terrace gardens so much but how sad that she lived such a short life. I love visits to vintage issues of H&G. Thank you for so many wonderful posts this summer. Best, Barbara

  2. Bittersweet post but conveys such beauty! Thank you.

  3. How fascinating and sad at the same time! I would love to see what has become of her garden!

  4. Wonderful, wistful. I'm currently translating a collection of short writings (mini memoirs each) by Ada Negri. The collection "Le strade" ("The Streets") was published in 1928 and is broken up into four sections; one section is all about Capri, and many of the stories focus on gardens, houses, people. They're wonderful stories, and I see echoes of the people and places in your post.

  5. A reader emailed this, "FYI! She was known as "Minnie" Minnegerode, prior to her marriage, and once modeled for Louise Dahl-Wolfe (if I'm not mistaken). And her husband's previous wife, Babs, left him to marry Vogue photographer John Rawlins."


  6. An unforgettable garden always seems to leave a footprint in the landscape...and even in a vintage issue of "House and Garden." A beautiful post, thank you!

  7. carolyn quartermaineAugust 20, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    utterly beautiful and inspiring .enchanting...I would love to see more or know more about her.....
    thank you for these images

  8. Carolyn, I would so love to know more too- based on a little add'l info that she had modeled for LDW I went to look through some books hoping to spot a photograph. I am sure there is something to unearth. It is interesting in this online age-how much is known and how much is still missing-There will be little left to the imagination in the future! Thanks for stopping in. Gaye

  9. S4- that is a lovely sentiment, I hope her garden or something as endearing thrives there.Gaye

  10. One of the things I thought was wonderful here is her zest for Cutting Flowers. One of my grandmother's did not- yards and yards of borders for looking and admiring and as I child I just wanted to cut cut cut-



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