Hyde Park Gardens, Finally!!!!
Continuing westward from Hilltop House in Amenia, we find we’re in an off-year for the biennial garden tours conducted in Hyde Park in the odd years, 2011, 2013, etc. Good news for us as we can tour on our own schedule—have a leisurely breakfast here on our renovated stone porch before heading out—and not deal with the crowds. The bad news is that gardens on tour dates like actors well rehearsed tend to be ready for the show.
The Beatrix Farrand Garden at Bellefield, the Rose Garden adjacent to his home site, and the Vanderbilt Mansion are all parts of the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Library and Museum site at 4097 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park, New York 12538. In very close proximity is the Vanderbilt Mansion, for which, in 1940, then President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the enabling legislation to become part of the National Park Service. Vanderbilt was established as a monument to the gilded age, an historic era in America rather than a tribute to any one person or family, today, all clustered together as the NPS historic site in Hyde Park. (And with Val-Kill—the only National Historic Site dedicated to a First Lady a few miles away, plan a day or more to view it all.)
Of particular interest and often overlooked by visitors not of the garden variety is the Beatrix Farrand Garden. Farrand, America’s first woman landscape architect, was hired in 1912 to design a series of three gardens descending from the elegant 18th century house (now called Bellefield headquarters for the National Park Service) of her cousin and his wife. Enclosed by hedging and native stonewalls, visitors can glimpse our oldest surviving example of Farrand’s work: flanking flowerbeds of annuals selected for color harmony, bloom sequence, and texture — a technique Farrand helped spearhead. Other areas included a rose garden, a lilac and fruit-tree allée, a boxwood parterre, and something I like, a kitchen garden. Farrand also designed several gates, which have been rebuilt from her original sketches.
In all, over 200 acres of formal and “romantic” or naturalistic landscapes, from high ground to Vanderbilt’s riverside trails are free for the wandering and are open from sunrise to sunset. (To tour the houses is a rose by another name—there is a fee.) There are even pod-casts, and cell phone tours, which you can find of the nps website that help one navigate the landscape.