The Cummer Museum’s Italian Garden.

 
Photograph courtesy of Mick Hales, Greenworld Pictures Inc.

Photograph courtesy of Mick Hales, Greenworld Pictures Inc.

Yesterday, we took a look at some of the botanical art exhibits that are currently on view at the Cummer Museum of Art until the end of this weekend.  Today I’m sharing The Cummer’s lovely Italian garden!  On first arrival I headed straight back to the terrace gardens to see them in person and they were everything anticipated an more.

View of Italian Fountain at Dusk or Dawn, Photo courtesy of Mick Hales, Greenworld Pictures Inc

View of Italian Fountain at Dusk or Dawn, Photo courtesy of Mick Hales, Greenworld Pictures Inc

The history of the Italian Garden, according to The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, is as follows:

The inspiration for the Italian Garden came from a trip Mrs. Cummer made to the Villa Gamberaia near Florence, Italy. Known for its Anglo-Italian design and distinct arches, this garden greatly impressed Mrs. Cummer and in 1931, she asked Ellen Biddle Shipman (1869-1950) to design a similar garden. The Cummer Italian Garden is considered a signature piece in Shipman’s oeuvre of residential gardens and is one of the few Shipman gardens still in existence. Characterized by strong symmetry, quiet elegance and a pastel palette, it contains a series of arches covered with creeping fig that direct the visitor’s gaze through the gardens and over its ponds toward the St. Johns River.

The original plans for the garden are kept in the Cornell University archives and The Cummer archives contain the complete list of plants ordered by Mrs. Cummer. Based on these invaluable records, a recent restoration has returned the Italian Garden to its original splendor.

Before even walking down toward the main gardens I was awestruck by my first glance at the grand, nearly 200 year old, Cummer Oak.   It’s remarkable!

The Cummer Tree © Britt Conley

The Cummer Tree © Britt Conley

The Cummer Oak’s almost twisted  sprawling limbs extend more than 150 feet around it’s trunk!

The Cummer Oak © Britt Conley

The Cummer Oak © Britt Conley

Some of it’s ancient limbs even dive beneath the soil only to emerge again with full foliage basking in the sun.

The Cummer Oak © Britt Conley

The Cummer Oak © Britt Conley

Here, The Cummer has built special pylons just to support some of these ancient branches to help protect the Oak’s complex root system. The cummer Oak (as it it officially titled), is currently maintained by The Roger L. and Rochelle S. Main Charitable Trust.  It’s nice to see a magnificent tree in good hands.

The Cummer Oak © Britt Conley

The Cummer Oak © Britt Conley

Just beyond the Oaks grasp are two picturesque main gardens backed only by a romantic view of the St. Johns River.

The Italian Garden © Britt Conley

The Italian Garden © Britt Conley

On the left side of The Cummer Oak awaits our garden of today: The Italian Garden. The garden, revitalized by Ellen Shipman in 1931 was originally designed through phases of previous landscapers.  It currently provides a low lying, tree covered floral setting that is ethereal to say the least.

The Italian Garden at The Cummer © Britt Conley

The Italian Garden at The Cummer © Britt Conley

The two flanking reflecting pools with Italian marble benches are delightful!

The Lion Bench at The Cummer Italian Garden © Britt Conley

The Lion Bench at The Cummer Italian Garden © Britt Conley

The hand carved lion bench was imported from Italy during the .  The pools themselves are surrounded by azaleas, roses, Italian cypress and various perennials.  According to The Cummer this Azalea garden was one of the earliest importations of the Azalea in the America.

Azaleas at The Cummer Gardens © Britt Conley

Azaleas at The Cummer Gardens © Britt Conley

Anchoring this Italian garden retreat is a marble reproduction of the original Italian fountain commissioned by Mrs. Cummer in 1931.

The Italian Garden © Britt Conley

The Italian Garden © Britt Conley

It’s flanked by both perennial beds and a lovely ficus vine archway titled the gloriette.

Ivy covered archways at The Cummer Gardens © Britt Conley

Ivy covered archways at The Cummer Gardens © Britt Conley

It’s archways beckoned me over to the river promenade where the view of the St. Johns River is equally splendid.  Along this archway I stumbled across readers and a couple romanticizing.

The St. James River view from The Cummer Gardens © Britt Conley

The St. James River view from The Cummer Gardens © Britt Conley

The air off the water was spectacular.  I can only imagine how much joy Mrs. Cummer had each day as she wandered villaesque space.  Today, there are many flower ares.  I arrived her this winter and was able to find perennials waiting.  Each garden I visit has something about it that provides a charm that makes it unique.  This garden’s magic is found in the quiet sitting.  The breeze off the water and the tantalizing light offer a romantic setting.  Almost everyone I came across here had found a bench and was simply taking it in.  I wished I had brought a book!.  Incredibly relaxing here and a garden of choice for exactly that.

Perennials in the Italian Garden © Britt Conley

Perennials in the Italian Garden © Britt Conley

For more information on the gardens visit: http://www.cummer.org Next week were continuing our visit with the English Garden at  The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens.  It may be winter, but it too had some floral delights!

‘Til Tomorrow,

Britt : )

Related posts:

  1. The Cummer Museum of Art’s English Garden
  2. Botanical art from the 1500′s on view at The Cummer Museum and Gardens through January 10, 2010.
  3. Part III: Maymont’s Italian Garden.
  4. Part VII:The Italian and Kitchen Gardens at Dumbarton Oaks
  5. Part II: The Dumbarton Oaks’ Rose Garden

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