Let the fun begin at Green Animals Topiary Garden!
In the 1872, Thomas E. Brayton found and purchased the perfect seven acres for a country estate in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. The location is described as, “a white clapboard summer residence” by The Preservation Society of Newport County, that included, “farm outbuildings, a pasture and a vegetable garden.” Now it is home to the oldest topiary garden in the United States: Green Animals Topiary Garden.
This imaginative garden was begun in the early 1900s by the superintendent of the estate’s property Gardener Joseph Carreiro who created and tended to the topiary between 1905 to 1945. The tradition was continued by his son-in-law, George Mendonca, who followed as superintendent of the gardens until 1985.
It was Brayton’s daughter Alice who not only originally named the garden but bestowed it in its entirety to The Preservation Society of Newport County upon her death in 1972.
The garden offers twenty-one fanciful animals and birds in addition to fifty-nine other geometric sculpted designs that perfectly populate the property.
Today, the garden is lovingly trimmed by Eugene Platt (and others), who has been with the Preservation Society for nearly twenty-five years. Preservation Society Horticulturist Jim Donahue was kind enough to give us some insight into what it takes to maintain the garden saying, “privet topiary are sheared every two to three weeks during the growing season”
As a horticulturalist, Donahue explains that his focus in on the garden’s, “seasonal bedding, dahlias, vegetables, plant sales, (and of course) The Newport Flower Show.”
I asked Donahue how the garden was designed and found that it was not formally designed, “but evolved over the twentieth century, as the first gardener, Joseph Carreiro and later his son-in-law, George Mendonca, planted and pruned…The choice of boxwood varieties was driven, most likely, by what plants could be propagated easily from cuttings, or traded with other estate gardeners. Currently, many boxwood at Green Animals are very old and in need of replacement. We are considering several, different modern boxwood hybrids.”
“We know the largest topiary, ie: the camel, elephant, giraffe and lion of the formal garden, were started with privet cuttings in 1901-1902.” he continues, “from photos, we (also) know they were fully grown by 1920.”
Green Animals uses three types of topiary. “All animal topiary, with very few exceptions are shaped from privet.” Donahue informs us, the “hedges, outlining seasonal planting beds are boxwood…”
The Teddy Bears and several other of the larger topiary (including the Rhode Island Rooster), Donahue adds, are sculpted from Yew.
According to Donahue, in May of each year the formal garden is planted with, flowering materials for Summer. “We do try to keep the look decidedly “old-fashioned.” So, it is not unusual to see petunias, ageratum, vinca periwinkle or bedding geraniums in the formal garden.”
The Dahlia garden is fantastic. I asked Donahue about them and how many varieties there were. “At last count we had around 125 different Dahlia varieties of all types and classes.” and added, “The tubers are supplied generously by The Rhode Island Dahlia Society.”
This great topiary basket (above) holds various flowers depending on the season. Donahue explained the inside of the topiary has a stand which accepts, “grow pots.”
“Today,” The Preservation Society of Newport County states, “Green Animals remains as a rare example of a self-sufficient estate combining formal topiaries, vegetable and herb gardens, orchards and a Victorian house overlooking Narragansett Bay.”
This yet another great garden destination on my list for visiting. For more information visit http://www.newportmansions.org/
If you know of any fantastic garden’s to share with our Bee friends visit the Bee’s suggest a garden page! I’ll get there to photograph it myself some day!
As for me, I’m watching the sunrise out the front window and enjoying a nice cup of English Breakfast tea.
Britt : )
- The Topiary Park where Art meets Garden
- The Topiary Garden at Longwood Gardens
- Green Spring Gardens
- 2010 AHS Spring Garden Market at River Farm!
- The Philadelphia Flower Show! Part I: Let the judging begin!