What if you had scads of money and came upon a derelict thirty-five-acre estate in (choose one) the Brandywine Valley, northwest Connecticut, northern Virginia or even Bethlehem, Pennsylvania? Well, if you were lucky and chose your landscape architect well, you could create one of the Private Edens beautifully pictured here.
The author is very coy about the owners, describing them vividly but never naming them. “Renowned as both an artist and philanthropist, he is equally famous for his mischievous, carousing youth, his powerful antecedents, his immense generosity, his skill at driving a four-in-hand (which has made him an intimate of no less than the Queen of England), and the pair of Civil-War-era crutches that aid him in his perambulations after too many years of brutal horsemanship and seem to invariably end up in someone’s way,” he writes of a gardener in Chadds Ford. Certainly those in the know will recognize him immediately from this gushing description, but not the likes of me, alas.
Nevertheless, I immediately recognized an unnamed garden in Orange, Virginia, as Mt. Sharon, a gorgeous spread that opened just for the day a few years ago. Ann and I visited, and I wrote about it here. It is just as beautiful as described, and I will admit that the photos in the book are just a tad more arresting than the ones I took.
This is in no way a helpful gardening guide, since a few pages of glowing description are followed by Rob Cardillo’s gorgeous photos, with minimal captions. Either you know what those plants are, or you don’t. Though there is mention of enormous excavation projects to create the rock gardens and three-acre ponds, there are no garden plans. (There’s no mention of garden help, either, though it must be a huge expense.) Leaf through this for inspiration and to envy those rich enough to build the gardens of their dreams.