Ladue Ward III Garden

Description

This garden, located in Ladue, Missouri, reflects the vision, planning, implementation and maintenance of a master gardener. The genius loci of the garden underscores the owner’s innate sense of scale, proportion, light and shadow, textural variety of materials and the relationship between the house and the garden. Over a sixty-year period, she has transformed a one-acre parcel into a series of garden zones that collectively express her personal taste and compliment the immediate surroundings.

Acquainted with the previous owners, the current owners expressed an interest in purchasing the property if the opportunity ever arose. In 1955, the property became available and the couple moved to their Ladue residence and immediately began to transform the property. The residence was designed by the well know local architect Ralph Cole Hall who maintained a design practice with Victor Proetz. Proetz & Hall designs were known for their extreme sophistication with a stylistic preference for the neoclassical designs of the first half of the nineteenth century. The two story residence is characteristic of other Proetz & Hall houses found in St. Louis as it contains a staining seam cooper roof, stepped gable end brick walls, and a generous amount of dormer windows. The house is sited in such way to maximize lot frontage along a major road to the south as well as maximize the sense of expanse to the east as the property adjoins a municipal park containing many mature specimen trees. Further, the arrangement of the first floor rooms provides an opportunity for the occupant to see and be engaged with the surrounding landscape in a way that blends the inside with the outside.

Upon their arrival, they found very little existing landscape materials to warrant integration into a new garden scheme. Existing mature Fitzer trees planted up against the house were immediately removed, literally, as the movers were transporting items into the residence. This was a strategic move to underscore visual and physical relationship between the house and the surrounding landscape. With limited financial means and a good sense of value, the couple proceeded with site modifications and implemented an action plan that was supported by a sense of confidence, tenacity as well as intellectual and physical energy.

The overall site plan was sketched out by one of the owners and submitted to her husband for approval or rejection. The landscape that exists today is the physical realization of the landscape scheme sketched up in the mid 1950s. The property has been designed as garden zones; the existing ‘L’ shape grassy lawn anchors the southern and eastern sectors of the property edged by a mix of large specimen trees with low ornamental tree plantings. Garden ‘rooms’ consist of terraces and paved areas that bring the inside of the house out to the garden. The driveway, parking court, terraces, lawns and planting beds work together in an interdependent relationship to create the sense of a unified whole.

Early inspiration for the garden was found in a circa 1950’s copy of House & Garden where photographs of a small circular garden by landscape designer Perry Wheeler served as the basis for the herb garden. Perry Wheeler’s designs were well known to the couple as Dian’s mother retained Mr. Wheeler to design a garden for her home. Mr. Wheeler is well known for his collaboration with Rachel Lambert (Bunny) Mellon for the designs of the Rose Garden at the White House. In addition, the gardens at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent as designed by Vita Sackville-West served as the design inspiration for the garden behind the garden. The owners recognized that the plants and flowers of Kent were not compatible with the climate of the Midwest in the United States, so regional adaptation prevailed as noted by the coincidental placement and growth of common trumpet vine up the garage wall to soften and enliven the formal arrangement of flowers and crisp clipped edges of low shrubbery.

The first area for development was the parking court located in the northwest corner of the property. Undeterred by limited financial means and the lack of a crew of laborers and masons, the owners proceeded with the construction of the parking court walls as per the site plan. As a design-builder, on of the owners physically excavated and poured the wall foundations and laid up the brick; he would carry the mortar to the building site in the morning before leaving for his office, and she would lay the bricks while her daughter was taking a nap. She continued to operate as a designer-builder even through her pregnancy with the blessing of her obstetrician. Today, the Parking Court is shaded by the presence of large mature saucer magnolia trees. Small statues representing the Four Seasons reside on the court entry walls to underscore that the house and garden are dynamic in each season. The planting border along the driveway was also developed at this time with the installation of Yew bushes to serves as a border backdrop for peonies and other seasonal perennials.

Over the past sixty years, the garden has been featured in various local media publications. In the 1960s, an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch featured advice from the University of Missouri Extension on ideal growing conditions for trees, shrubs and landscape materials in the St. Louis Region. Their lawn was noted as possessing the ideal growing conditions for a lawn. In 1995, St. Louis Homes magazine featured an extensive article with photographs of the then forty-year-old garden. The couple, under the pseudonym of ‘Bill and Mary Brookings,’ was quoted about the development and construction of the garden.

Recognizing that the garden is a dynamic environment, the owners updated and replaced south terrace plantings in 2014 with the assistance of a landscape designer. Groups of mature yew bushes anchoring the east and west corners of the south-facing terrace were replaced with groupings of upright conical arborvitae and hydrangea. The landscape designer’s new landscape plantings have reinforced the vertical characteristics of the south façade by the use of plant materials in columnar form and by association expanding the architecture into the garden.

The garden continues to benefit from the planting of free tree starters from the Missouri Department of Conservation. Specimen and ornamental tree starters were planted along the property borders to underscore a sense of enclosure and screen the site from the adjoining neighbors. Today, fifty years later, mature white pines, dogwood and red bud trees thrive as underpinning elements in a lush tree border and provide protection to azaleas and other seasonal perennials.

 The owners enjoyed using their garden for lounging and entertaining. Several terraces were constructed between the house and the garden to serve as outdoor rooms. As with the parking court walls, one of the owners excavated, poured foundations, and laid up low brick walls to define the outer edge of the south-facing terrace. The south facing terrace contains a hybrid climbing rose ‘Aloha,’ which spreads between the two pairs of living room doors. In the summer, Mandevilla climbing vines in planter boxes anchor both ends of the south façade and compliment the formal arrangement of house façade, terrace and landscape plantings. On the East side of the house, a terrace transitions from the south and runs northward to the rose garden. Evoking the terraces of France and complimenting the French Neoclassical style of the residence, locally attained Meramec River gravel was chosen as the ideal surface for the terraces. A small fountain, a limestone female figure reflected in a wall mirror and decorative elements in the swan motif of Josephine, Empress of France, evoke a sense of reverence for Imperial France. Nineteenth century garden furniture and potted plants can be moved and arranged to create various venues, both formal and informal.

-Story contributed by Mark C.

 
 

Photos Show

Grove of pink saucer magnolia trees in the Parking Court

Grove of pink saucer magnolia trees in the Parking Court

Mature azalea bushes flank the curb cut and driveway entrance and enhance the landscape screen between the road and the lawn. [View Additional File Details]

Winter view of the residence from the property entrance

Winter view of the residence from the property entrance

Defoliated mature specimen and ornamental trees surround the site, many of which were planted from starters in the 1950s. [View Additional File Details]

Close up view of the residence from the southwest.

Close up view of the residence from the southwest.

The pierced brick wall designed and constructed by the owners in the 1950s clearly denotes the entrance sequence. [View Additional File Details]

Looking southwest, driveway landscape planting border in the mid summer

Looking southwest, driveway landscape planting border in the mid summer

The mature yew hedge along the western property line serves as the backdrop for blooming phlox. [View Additional File Details]

Looking north, the driveway planting border in the late spring.

Looking north, the driveway planting border in the late spring.

The mature yew hedge along the western property line serves as the backdrop for blooming peonies. [View Additional File Details]

Formal arrangement of walls designed and constructed by the owners in the 1950s.

Formal arrangement of walls designed and constructed by the owners in the 1950s.

Four Seasons statues, urns and clipped, crisp edging of plant materials denotes the formality of arrival in the parking court. [View Additional File Details]

Parking court looking northwest.

Parking court looking northwest.

Blooming saucer magnolia trees surrounding the parking court. [View Additional File Details]

Garage privacy wall with Herb Garden beyond

Garage privacy wall with Herb Garden beyond

Garage walls with 'accidental' orange blooming trumpet vine.
Clipped privet hedges of the Herb Garden on the north edge of the property. [View Additional File Details]

Summer in the garden

Summer in the garden

Herb Garden plant beds.
[View Additional File Details]

The paved Terrace surrounded by blooming hydrangea transitions to the Day Lily and Herb Gardens

The paved Terrace surrounded by blooming hydrangea transitions to the Day Lily and Herb Gardens

The Sissinghurst-inspired circular flower garden is paved with Meramec River gravel. Inspired by a garden designed by Perry Wheeler, the Herb Garden has been adapted to the midwest climate with the use of indigenous plants. [View Additional File Details]

In the garden

In the garden

Original Artwork by the owner. [View Additional File Details]

Terraces and gardens along the east and north sides of the residence

Terraces and gardens along the east and north sides of the residence

The circular paved garden serves as an intersection point for the East Terrace and the Flower and Herb Gardens located to the west; the entrance is flanked by two rose bushes purchased for one dollar in the early 1960s. [View Additional File Details]

East Terrace paved seating area

East Terrace paved seating area

Antique limestone figure with wall mirror surrounded by euonymus hedges, trumpet vine and roses. Wire frame outdoor furniture evokes a sense of an early 19th century garden grouping. [View Additional File Details]

East Terrace looking north

East Terrace looking north

19th century furniture, fountain and limestone figures; the swan shaped planters and early neoclassical French campaign bed evokes a reference to First Empire France. [View Additional File Details]

East facade of the house

East facade of the house

Circa 1937 Ralph Cole Hall-designed residence and the adjoining East Terrace. [View Additional File Details]

Transition Space - South and East Terraces

Transition Space - South and East Terraces

Fountain and seating group outside the Dining Room windows between the south and east Terraces; Meramec River gravel in the manner of French terraces. [View Additional File Details]

Summer in the garden

Summer in the garden

Detail of Four Seasons statue and decorative urn with flowers. [View Additional File Details]

Specimen and ornamental trees at the property entrance

Specimen and ornamental trees at the property entrance

Blooming dogwood trees grown from starters provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation in the 1950s. Undulating ground cover border established by lawn mower clipping patterns. [View Additional File Details]

Specimen and ornamental trees in the southeast corner of the property

Specimen and ornamental trees in the southeast corner of the property

Dogwood trees in the autumn grown from starters provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation in the 1950s. [View Additional File Details]

Cite this Page

MHCritch, “Ladue Ward III Garden,” Community of Gardens, accessed September 20, 2017, https:/​/​communityofgardens.​si.​edu/​items/​show/​12221.​
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