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Italianate Garden

Beautiful plantings and the restored fountain are part of the Italianate Garden.

Elm Bank's Italianate Garden is a rare treat for garden aficionados. Designed by the Olmsted Brothers between 1914 and 1928, it is one of just two Italianate gardens open to the public in Massachusetts. It faithfully follows the grand principals of such gardens - a flat ground plane, paths on geometric axes, a simple water feature, and a walled enclosure, in this case a magnificent hedge of copper beech, creating a green "room".

Most classic Italianate gardens also follow another custom: they're principally green spaces. Flowers, if any, are found in splashes via urns and other containers. That doesn't square with 21st Century sensibilities in which 'garden' equates with color.

The Massachusetts Horticultural Society's Elm Bank Committee, comprised of Board members and friends, has spent a lot of time over the past year thinking about how to keep the Italianate Garden true to its principals (Elm Bank is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Italianate Garden is one of the contributing elements to that designation) while also making it a 'wow' stopping point for Elm Bank visitors and an in-demand venue for weddings and parties.

The Committee has been undertaking an intensive review of all of the Gardens with an eye towards excellence in stewardship. Phased work started in the Italianate Garden thanks to a foundation grant to temporarily remove and to restore the marble font that serves as the centerpiece of the pool (see photos and video below). That work is being carried out by Daedalus Inc. of Watertown, MA. In its place is a temporary fountain, no less dramatic, that is on loan from Trustee Paul Miskovsky. In late May, twelve Hicks yews, plants specified in the original Olmsted Brothers design, were placed in the Garden; a memorial gift in honor of a friend of Elm Bank.

The balance of the transformation this season is subtle. In keeping with the Italianate tradition of 'planar' gardens (everything is on level ground), and with design advice from Pressley Associates, landscape architects, beds that had become mounded over time have been flattened. The visual change is surprising .To improve the 'green' ratio, a 22-inch sod border has been added to the four wide beds that flank the Garden's principal walkway.

The work done earlier this season by Bartlett Tree Experts to shape and improve the copper beech border that creates the large garden room now shows the garden to its fullest effect. And planning work is progressing on a project for the fall; the relocation of several conifers that are now randomly located in the Garden to the end by the Goddesses Garden. This will complete the enclosure of the Garden adding to its serenity and sense of "place". And additional funding is being sought to do a renovation of the pool edge and the water piping system.

And as to flowers?

Staff and volunteers have labored to install a full complement of bedding plants in the garden this year. It will be beautiful. The Committee feels certain that Percival Gallagher, the designer at the Olmsted Brothers firm, would approve and so will our many visitors and brides.

 Marble fountain leaves the Italianate Garden
Up, up, and away!
Marble fountain leaves the Italianate Garden to be restored at Daedalus Inc., thanks to the generosity of a local foundation.

The Fountain Is Back!

The fountain in the lily pond of the Italianate Garden has been restored by Daedalus, Inc. with the generous support of the Amelia Peabody Charitable Fund.

Volunteering in the Italiante Garden

If you would like to volunteer in this garden please visit the Gardening Volunteer Schedule

About the Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Massachusetts Horticultural Society LogoFounded in 1829, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is dedicated to encouraging the science and practice of horticulture and developing the public's enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of plants and the environment.

2015 Calendar & Courses

Mass Hort Calendar Courses 2015

Latest Mass Hort Events

Thu Mar 05 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Seed Starting Indoors
Thu Mar 19 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Cold Frame Gardening
Thu Mar 26 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Vegetable Gardening for Everyone
Sat Mar 28 @10:00AM - 12:00PM
Build Your Own Cold Frame
Tue Apr 07 @ 6:30PM - 08:00PM
Fundamentals of Landscape Design
Wed Apr 15 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Introduction to Asian Greens
Thu Apr 16 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Color Gardens: Beautiful Perennial Combinations for Spring through Frost
Thu Apr 23 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Improving Your Garden Soil Sustainably: Get the Most Out of Your Plants
Thu Apr 30 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Passing Along the Passion: Sowing the Seeds for Lifelong Horticultural Appreciation
Thu May 07 @ 7:30PM - 08:00PM
Super Fruits
Thu May 14 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
What do I do NOW? (for my vegetable garden)
Sat May 16 @ 8:00AM - 03:00PM
Gardeners' Fair at Elm Bank
Sat May 30 @ 9:00AM - 01:00PM
Reading the Forested Landscape with Tom Wessels
Sat May 30 @10:00AM - 04:00PM
Botanical Art for Beginners
Tue Jun 02 @ 6:00PM - 08:30PM
Garden to Table's Spring Dinner in the Crockett Garden
Thu Jun 04 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Ecology of the Garden
Sat Jun 06 @10:00AM - 12:00PM
Farming Exhibits of the Smithsonian
Thu Jun 18 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Spring Foraging Walk and Talk With Russ Cohen
Thu Jun 25 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Historic Landscape Stewardship
Sat Jun 27 @10:00AM - 02:00PM
Herb Gardening

Friends of Mass Hort Events

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