MHT File Photo
Ladew Topiary Gardens and Ladew House
3535, Jarrettsville Pike (MD 146), Jarrettsville, Harford County
Although the Ladew Topiary Garden only dates to about 1935, it is a remarkable assemblage of plant materials, landscape design attitudes, and topiary designs. The garden has an overall linear plan which follows Jarrettsville Pike in order that most of the estate could be left "open" and free for hunting purposes. The major garden axis provides an uninterrupted view of over 1100 feet across terraced topiary, the large central circular bowl, and through hemlock allees. Minor axes provide shorter vistas across iris beds, pools, streams, and lawns. The smaller, natural areas of the garden are designed around a variety of individual color and textural schemes. The berry garden is totally composed of berry producing plant material. The azalea garden is an unusual combination of azalea varieties planted under a grove of apple trees. A series of white, red, and yellow gardens contain flowers and shrubs of appropriate color. The most recent addition to the garden is an iris garden composed of hundreds of iris varieties, topiary, pools, and streams. Most of the topiary is maintained over wire frames. The entire garden is punctuated with a variety of garden furniture, ponds, and small buildings. Several French lead figures decorate the hemlock allees. The azalea garden surrounds a circular pond and fountain and the topiary Chinese junk sits in a naturalistic pool. The large central bowl has an oval pool at its center. Two small buildings serve as both focal points and shelters. A small Greek temple sits at the end of the major garden axis and a tea house, that was once the ticket office of the old London Tivoli Theatre, is placed for seclusion and retreat. The topiary designs are shaped from a mixture of both yew and hemlock. The designs include a foxhunt, swans, a Chinese junk, a giraffe, a Buddha, hedge windows, garland allees, geometrics (pyramids, spheres, cubes), Lyre birds and sea horses. The Ladew House was constructed in three stages, mostly of frame, with shallow-pitched gable roofs. The original section, now the right hyphen, is a 2-story, 3-bay structure, probably dating to the late 18th century. The central section is a 2 1/2-story, 3-bay structure, dating to the mid 19th century, and now serving as the main entrance point to the house. The left hyphen and left wing were both 2-story structures constructed in the early 20th century. The left hyphen is three bays and the leftwing is two bays on the front façade. On the left, the hyphen was constructed to house an Elizabethan room from England on the first floor, and the wing to the house "the oval Library", which is listed in The 100 Most Beautiful Rooms in America. To the rear, the house is connected to a series of garden maintenance garages, sheds, and greenhouses.
The Ladew Topiary Garden is a well-maintained example of combined formal and informal garden design. The formalism of the French and Italian garden attitudes is exhibited in the major axis, long vista, topiary shrubs, and use of both active and quiet waters. The informal naturalistic attitudes of English garden design are illustrated by the extensive use of spring bulbs and color coordinated garden areas. The art of topiary dates from Tudor and Elizabethan England and was much used in 18th century Germany. It generally has had a very limited use in contemporary gardens as it is time consuming and expensive to maintain. This makes the extensive collection of topiary found in the Ladew Garden an invaluable resource both to the study of the art and the exposure of it to the public. Large-scale gardens themselves are valuable from a similar aesthetic and educational standpoint. The Ladew House is significant for its association with the Topiary Gardens.