WELCOME to a Virtual Tour of the Justin Smith Morrill Homestead Please join me in a stroll through the Justin Smith Morrill Gardens Created especially for you by Jay Tisbert as an Independent Study in the Landscape Horticultural Program at Vermont Technical College Spring 2006
Tour of the Justin Morrill Homestead Click picture to view movie. Click anywhere else to go to the next slide
Introduction Justin Smith Morrill was born in Strafford, VT on April 14, 1810 (1). Throughout his life he developed a love of plants and a passion for landscapes. After living Maine for a few years, he returned to Strafford and in 1848 he began to build this house and design the landscape for this property (2). He was engaged in agriculture and horticulture at this site from 1848-1855 and experimented with different trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials. Additionally, he experimented with the different placement of plants and garden designs. In 1851 he married Ruth Swan and moved into the house. Justin Smith Morrill had a keen interest in plants and landscapes. This can be seen from both his studies on design theories of landscaping as well as from letters written to his wife when traveling. He studied methods and theories of prominent horticulturists and agriculturists of his time. In a letter written to his wife while visiting Kew he wrote “… their splendid glass conservatories, lawns, trees, beds of flowers, is altogether the finest place I have seen. The…borders and beds of rare flowers and …trees are wonderful in extent and beauty.” (3).
Morrill’s objective for the property was to create a gentleman’s villa or small estate. In landscape designs during early the 1800’s many of the philosophies were based on English designers and European estate styled plantings. In such designs, each section of the property had a purpose and a function. Areas were carefully planned out, and designs of the time incorporated divisions throughout the property based on the needs of the families. For example, on the Morrill estate, areas with high use, like the Kitchen Garden, were closer to the house, and areas that were not used every day, such as the Orchard, were located further away. Paths were designed based on functionality. For example, some paths were made wider to accommodate carts and barrows while narrower paths were made for walking. Morrill’s fascination with horticulture and agriculture led him to design, develop, and improve his homestead for over 30 years. (3). The purpose of this project was to try to recreate Morrill’s gardens and landscape through an examination of maps and historical documents. The goal was to create a virtual tour that leads viewers across the Ornamental Lawn, and through the Cookie Cutter Gardens, the Fleur de Lis (the rose garden), and the Kitchen Garden near the greenhouse. By virtually walking the paths you will step back in time and see a recreation of Morrill’s landscape.
As you enter the property through the gate, you are in the Ornamental Lawn Area. The area is made up of trees, shrubs, and flower beds dispersed throughout a gently sloping lawn. The purpose of this section was to provide aesthetic quality and beauty. There are individual specimen plants intermingled with flowerbeds and groupings of trees and shrubs. (3). There is evidence to support that many factors were considered when Morrill chose his plant materials. This includes recommendations from landscape designer A. J. Downing, as well as personal notations. Morrill chose to follow the expression that was defined by Downing as Beautiful, rather than Picturesque, when selecting trees. Although Morrill did use the Beautiful classification for most of the plantings he did use some plants that were in the Picturesque classification. The Beautiful classification included plants that had graceful and elegant character. This can be seen in such trees as oak, maple, elm, and ash as they all have a round form. For contrast in the landscape, Morrill used some weeping and oblong forms which were from the Picturesque classification.
Morrill’s fascination for plants led him to experiment with a variety of cultivars and species. He took into consideration general growing conditions, as well as hardiness of plants, and he often experimented with plants known to be marginally hardy in Vermont. He liked to use plants that had recently been introduced to the trade and were at the time considered rare. He also looked at morphological characteristics such as height, bloom time, and color when selecting trees and shrubs. Many of the shrubs he used had pink, white, or purple flowers. (3). The virtual tour shows the form and design that Morrill used for the Ornamental Lawn Area. The trees and shrubs pictured are based on original photos and other historical data.
Tour through the Cookie Cutter Gardens Click picture to view movie. Click anywhere else to go to the next slide
Almost all of the Cookie Cutter Gardens are located along the paths in the Ornamental Lawn. These gardens have different arabesque designs (3). An arabesque is an elaborate design that uses repeating geometric shapes (4). The shapes used for these gardens were based on Victorian garden styles. They integrate the architecture of the Gothic styled house with the design of the landscape (3). The Cookie Cutter gardens are more formal when compared to the rest of the Ornamental Lawn Area, and they consist of trees, shrubs, and garden flowers. The geometric-shaped beds are planted in circles and lines with annuals and perennials. The arabesque gardens are planted in irregular groupings and have a combination of trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals (3).
Shrubs and perennials are also planted together to create both borders and dense beds. Occasionally, annuals are used to fill open space in the flowerbeds. They are mainly used in different patterns and color schemes in more formally designed beds. Annuals improve and brighten the gardens, and they are replanted throughout the season. Replacing the annuals allows the gardens to maintain their vibrancy (3). The plantings shown in the virtual tour are based on lists of plants from Morrill’s notations, and historic pictures and maps of the time.
Cookie Cutter Gardens – Plant List I • Hawthorne • Petunia • Stocks • Peony • Rose ‘Damask’ • Double Flowering Almond • Sugar Maple • Tamarack • Prunus ‘Hally Jolivette’ • Gingko 7 6 8 5 10 4 3 2 9 1
Cookie Cutter Gardens – Plant List II 7 • Geranium • Poppies • Verbena • Comfrey • Iberis • Marigold • Ginkgo • Ageratum • Iberis 1 2 8 3 9 4 5 1 6
Cookie Cutter Gardens – Plant List III • Geranium • Verbena • Poppy • Portulaca • Geranium • Snapdragon • Campanula biennis • Lilac 3 1 2 6 5 7 4 4 8
Cookie Cutter Gardens – Plant List IV 7 8 4 • Hosta • Fuschia • Verbena • Norway Maple • Kerria japonica • Larix kaempferi • Tilia cordata • Dark Arborvitae 3 6 1 1 2 5
Tour continuing through Cookie Cutter Gardens Click picture to view movie. Click anywhere else to go to the next slide
Tour continuing through Cookie Cutter Gardens Click picture to view movie. Click anywhere else to go to the next slide
Cookie Cutter Gardens – Plant List V • Yucca filamentosa • Roses • Hydrangea • Primroses • Dwarf Irises • Polemonium • Trolius • Phlox maculata • Bulb Lilies • Daphne mezereum 10 4 9 8 6 7 1 3 5 2
Cookie Cutter Gardens – Plant List VI • Petunia • Larkspur • China Aster • Coreopsis • Phlox • Tiger Lilies • Barberry • Bearded Iris • Peonies • Oenothera 1 3 2 4 5 3 10 1 9 6 8 7
Cookie Cutter Gardens – Plant List VII • Iberis • Comfrey • Mignonette • Balsam • Godetia • Sweet Alyssum • Dictamnus • Dwarf Convolvulus • Ageratum • Ginkgo • Geranium 11 1 2 10 1 9 6 5 7 3 4 4 3 8
Cookie Cutter Gardens – Plant List VIII 1 • Sugar Maple • Norway Spruce • Campanula • Violet • Hosta • Rhodendron species • Phlox divaricata • Geranium • Marigold 8 2 9 7 4 3 6 5
Cookie Cutter Gardens – Plant List IX 10 • Toba Hawthorne • Philadelphus • Mt. Ash • Convalaria • Viburnum • Mirabilis • Senecio • Marigold • Lilac • Arborvitae • Columbine • Impatiens 9 6 7 12 8 11 2 1 3 4 2 5
Final portion of tour through the Cookie Cutter Gardens Click picture to view movie. Click anywhere else to go to the next slide
Tour taking you to the Fleur-de-Lis Rose Garden Click picture to view movie. Click anywhere else to go to the next slide
As you walk around the house, to the right you will see the Fleur-de-Lis garden. This is the most formal garden on the property and is comprised mostly of roses inter-planted with annuals and bulbs. There is also a plinth, which is a block or slab on which a pedestal, column, or statue is placed, in the center of the garden. The plinth is the focal point of the garden. The Fleur-de-Lis is a parterre, a garden in which the beds and paths are laid out on flat ground and form a pattern. The Fleur-de-lis is the only parterre on Morrill’s estate. In many situations, the pattern of the garden is as important as the plants within the garden. Parterres are usually placed next to multilevel buildings so that the pattern can be appreciated when people are looking down on the garden. Parterres are of French origin, and they reached their peak usage in the landscape during the 17th Century when European gardens were influenced by the French garden (5).
In this garden the flowers were mostly shades of whites, pinks, blues, and purples. Again, we see that Morrill liked to experiment with different varieties of plants, as the historical list of roses and other plant materials for this garden is quite extensive. Many of the plants that Morrill grew were not fully hardy to the area. This indicates that he experimented with new varieties and hybrids, and that the garden was constantly changing. The plantings shown in the virtual tour highlight Morrill’s list of old-time rose varieties. These varieties were very fragrant and were the color that Morrill desired.
Fleur-de-Lis Rose Garden – Plant List • Roses • Delphinium • China Asters • Alyssum • Tulips • Iberis • Petunia • Verbena • Double Flowering Almond • Plinth 1 1 4 8 1 10 3 2 5 6 8 3 7 2 1 9
Final portion of Fleur-de-Lis Rose Garden Tour & Approach to Kitchen Garden Area Click picture to view movie. Click anywhere else to go to the next slide
Across the road from kitchen on a large plateau is the Greenhouse and Kitchen Garden Area. The design of the Kitchen Garden follows patterns that were introduced well over a century ago. The garden is surrounded by hedges on three sides with the greenhouse being the fourth side. It is enclosed and separated because of its function. (3). The main function of this area would have been the production of food crops and ornamentals. It was used in conjunction with other areas of the property where larger amounts of space were needed to produce abundant harvests. Areas such as the Orchards (e.g. apples) and the ‘coarse’ vegetable gardens (e.g. potatoes) are examples of places where more land was required. Crops grown in the Kitchen Garden included mixed vegetables, culinary herbs, some small fruits, and there were also ornamental plantings.
This area also allowed for the production of nursery stock for later use in the landscape or orchard. Flowers grown in this garden were used as stock plants for other garden areas, hanging baskets, and cut flowers for the house. Although the main purpose of the Kitchen Garden was production, it also included ornamental characteristics such as trellises and fountains. (3). The area is rectangular with small paths creating planting areas. The more heavily traveled area is a wider path around the perimeter. The greenhouse was used to produce seedlings, tend to transplants, propagate cuttings, and force tropical plants into flower (3). Morrill also used the greenhouse to grow wine grapes (6). The virtual tour for this garden area is based on historical sketches, plant lists, and interviews with Historical Society staff members.
Tour of Kitchen Garden Area Click picture to view movie. Click anywhere else to go to the next slide
Final portion of Kitchen Garden tour Click picture to view movie. Click anywhere else to go to the next slide
End of Tour - from Kitchen Garden back to the Front Gate Click picture to view movie. Click anywhere else to go to the next slide
Historical documents demonstrate that Justin Smith Morrill had a fascination with how plants and landscapes interact. He was able to further his love of gardening starting in 1848 at this Strafford Estate. The property was always evolving and was constantly changing. Morrill experimented with many different types of plants and developed a particular fondness for fragrant roses. He designed the property with both function and aesthetic ornamental quality in mind. Morrill’s designs and plantings on the property fulfilled his quest to have a small estate. The four components illustrated in this virtual tour show Morrill’s intended designs and plantings. You can see the assorted varieties of plants and the intricate designs that he used. The Ornamental Lawn Area, the Fleur-de-Lis, and the Cookie Cutter Gardens were designed mainly to be ornamental, and they added artistic quality to the landscape. On the other hand, the Kitchen Garden Area had a broader role for the homestead. The area allowed for the production of food crops used on a daily basis.
I hope that you have enjoyed stepping back in time while taking the virtual tour of the Justin Smith Morrill Homestead. The tour was created to represent and preserve the history of Morrill’s designs and gardens. Thank you for viewing the tour and I hope that you enjoy the rest of your time at the Morrill Homestead.
Literature Cited • Baker, C.B. “Morrill, Justin Smith.” The World Book Encyclopedia. 1974. • (2) Parker, W.B. “The Life and Public Service of Justin Smith Morrill.” • Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company: 1924. • (3) Anderson, J.L. and T.R. R. deGiacomo. “The Ornamental Landscape: A • Study with Site Plans for the Restoration of the Justin Smith Morrill Historic • Site.” Barnard, Vermont: Primavera Landscaping. 1990. • (4) Arabesque. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabesque. This page was last • modified 18:27, 5 February 2006. • (5) Parterres. This page was last updated on November 25, 1999 • http://www.harborside.com/~rayj/parterre.htm • (6) Rutz, Lorenz. Personal interview. 11 Sept. 2005.
We would like to thank the following: Vermont Technical College Instructor Mary Waldo Instructional Tutor Nate Sands Instructional Tutor Jason Young Instructional Aide Anne Tisbert Vermont Department of Historic Preservation John Dumville Friends of Justin Morrill Homestead Andersen Thorp Lorenz Rutz Sue Cain Lois Overton A special thank-you to the Landscape and Horticulture Department at VTC, Phil Petty and Pamelia Smith for creating an independent study for this Design Project.