ISABELLA GARDNER MUSEUM – PART 2

COURTYARD’S SEASONAL DISPLAYS

 

This is the second part of a Post I published last week Isabella and her love for Art and Gardens, on it, I talk about the amazing life of the Gardner family, its trips, and their lifestyle that lead them to build the Isabella Gardner Museum.

Isabella Stewart Gardner was passionate about art and culture, she became interested in the gardens she saw while traveling all around the world and wanted to leave her legacy through art; this Museum is the accomplishment of those interests, with, of course, her personal and intimate touch.

Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice, 1894, by Anders Zorn (Oil on canvas, 91 x 66 cm)

Her museum is a mix of styles, gothic, renaissance, roman and byzantine, famous because of its great art pieces, nevertheless, the garden courtyard is also an essential part of the building, with floral exhibitions of new and full-grown plants that change constantly during the year, according to seasons and blooms.

Every month the courtyard has a floral theme and color, therefore it has become as essential and iconic as every part of the museum.

The Courtyard


Before we start talking about plants, here are some curiosities about the courtyard and it’s care:

  • Every seasonal display in the courtyard contains 300 to 500 plants.
  • Each plant is placed in the courtyard for around 7 days, after that, they have to replace it with another identical one; there’s a lack of sunlight in the courtyard, caused by the tall walls so close to each other and the plants can suffer having low light.
  • The most traditional display is the long Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) hanging from the third-floor balconies as Gardener used to in the early 1900’s.


That being said, here’s the list of displays during the year

 

Winter tropics (January – February)

Tropical and subtropical plants fill the courtyard: lots of Orchids, norfolk island pine (Araucaria heterophylla), tree ferns (Cyatheales), fishtail palms (Caryota), areca palms and ferns.

This display is inspired by old images of plants placed by Isabella.

(You can also grow this plants at home, in a room with indirect light and high humidity).



Orchids (February – March)

Exotic orchids native to Southeast Asia and Africa, like slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum) with maroon and green flowers, Leopard orchids (Ansellia) with yellow flowers and brown spots, nun’s cap orchids (Phaius tankervilleae) and other groups, all of these, surrounded with calla lilies.


Hanging Nasturtiums (April)
The most traditional display in the museum.

As Isabella did in the late 1800’s, hanging nasturtiums keep making a dramatic appearance above the courtyard. Cascades of flowering nasturtium vines grown in the Museum’s greenhouses, they require continuous care to ensure the dramatic length.

Hanging nasturtiums above the Gardner Museum courtyard

 

Spring blooms (April – May)

Time to talk about color! After the Nasturtiums (also colorful), they place azaleas, blue cineraria, ivory and cream daffodils, and pines. Another Gardner Museum’s signature is the Clivia miniata. Flowering maples used to flank the steps and the statues.

This is the most famous and labor intensive of the courtyard displays.


Hydrangeas (April – June)

The most notorious and common are the Hydrangea macrophylla, Hydrangea quercifolia, and Hydrangea paniculata among other specimens grant life and color to the courtyard. Violets, deep blues, and whites of the hydrangeas complement the delicate yellow oncidium orchids.


Summer blues (June – July)

Late-flowering hydrangeas are a great source of color and create a nice environment in summer. Mophead Hydrangeas and H. paniculata ‘Grandifolia’ fill in the courtyard and stand out among the statues, then, they introduce Agapanthus blue blooms.

Agapanthus at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Bellflowers (August – September)

As the courtyard has small dimensions and tall walls, it remains fresh during warmer months, ferns and fountains’ water help maintain it that way. At this time of year, chimney bellflower (Campanula pyramidalis) appears in the courtyard. The Museum’s horticulturists grow this plant as a biennial, from seeds; it takes two years to get Campanulas to maturity (1,80m tall) and thrive in the courtyard.

Campanula piramidalis at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Chrysanthemums (September – November)

Late September is chrysanthemums’ time, different colors and species. It’s known that Isabella grew many chrysanthemums varieties, as a matter of fact, a pink-tinged chrysanthemum was named for her.

Chrysanthemum at the Gardner’s Museum
Chrysanthemum at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Holiday Garden (December – January)

Holiday traditions at the Gardner Museum showcase flowering jade trees (Crassula argentea) raised in the Museum’s greenhouse for many years, the oldest ones are 60 years old, with trunks around 10 to 15 cm in diameter and 90 cm tall.

Crassula, holiday courtyard

Other plants thrive around the Museum like jade trees, like silver dusty miller, green aloe, and amaryllis red winter blooms.

 

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